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April 21, 2024

Murder of 17 Soldiers: Okuama-Ewu in ruins as Oborevwori finally visits

Governor Oborevwori walks through destroyed Okuama

Governor Oborevwori walks through destroyed Okuama

•Weeds gradually overgrowing deserted community

•No villager available to receive gov

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Jimitota Onoyume, Akpokona Omafuaire, Chancel Bomadi Sunday and Ochuko Akuopha

Okuama-Ewu community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State was in complete ruins with debris of demolished buildings scattered everywhere when Governor Sheriff Oborevwori visited yesterday.

The Anglican Church among a few others seemed to be the only buildings spared.

Soldiers temporarily live in the houses left standing.

They pulled down the homes of the villagers, who fled the community after the March 14 killings of 17 military personnel and an unspecified number of villagers.

Okuama-Ewu was desolate and gradually being overtaken by weeds, and there was no single villager to welcome the governor yesterday.

He met an empty village

The governor’s visit to Okuama-Ewu came 37 days after the gruesome killings of March 14.

The Army denied him access to the community on March 18, but the Commander, 63 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Unachukwu Ugochukwu, and other top government officials accompanied him.

The Army has equally denied the residents of Okuama still taking cover in the forest and other hideouts access to their homeland.

Soldiers conducting a cordon-and-search operation were the only human beings occupying the community when the governor visited.

Oborevwori, who has been working underground, unknown to his critics, to manage the crisis, said he came to see what happened in Okuama-Ewu and work out how to reintegrate the innocent people back to the community with the cooperation of the military.

He, however, assured that his administration was doing a lot to resolve the dispute, saying residents of Okuama would soon return home.

Oborevwori told reporters, “We have followed due process in the whole incident. The people (17 soldiers) have been buried and the king who was detained was released yesterday (Friday) and today (Saturday) I am here to see what happened in the Okuama community.

“The Okuama-17 is something that we did not expect to happen because it is against our bargain for peace and security which, I promised Deltans, that we are going to enhance.

“We have been enjoying peace and security since last year until the 14th of March when the four army officers and 13 soldiers were murdered.

“They were not just murdered, their bodies were mutilated and we have come here to see what happened.

“Let me again reiterate Mr President’s promise that no innocent person would be victimised and you can see that, from that time till now, there has been no harassment of citizens of this community.

“I have come to see how the innocent people of this community can be reintegrated back with the cooperation of the military.

“We know it is a big loss to them, but we have to follow due process. The Brigade Commander is with us and the newly – posted Commander of 181 Battalion, Lt Col Dabo, is also here with us, and it is a great synergy.”

Return home

Reiterating that citizens of Okuama would soon return home, Oborevwori said: “Let me once again thank Mr President and Commander-in-Chief, President Bola Tinubu, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Chief of the Defence Staff for their cooperation so far.

“They have been very supportive and they have kept to their promise that innocent people will not be victimised.

“I want to assure the people of Okuama that there is no point running away from your community.

“We are going to bring you back to your community. It is only those that are involved the military are looking for”.

No questions

Oborevwori did not openly ask the Commander whose Army demolished the homes of the villagers, and nobody volunteered any explanation to him.

A source at a neighbouring community told Sunday Vanguard, “The governor passed through our community waterways to Okuama this morning. As I am talking to you, he has already left Okuama passing through our waterways back to Warri.

“Though he passed through our waterways, he did not stop in Okoloba, he moved straight back to Warri.

“However, soldiers are still at Okuama and there is no free movement of people on the waterways as was before the governor’s visit. Movement is restricted here because of their sojourn at Okuama.”

Hunger in the creek

Another source at Akugbene community said: “The governor visited Okuama this morning (yesterday) and has gone back already.

“But, what I want to tell you is this, since the military occupation of Okuama, there has been restriction of movement along the waterways. “We cannot pass through Okuama to neighbouring communities because the military has restricted movement.

“Market boats moving to and fro Okuagbe market in Ughelli South Local Government Area, where you would pass through Okuama, have not been allowed to move.

“There is indeed food scarcity here, coupled with the current economic situation in the country. There is really hunger in the communities along the Forcados River and creeks here.

“My plea is that the Army should relax the restriction of movement on market boats plying the creeks to Okuagbe and other markets to ameliorate the sufferings of the people here”.