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Delta: No to blood for blood, By Abdul Oroh

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Army vows to remain in creeks until killers of soldiers are arrested

The DHQ should conduct a thorough investigation to unravel the cause of the tragic murder of soldiers in Okuama community in Delta State. It is very painful. It should never have happened.

Early reports claimed that the soldiers were on a peace mission to separate two warring neighbouring communities in Ewu Kingdom in Ughelli and the soldiers reportedly ran into an ambush and killed by youths in the community.

President Tinubu has directed the DHQ to fish out those responsible and bring them to justice. That should be the right step. Many Nigerians who are clearly pained by the gruesome murder want Okuama to be given the Odi and Zaki Biam treatment. They want blood for blood, the President Obasanjo way. Our experience is that blood for blood is more blood. We feel the pain but we must plead for caution.

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The international community is watching us closely. Collective punishment is a war crime or crime against humanity. Punitive action could escalate the conflict. The relative peace in the Niger Delta which has made increased oil production possible should be encouraged. This should be encouraged to stabilise the economy.

President Tinubu’s directive that an attack on Nigerian soldiers is an attack on the nation is correct but it could be decoded to mean that the village should be “flattened” to assuage the grieving troops and to serve as a deterrent to other communities.

Flattening of villages or killing people indiscriminately will not solve the problem. We should learn from our past experiences. The DHQ should find answers to the following questions: Who authorised the peace mission? What was the nature and objective of the mission? Was the Delta State government and the Local Government Council aware of the of the mission and the dispute between the warring communities? What did they do to resolve the dispute? What of the police? Where they in any way involved? If not, why were they not? If yes, to what extent were they involved? Was the “peace mission” beyond the capacity of the police? So many questions.

A Delta Television report that is trending on social media claimed the soldiers were well received by the community at the Okuama Town Hall and entertained in the traditional way with kolanuts, drinks and “wedging” money by elders and youths of the community. The soldiers later reportedly ordered that the community leaders and the ” youth chairman” should follow them to their base in their gunboats.

The community youths fearing for what might happen to them, reportedly refused. The soldiers then opened fire indiscriminately killing over 50 men, women, youths and the aged. It was when they went for reinforcement that the killing of the soldiers happened. From the two accounts, it is obvious that there was a communication break down. There must have been an altercation.This tragic incident could have been avoided.

However, to prevent future incidents of this nature, we must start doing things differently. The DHQ should unravel the truth and take effective control of the deployment of soldiers during internal security operations. The images of burning buildings and destruction of Okuama would be seen by the international community as collective punishment if not genocide like what the Israel is doing in Gaza.

The army should respond with restrain and professionalism. May God condole the families of the soldiers and their colleagues. May God grant them eternal rest. May God protect our troops as they strive to restore peace and order in our troubled country.

Hon. Abdul Oroh is a lawyer, civil rights activist, journalist and politician

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