Armed ViolenceNews

15 Nigerian Soldiers Killed As Residents Flee In Fear Over Reinforced Army Presence 

Some soldiers of the Nigerian Army on a peace-mission were tragically killed during a clash between the Okuama and Okoloba communities in Delta State, Nigeria, on Thursday, leading to residents fleeing the community in fear. 

Some residents of the Okuama and Okoloba communities in Delta State, South-south Nigeria, have reportedly fled their homes over fear of reprisal attacks from the military. 

The two warring communities have been in dispute over the ownership of a controversial land lying on their border since January. The warfare between the two communities have led to killing of many people including children. 

There have also been cases of abductions and injuries on both sides. 

On Thursday,  March 14, the communities had another fight that led to the death of three people. While many others sustained injuries, hundreds of residents were left homeless. In a bid to curb the menace, the Nigerian Army deployed soldiers for a peacekeeping mission to the communities. 

15 soldiers killed

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters, on late Saturday evening, said 15 military personnel were killed during the communal clash. The victims consist of two Majors, one Captain, and 12 soldiers.

According to a statement by the Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, the troops, including the commanding officer who led the reinforcement team were attacked and killed by some community youths.

“The troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, while on a peace mission to OKUOMA community in BOMADI LGA of Delta State, were surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, 14 March 2024. The unfortunate incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuama and Okoloba communities both in Delta State.

“The reinforcement team led by the Commanding officer was also attacked, leading to the death of the Commanding officer, two Majors, one Captain, and 12 Soldiers.”

Fear of reprisal 

HumAngle learnt that the communities in Ughelli South and Bomadi local government areas have been taken over  by troops of the 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, who also oversees the 63 brigade in Asaba.

Following this, many residents have abandoned their homes in fear of reprisal from the soldiers. A source monitoring the development from Asaba told HumAngle that many people are currently hiding in the bush. 

The source who made efforts to visit the warring communities on Sunday morning turned back after seeing the heavy presence of armed soldiers, who had taken over major roads.

Meanwhile, the senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Ede Dafinone, has called on both the state and federal governments to quickly intervene in the crisis. 

“I want to appeal for calm by the warring factions in the unfortunate incident that occurred in the Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State on Thursday and Friday, leading to the needless death of about 18 persons including soldiers,” the lawmaker’s statement read. 

“The Federal Government must, as a matter of urgency, set up a high-powered independent panel to investigate the remote causes of this crisis in order to bring whoever that may be involved in the killing of Nigerian civilians and soldiers to book.

“I wish to appeal to the authority of the Nigerian Army to act discreetly in this situation; they should not allow their emotions take better part of their professional judgment by toning down their operations and observe the rules of engagement while dealing with civilians at Okuama.”

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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