Editorial

April 5, 2024

A plea for Okuama indigenes

Okuama

We join people of good conscience and the displaced indigenes of embattled Okuama and other communities taking refuge in the creeks to plead with the Federal and Delta State governments to intervene and ensure their safe return to their communities.

It is almost three weeks since March 14, 2024 when some evil elements ambushed, slaughtered and dismembered the bodies of 17 military personnel and officers who were reportedly on a “peace mission” in Okuama, which was involved in a communal crisis with its neighbour, Okoloba, in Ughelli South Local Government Area.

Shortly after these dastardly killings, the Nigerian Army invaded Okuama and other communities where the suspects could be hiding to apprehend the culprits. Though the Army refused the media access to the invaded communities to ascertain the level of damage, there are reports that Okuama has been practically levelled, with many suspected casualties.

It is sad and regrettable that some misguided Nigerians continue to cowardly target unsuspecting military, police and other security personnel mandated by the Constitution to defend our country and protect us. From Odi to Zaki Biam, Okuama and other places threatened by terrorists, bandits and the so-called “unknown gunmen”, this sordid state of affairs is unconscionable and must be curbed.

We can understand the military’s impulsive kinetic responses to these incidents, which are meant to prevent reoccurrence. That they continue to happen should be food for thought and a prompter for social re-engineering to bring the people and their security, defence and law enforcement agencies into harmony for rapid development.

After such a long time in the bushes as displaced people, the Federal and Delta State governments should enable the Okuama residents to safely return to their homeland and restart their lives, while the search for the murderers and their collaborators must continue.

It is wrong to abandon the Okuama people to the military and prevent media monitoring of proceedings in the wake of the invasions. Nothing should ever permit the handling of any crisis situation except within the ambit of the law and the Constitution. The situation must be managed in a manner as not to push the area into insurgency. We must not overplay our hands or allow impunity to unduly linger.

We condemn the reported demands by some of the wanted suspects for “security contracts”. Nobody should accede to such sick demands which amount to adding insult to injury. We urge the suspects to emulate the traditional ruler of Ewu, Professor Arthur Ekekpo, and hand themselves over to the law enforcement agencies. This will create an enabling environment for the gradual return of normalcy to all the communities. Let the experience of Okuama and others be a lesson to all Nigerians.

When we attack our military, police and other security agencies, we invite dire consequences.