The Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, has provided explanations for the continued restriction of access to the homes of residents of Okuama in Delta State, days after the military assumed control of the community.

Chief of Defence Staff
Chief of Defence Staff

General Musa addressed the issue on the same day that Mr. Clement Koki, chairman of the Okoloba community in Delta State, alleged that the people of Okuama had mercenaries who were responsible for the killing of military personnel in the riverside settlement.

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The ongoing communal clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities preceded the tragic incident involving the military personnel.

Speaking on Arise TV, General Musa stated that troops are currently engaged in a cordon and search operation within the community. This operation is aimed at recovering arms and ammunition belonging to the troops who were killed in action.

It’s worth recalling that on March 14, a group of suspected residents of Okuama ambushed and killed the Commanding Officer of 181 Army Amphibious Battalion, along with two majors, one captain, and 13 soldiers.

The Defence Headquarters stated that the troops were attacked while responding to a distress call arising from a clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities in Delta State.

Eight suspects have been declared wanted by the Defence Headquarters in connection with the brutal murder of the military personnel.

General Musa emphasized that Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State and the residents of Okuama do not currently have access to the community due to the ongoing “cordon and search” operation being conducted by security agencies in the area.

He clarified that the Nigerian Army’s decision to declare some individuals wanted in connection with the killing of the 17 officers and men is not an act of taking the law into their own hands but rather a necessary step to ensure justice.

“We are currently conducting a cordon and search in the community. Cordon and search operation means we are searching every nook and cranny within the community because they have a lot of illegal funds from crude oil theft.

“They have bought a lot of weapons. It is for us to thoroughly clean the community to ensure that no weapon, no explosive is left in the community. I can tell you that at the end of the operation, residents of the community will always go back,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Okoloba community has accused Okuama of being responsible for the killing of military personnel in their domain. According to Mr. Clement Koki, chairman of the Okoloba community, the people of Okuama hired mercenaries who carried out the attack.

In response to these allegations, the Delta Ijaw Advocacy Group (DIAG) has refuted claims made in a publication regarding the crisis in the Okuama community. DIAG stated that the publication lacked credibility and urged security agencies to investigate its source.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen T. A. Lagbaja, emphasized the importance of collaboration between the military and media in safeguarding national security. He urged the media to refrain from inadvertently amplifying the activities of undesirable elements, as terrorists exploit propaganda to instill fear in law-abiding citizens.

Furthermore, Dr. Ovie Ughwanogho, a former gubernatorial candidate in Delta State, called on Governor Sheriff Oborevwori to address the state regarding the security situation, particularly the Okuama and Okoloba boundary dispute that led to the killing of 17 soldiers.