April 9, 2024

Okuama: March 14 killers wore military fatigues — eyewitness



*Speedboat driver: How I escaped from Okuama waterside on March 14
*Soldier: How they hoodwinked Lt. Colonel to drop arms

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Akpokona Onafuaire, and Chancel Bomadi Sunday, UGHELLI

A witness to the March 14 killing of soldiers at the Okuama in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State, has revealed that the gunmen, who came with four speedboats from the Bomadi axis to the community’s riverside and immediately opened fire on both soldiers and villagers, wore military camouflage.

The witness, an indigene of Okuama who spoke exclusively to Vanguard, said when the soldiers first entered the community on March 14, they asked for the chairman, who later came from the farm. They entertained them before they started dragging him to the waterside; the women resisted, and they started shooting.

Her words: “They insisted on going with him (the chairman); they dragged him with others. We held them and dragged them back. From there, the army started shooting, and some villagers fell, and there was a commotion.”

“We later heard that as the soldiers were going to the jetty, other boats with people wearing soldiers’ uniforms came and they started shooting everyone, which is how they killed the soldiers and our people.”

She, however, said she could not identify the gunmen because they wore soldiers’ uniforms, and she scampered away with her children and others for their dear lives into the bush.

“It was when they started shooting again that we fled into this bush with our children; we have not seen some of our children since then. We have been suffering in this bush since March 14.

“We do everything inside this bush. There is no food or drugs, and I have worn this single wrapper since that day. We are hungry and suffering. Two of my children are with me; I do not know where my husband is. I do not know where the other children are, everyone is scattered, whether they are dead now, we do not know.

“We do not know when we will return to Okuama; our businesses have crumbled, and everything is gone. We cannot do anything inside the bush now. I do not know whether my children are amongst those killed; there is no one to ask.”

How I escaped from Okuama waterside on March 14: Speedboat driver

A driver of one of the speedboats hired by the military at the Gbaregolor community waterside for the March 14 operation told Vanguard earlier that the Army dragged the Okuama community chair, who refused to go to the waterside with them. As they forced him to board their boat, rains of bullets came from all directions.
His words: “Before that incident (shooting), while waiting at the waterfront, an old woman in pure water attire came out of the community and stared at us, making some form of incantation, and went back to the community. Within a few minutes, an old man with similar attire came to the same spot, gazed at us, and performed the same way as the old woman.

“After this scenario, the commander and his men started coming to the shore with the community chairman. At this moment, I got ready to start my engine just like my colleagues, but the engines refused to start as all efforts were to no avail. At this point, I realized that the problem had come after witnessing the incantation by the old woman and the man.
“As the bullets started coming, the soldiers tried to respond, but none of their guns answered, and immediately, I dived into the river. Suddenly, one of the engines started, and some soldiers jumped into it, then the driver sped out of the community and carried me from the river.

“I do not know what he did to start his engine. Two of the soldiers in the boat sustained severe bullet wounds and were taken to the Bomadi General Hospital. The information then was that the JTF commander and one other officer were held hostage,” he said.

Vanguard gathered that it was on hearing about the incident that the military mobilized from Agbarho to Okuama to negotiate and secure the release of the commander and others reportedly taken hostage.

How they deceived and killed Lt Colonel (Source)

According to an inside source who was part of the reinforcement that led to the burning of houses at Okuama and who was discussing the operation with his colleagues, the soldiers who were mobilized from Agbarho were deceived and killed.

“The soldiers from Agbarho, led by the Lieutenant Colonel, upon reaching Okuama, told the community folk that they came for peace talks. The community leaders responded that they should drop their weapons if they truly came for peace talks.”
“The commanding officer asked his men to drop their weapons, and as they did so, the community youths took the weapons away. Suddenly, the youths descended on them, butchering them from every angle.”

Narrating how he was privy to the gruesome murder, the source (a soldier) continued: “As we were burning houses in the community, somebody ran out of one of the houses on fire, and I threatened to shoot if he ran. He hesitated a while and surrendered.

“So, we interrogated him on why he remained in the village while all others had fled? His reply was odd and awkward. He answered by saying that it could be the blood on his head. Then, when we asked him how many he had killed, he replied by saying 46.
“At this moment, a colleague corked his gun and wanted to shoot him in anger, but others calmed him down, telling him that he was a possible source of hidden information.
“We discovered six shrines in the community in the process of burning the houses, which are stained with blood. We also burned them, but one of the shrines refused to burn. It was one Hausa soldier who did what he did to set it ablaze.

“The culprit, after his confession, also led us to discover hidden corpses under the jetty at the community waterfront. I took part in carrying the corpses out of the river, and we discovered that most of them were mutilated. Only three corpses had bullet wounds. The culprit was flown to the Defense Headquarters.”