April 6, 2024

Okuama Killings: Who invited ‘General’ Amagbein, militant leader, to Okuama?


•Top riddles in the investigations, 22 days after

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

Clearing the air on the mastermind

The Chief of Defense Staff, General Christopher Musa, finally cleared the lingering suspicion on who killed the Commanding Officer of the 181 Amphibious Battalion, two majors, one captain, and 13 soldiers on March 14 at Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State, on Wednesday.

General Musa identified “General” Endurance Amagbein as the kingpin in an interview with the Arise News.

His words: “He is actually the mastermind. He is the one who actually planned and executed with his boys. You know they have a lot of issues with cultism within the general area. And again, like I always say, because they were making money illegally, they feel that they are above board, they have so much money that they can do whatever and buy whoever it is that they can.

“But that is one mistake they made. I think they have tried the wrong guys And this time around, the full weight of the law is coming after him and his team.”

When the Defense Headquarters, DHQ, Abuja, declared eight people wanted on Thursday, March 28, Akevwru Daniel Omotegbono, aka Amagbem, was the first on the list.

Fact-checking by Saturday Vanguard showed that Amagbein is one of the monikers of a well-known Bayelsa-based militant leader and oil bunker, also addressed as “Lord of the River”, but he is not known to bear Akevwru Daniel Omotegbono.

Akevwru Daniel Omotegbono is a youth leader of the Okuama community, and people do not know him as Amagbem or Amagbein.

However, the DHQ on the wanted list snapshot display had the picture of Amagbein, not Akevwru Daniel Omotegbono.

By identifying the mastermind as “General,” Endurance Amagbein, the CDS, tore apart the vagueness the Army created in the first instance with the eight-man wanted-person list.

However, Amagbein is not his last name but a moniker, as stated earlier, the Army now has correctly stated his first name, Endurance, but not yet his surname.

The “General” has a collection known as the ‘Amagbein Force’, a group of militants and oil thieves spread across Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers States. He is not a pushover militant but a dominant militant leader and crude oil bunker.

The creation of the ‘Amagbein Force’ is to protect and control Amagbein’s sphere of influence spread along the creeks and waterways of the three states, and act as an enforcer to instill fear in the way of those opposed to its activities.

Despite the initial muddling of his identity, it was fathomable that he was the one the Army had in mind, as they tracked him to his base at Igbomoturu in Southern-Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, barely three days after the bloodbath of March 14.

Who summoned Amagbein to Okuama?

Having referred to him as the mastermind of the massacre, some questions begging for answers are: Who invited Amagbein to Okuama? How did he and his boys materialize in Okuama at the very time the soldiers, reportedly on a peace mission, were on the waterside, about to proceed to Bomadi with the chair of the community, and other leaders on their tow? Was Amagbein secretly conniving with some Okuama people unknown to the leaders and community folks?

Knowing and understanding the role of Amagbein in the entire episode is the key to resolving why those who “wasted” the soldiers did so.

Unarguably, if Amagbem and his boys executed the lawless act, there must be a motive, and investigators must unravel the motive to untie the puzzle.

Was it because the Commanding Officer was stepping on his bunkering territories and they were desperate to stop him?
Or did one of the warring communities hire him as a mercenary to fight on its side, and he went overboard in the process?
It is open to question that, given the training and capacity of the Nigerian Army, amateur youths of Okuama would not have the ability to overrun a lieutenant colonel, two majors, one captain, and 13 soldiers. Extremely far from certain.

CDS Musa elimination theory

Not long ago, General Musa confirmed that they (killers) killed the 17 soldiers while trying to end oil bunkering in the Delta.

He said the Army had identified the person responsible for the attack and killing of the troops, which had embarked on a peace mission to the Okuama community and was following up on the suspected culprit.

His words: “We know who did this; we are following up with him, and it is just a matter of time. We are sure we are going to get him. I know him, the C.O himself, Lt. Colonel Ali, of recent, because we were emphasizing that we want the oil production of Nigeria to increase so that we will be able to have enough foreign exchange, then things can go down because we all know the challenges we are going through.”

“And so he insisted that all illegal activities within the general area must stop. He directed all his troops and they were stopping all these illegal bunkering, stopping all these things, and then these are the people benefiting from it. When this issue came in, it came as an opportunity for them to go and do away with him. And that is exactly what happened.

“We know that because of these issues of bunkering, we have many pirates and militants who are still operating in the area. They have a lot of funding because of the area in which it is being carried out. They always have a lot of arms with them.

“These are people they know, and that is why when he heard it, he felt that these are my community, these are the people I know, and he went to say, oh, this is not right. Whatever it is, within the community, we can do it: invite the stakeholders, let them come and handle it in a single mission and all these things and the community said okay.

“And as they turned to go, they were rounding them up, killed—not only killed, they were dismembered. I do not know what kind of… for a human being to go that extent, to go for people that came on a peaceful mission, then that is something that must be looked at.”

Okuama denies Amagbein, alleges gang-up

To date, it is indistinguishable the community “General” Amagbein hails from in the Niger Delta, but he is powerful in Bayelsa State. He sacked the traditional ruler of Igbomotoru and took over the running of the community with his selected leadership.

While some said he is from Igbomoturu, where he influenced the appointment of top government officials in Bayelsa State, others disclosed that he is maternally from Igbomotouru, but paternally an Urhobo in Delta State.

A leader of the Okuama community, who responded to the insinuation that Amagbein is from the community, told Saturday Vanguard: “Okuama has no connection to those who killed the soldiers; Okuama does not have anybody called Amagbein. As I said, Okuama was not ready for any fight as our people went to the farm that day, and only a few people were around that day.”
“Okuama does not know about that connection and Amagbein is not related to Okuama either from his mother or father’s side. Okuama did not hire anyone to help them to fight. Our neighbours are the ones, who have connections and oil money, and we are mere farmers. We do not have any big men. That is why they have turned everything against us.”

To him, “We now see that this whole thing is a gang up against Okuama, it is a coup against us just to destroy the community, as I am talking to you, our people are completely in disarray, they are in the bush dying of hunger, starvation, and various sicknesses.”

“Over 15 people have died, they do not have any place to go, and the army had taken over the community. They burnt and demolished the community.

”If the army is not doing something terrible, they are supposed to show photographs, and video of the current state of the community for the world to see, so you can guess what is happening now.

“It is only Okuama people that are suffering now, Okoloba people are living well in their community, they are going to their farms, and the government is not doing anything about it.

“We feel this whole thing is a gang up between the Army and the Ijaw people against us. Only the federal government can call the Ijaw leader to order, he boasted of causing a problem we cannot solve, today, what he boasted about has happened.”

Okoloba slams Okuama

However, the Chairman of the Ijaw town of Okoloba in Delta State, Mr. Clement Koki, whose community was involved in a communal row with the Okuama community, pointed fingers at Okuama, saying it hired the mercenaries who killed the military men.

Koki, who accused Okuama of territorial expansionism, said, “It is that inordinate ambition and sheer recklessness that have prompted them to hire mercenaries and kill the 17 soldiers on that ill-fated day, 14th March 2024.”

”We, the people of Okoloba, have always been calling on the State Government to intervene in the brewing crisis before the evil act of killing the soldiers on peace and rescue mission at Okuama.”

Weapons allegation versus reality

The CDS, who insisted on Wednesday that the lockdown in the community, continues, said, “We are currently conducting a cordon- – 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 at the end of the operation, residents will always go back.”

General Musa’s allegation that the community has many weapons acquired with illegal funds from crude oil theft presupposes that Okuama is an oil-rich community.

However, in reality, Okuama is not an oil community and has no crude oil pipeline passing through it, so, how the people acquired and stockpiled weapons with money made from crude oil bunkering, as alleged by the CDS, is not clear.
Except, the militant group previously had access to the community, and had moved in weapons to the community in readiness for a fight with the Okoloba people, which Okuama hotly debunked.

Intoxicating drugs, spirits

Nevertheless, tying the noose on the leaders and people of Okuama, and other communities where oil bunkering is flourishing in the areas, Musa crooned, “They cannot say they do not know what is going on there. I am sure you are aware that since they decapitated the bodies of these people (soldiers), there are a lot of human sacrifices that are going on within those general areas, and it was part of a way of showing that they have strength.”

“That is why they were able to cut their heads and arms, disembowel them, and remove their hearts. I do not know what was the intent, but whatever the intent was, we remain focused and committed.”

Saturday Vanguard learned that many militant leaders, oil bunkers, and pirates, who are cultists, usually inhale and smoke different mind-altering drugs, and quaff liquor that make them act strange when they carry out such operations approximating the Okuama killings.