April 17, 2024

Okuama-Ewu: Families, chiefs demand detained monarch’s whereabouts

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Kingsley Omonobi, Jimitota Onoyume, Akpokona Omafuaire, Chancel Sunday, Ochuko Akuopha & Emem Idio

UGHELLI- Families and friends of the traditional ruler of the Ewu Kingdom in Delta State, Clement Ikolo, are said to be in the dark about his whereabouts for about a month since he was detained by the military.

This came on a day some citizens of Delta State called on the state government to take the bull by the horns and send palliatives to suffering residents of the Okuama-Ewu community stuck in the forests for over a month, where they have struggled to live without food, water and medical utility.

This is even as Bayelsa State governor Senator Douye Diri, yesterday visited Igbomotoru community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area in the aftermath of a military invasion of the community in search of suspected killers of 17 military personnel at Okuama in Delta State on March 14.

Also yesterday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, warned General Officers Commanding, GOCs, Field and Formation Commanders not to allow a repeat of the Okuama incident, asking them to be prepared to take up more non-traditional military responsibilities if the Army must help the country survive the present times and emerging security threats.

‘No access to detained Ewu monarch’

On detained Ewu Kingdom monarch, a statement by the Secretary of Ewu-Urhobo Traditional Council of Chiefs, Abizor Henry, explained that despite efforts by the monarch’s lawyer to get family members have access to him, it was not granted.

“Shockingly, efforts made by the Traditional Council of Chiefs of Ewu-Urhobo Kingdom, family members and friends of the monarch in Nigeria and abroad to reach him have been abortive, leaving people wondering why someone who voluntarily surrendered himself to the security forces and has been commended by the Chief of Defence Staff for doing such an honourable thing, has not been allowed to see or talk to his subjects, family members or friends.

“His lawyer, Ama Etuwewe, SAN, has made a written request dated April 2, 2024, for access to see his client with a family member, but this access has not been granted to date,” the statement read.

The monarch had turned himself into the police and was handed over to the military hours after he was declared wanted by Defence Headquarters in connection with the killing of 17 military personnel in the Okuama.

However, Henry’s statement, entitled “True story of the arrest of the monarch of Ewu-Urhobo Kingdom over Okuoma killing,” also detailed Ikolo’s turbulent ascension to the throne.

The monarch was said to have encountered stiff opposition from other interested persons who claimed they were entitled to contest for the kingship.

Even after his nomination was affirmed by the traditional rulers’ committee, these people, according to the statement, vowed to scuttle his ascension.

“A few weeks before the hand-over of staff of office ceremony, the monarch attempted to enter the headquarters of the kingdom Ewu-Otor to meet with his people, but the opposition figures got wind of the information and immediately mobilised their supporters armed with various weapons to barricade access to the kingdom.

“The monarch, on getting wind of their plans, contacted the Nigerian Police Force to mobilise their men to the kingdom to maintain law and order but this was thwarted by the armed opposition supporters who vandalised the vehicles of the Nigerian Police Force and vehicle of those sent ahead by the monarch,” the statement added.

Amidst the back and forth, the monarch was said to have travelled abroad for medical treatment, returning on February 23, 2024.

He was said to have been in the process of reconciling aggrieved parties when the killing of the military personnel happened.

“The monarch, on hearing of the heinous murder of the 17 military men at Okuama community, did not delay in condemning the dastardly act, through a press statement, while requesting that the government go after the perpetrators of this heinous crime against the Nigerian Army and Nigeria at large

“The monarch woke up in the morning hours of March 28, 2024, to surprisingly see in the news media that he had been declared wanted by the military, without any prior invitation from any of the government security agencies.

“The monarch, on seeing the news, issued a press statement declaring his innocence and voluntarily surrendered himself to the Delta State Commissioner of Police for interrogation to clear his name. “The police in the morning hours of March 29, 2024, handed him over to the military, who flew him to Abuja. Since that day, he has been in the custody of the military,” the statement added.

It expressed concern over the monarch’s health while appealing for his prompt release from detention.
In a similar development, citizens of Delta State yesterday asked the state government to take the bull by the horns, and send palliatives to the suffering residents of Okuama-Ewu community stuck in the forest for over a month without food, water and medicines.

The Okuama-Ewu refugees, including women, children, and the elderly, fled the riverside settlement in Ughelli South Local Government Area of the state on March 14, following the killing of 17 military personnel and an unspecified number of villagers by invading gunmen.

Oborevwori should brainstorm with stakeholders – Unagha, Urhobo leader

The Secretary of the Urhobo Leaders of Thought, Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, said: “What the government should do is to move in so that they will not hijack the state from his government.

“The incident happened within the jurisdiction of the state governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, where he is the chief security officer. He should liaise with stakeholders across the state, not just Okuama people, to find an amicable solution.’’

Send relief materials to displaced residents – Adina, activist

A political activist, Mr. Blessing Adina, said: “My call is to the state government because it is its first responsibility to take care of the citizens of the state. Yes, we have queries for the military for denying him access to the community, but l think the people in special duties in the government should try to take emergency steps to meet the needs of the people.

“I saw the horrible photos of the people in the open forest with no shelter over them. The government should set up Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps for the people, so they can settle them in the interim until this whole issue is resolved.

“They cannot continue to live in the bare forests where the dew and rain fall on them, and, of course, the heat from the sun is scorching. The government should take proactive steps and settle them in IDP camps, give them health care services, and provide food for them.’’

State govt should reach out to Okuama refugees – Akpovrene, activist

Rights activist, Charles Akpovrene, stated: “The state government should find a way to get to the displaced Okuama people with relief materials. I understand the natives are hiding in the forest, and the army is said to be looking for them.

“The government should identify their numbers and arrange medicals for them. It should endeavor to get to their location, the particular place they are hiding, and get across to them.

“As I said earlier, the Okuama people should drag the Army to court and secure some reliefs that will enable them enjoy peace in their native home, Okuama.”

Tinubu, CDS have taken Oborevwori’s power – Muoboghare, ex-commissioner

A former Commissioner in Delta State and Urhobo ethnic nationality leader, Prof Patrick Muoboghare, said: “Ordinarily, the governor should reach the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, the military has blackmailed that same President into allowing them to do what they want to do to the Urhobo communities of Okuama, Ogoda, Olota, Orere, Omosuomo, and others

“He has no control over the military anymore; this is a dangerous trend. Therefore, we are back to Azikiwe diarchy. Diarchy is government by the military and civilians ruling together, so, no one is superior.

“The Commander-In-Chief is no longer superior to the Chief of Defence Staff, which is why they are doing what they are doing. Audacity to prevent the governor from visiting a part of his territory, and allowing the Board of Inquiry of the military to have free access to the same territory.’’

Diri visits Igbomotoru community, says no going back to era of militancy

Also, Bayelsa State governor Senator Douye Diri, yesterday visited Igbomotoru community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area aftermath of the military invasion of the community in search of suspected killers of 17 military personnel in Okuama, Delta State on March 14. The governor’s visit is coming one month after the military invaded the riverine community on March 17.

Addressing the leadership and cross section of the community at Igbomotoru Town Hall, Governor Diri condemned the brutal killing of the soldiers, saying it is unfortunate that what happened in Delta State is being felt by people of the community.

He urged the military authorities to continue with painstaking investigation to unveil the killers and their sponsors, adding that all those involved must be brought to book to face the full wrath of the law.

The governor, accompanied by the Commanding Officer, 16 Brigade of the Nigeria Army, Yenagoa, Brigadier General Oluremi Obolo, Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Prof Nibofa Ayawei, Ambassador Boladei Igali and other government officials, warned young people that the era of militancy in Ijaw land is over.

His words: “I have come to meet with you the Igbomotoru community that enough is enough. In every season, there is a time for everything, the era of militancy is over and this is the era of intellectual engagement, this is what your government is set to do and your government has been doing.

“Ijaw people are very intelligent people, we can compete with anybody anywhere in the world, and we should not be seen as cannon fodder and this is a warning to all of those who are still cannon fodders to have a rethink.

“My advice to the military is that they must painstakingly investigate the killings in Okuama to ascertain those that are culpable so that innocent people will not be sacrifice. The truth is what Ijaw people want and those behind the killings in Okuama should be properly investigated and unveiled to the Nigerian public. ‘’They should face the wrath of the law. That is my humble appeal to the Nigeria military and all the security agencies.’’

Army chief to GOCs, field commanders, others: Okuama must not happen again

Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, has told General Officers Commanding, (GOC’s), field and formation commanders to be prepared to take up more non-traditional military responsibilities if the Army must help Nigeria survive the present times and emerging security threats.

The COAS, who stated this at the Chief of Army Staff First Quarter Conference 2024 at the Army headquarters Command Officers Mess 1, Abuja, also warned the senior military officers against a repeat of the Okuama incident.

Recalling the recent tragic incident, Gen Lagbaja said: “The incident is quite unfortunate, and we must not allow our morale to dwindle; instead, we must remain steadfast and unwavering as military men.

“There is no denying that since we came on board, despite a few apparent challenges and setbacks, we have made considerable progress in stabilizing the country’s security.

“But for our concerted efforts, the insecurity that would have developed across the country is better imagined than experienced.

“Our continuous injection of trained troops and specialist equipment into the North East theatre for specialized operations such as Mountain Sanity II, Lake Sanity II, and Desert Sanity III have continued to complement efforts to degrade ISWAP/JAS terrorist groups by the theatre command. “These efforts have greatly improved the security situation in the North East and have expectedly enhanced the trust and confidence of the public towards our troops.

“Similarly, intensified offensives to eliminate armed bandits and other criminal elements in the North West and North Central are yielding positive outcomes.

“We have continued to project forces in Operations Hadarin Daji, Forest Sanity, and Whirl Punch while ramping up offensives to eliminate bandit enclaves.

“In the area of civil-military cooperation, CIMIC, the Nigerian Army has intensified efforts to win the hearts and minds of law-abiding citizens through the conduct of numerous CIMIC activities across the country.

“These efforts aim to improve the living conditions of the populace, win their trust and confidence in the Nigerian Army, and further complement governments’ efforts at various levels.

‘’We hope to build lasting partnerships and promote peace and prosperity across our host communities and the communities of some of our carefully selected senior officers.’’

Vanguard News Nigeria