Okuama killings: How soldiers, villagers died — Eyewitness

UGHELLI — A leader of the Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, (names withheld), has opened up on what led to the killing of 17 soldiers, and a yet-to-be-ascertained number of natives in the community on March 14.

He explained that a leader from Okoloba in Bomadi Local Government Area, embroiled in a land dispute with Okuama, was the person who led soldiers to the community to fight a personal agenda on the fateful day.

The Okuama leader, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard, yesterday, also cleared the air on the Bayelsa–based militant leader, Amagbein, whose Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Abuja, published his photo on its wanted list, saying he was not from Okuama, and not in any way connected to the community.

His explanation

“That very day when the Army came, people had gone to the farm, including the community Chairman. They called him from the farm, notifying him that visitors wanted to meet the leadership. They welcomed them at the town hall; the community inquired what their mission was.

“They told our people they came in respect of a kidnapping complaint by an Ijaw leader and Okoloba people, and that they want to search the community. So they allowed it because we knew there was nothing like that.
“After searching, they came back to the town hall; they found nothing, but insisted that they want to go with the community Chairman, Secretary, and other leaders. The people refused, saying you said you came for peace talks and searched. Now, you want to go with our people.

“The people were wary of their agenda, and this brought argument, and the army opened fire and started shooting, people started running, and our people were not prepared for it, talk of fighting soldiers. In that process, they killed several people, we have some photographs, as the issue was raging and the army, after shooting, headed towards the waterside.

“Other speedboats, about three were seen coming towards the community, one of our youth captured one of the boats, and they came for full attack, and opened fire on both the soldiers and some Okuama people around the jetty. That is what led to the killing of the soldiers and our people.

“Our people they shot also fell into the water, up till now, we have not been able to record exactly how many are dead.
“The following day, the military reinforced again to Okuama; that Okuama killed Nigeria Army personnel, and that is what led them to burning of the community.

Gang-up against Okuama

“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 with caterpillars.

To underscore this point, when our governor wanted to go there, they denied him access, the same thing they did to the Commissioner of Police. Therefore, we are crying to the world, the state government, and the federal government that the Nigerian Army is oppressing Okuama, they should come to our aid.

“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, and today, what he boasted about has happened.

Rift with the Okoloba leader

“Some time ago, we had an issue of boundary adjustment with Okoloba, there have been boundary issues between us for a long time, we then planted seven mango trees to demarcate the boundary.

“The Ijaw leader came and removed all the mango trees, saying that he wants to establish a school there. He then extended into Okuama land, Okuama people told him that if he had such a vision to establish a school that would be beneficial to us all, he should be able to consult with the community first.

“He refused, saying that wherever he ended the clearing shall be the boundary of Okuama. Okuama people refused and the matter went before the Divisional Police Officers, DPOs of Otu-Jeremi and Bomadi, and the Pere of Akugbene and some chiefs for adjudication.

“They visited the place and saw that he had encroached into our land, but they pleaded with us to take the boundary from there, being that the project will benefit all of us. Therefore, in their wisdom, they brought a caterpillar and graded the demarcation straight to the river.

“After that, the Okoloba leader still refused to let peace be, he went to the creek called Urhie-Ewu, owned by us, the Okuama Primary School is named Aderha Primary School because of the intersection of the creek and the River Niger inside the creek. Okuama has a small community called Edakure. We have a polling unit there to date.

“He kept disturbing us in the creek and the Pere of Akugbene called a meeting slated in Warri for both communities to discuss this recurring issue in January. A day before the date fixed for the meeting by the King, the Ijaw leader, and his boys, using boats, attacked four of our boys and killed them.

“There is one popular boy among them, his name is Igho, and he married an Okoloba lady and has a son. Villagers captured the attack on video when they confronted them at the jetty; took them away and killed them. People were shouting it was Igho, who married from Okoloba.

“Okuama did not react because the Okoloba leader is rich, he has boys, weapons, and connections and we cannot do anything to him, we are peasant farmers and fishermen, and we do not have any plan or intention of war with anyone.

“The Ijaw leader boasted to us that he would ensure that Okuama was wiped out from the surface of the earth, that he would do anything to ensure that he achieved this aim and that he would cause a problem that Okuama cannot solve. He killed those boys (four boys) on January 17; nobody saw their corpses to date.

“Our source said Igho and the three boys were shot, and put in a shallow grave, they turned fuel on them before burning and covering it. Because of that attack, our people did not attend the meeting fixed by the King on January 18.

We did not hire any militant leader, Amagbein not from Okuama

“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, 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 fight, our neighbours are the ones, who have connections and oil money, and we are mere farmers. We do not have any big man, which is why you see they have turned everything against us.”

We have no business with Ewu king

The Okuama leader disclosed, “No king of Ewu Kingdom had Okuama before now, therefore, we do not have any say or support for whoever becomes the king until we are accepted before we can say we have a king.”

“However, we heard there was a crisis in the selection and the matter is still in court. We do not know whom the court will declare as king.”

Video clips of slain Okuama natives

One villager told Vanguard, “The number one name on the wanted list by the DHQ, Akevwru Daniel Omotegbono is from Okuama, but not “aka Amagbem” as portrayed by the army. Number 2, Prof Ekpekpo Arthur, president-general of Ewu Kingdom is from Okuama. Number 5 is the vice president of the Okuama community, while number seven is the Ewu monarch. The others are unknown to Okuama.”

Vanguard watched and sighted several videos and photographs of the attack, and abduction of the four Okuama boys allegedly by the boys of the Ijaw leader from Okoloba, and the boats used for the operation, in January, for the first time, yesterday.

Some Okuama villagers also made available to our reporters video clips of some natives purportedly killed by soldiers on March 14.

The military should allow Okuama to bury their dead

Okuama residents have enjoined the military to allow access to the community, so they could bury their dead allegedly felled by soldiers

A resident of Ughelli, Mr. Akpokiniovo Joseph, said: “The soldiers occupying the Okuama are Nigerians, they know how we attach concern to the proper burial of our dear ones since there were reports that about 50 persons from the community were killed.

“They should allow families into the community to identify their dead ones for burial. It is a traditional and religious demand in this part of the country, even the entire country. “

Madam Magdalene Emudianughe in Warri, said: “Even though remains of the deceased have been buried in secret graves or given mass burials in the community, residents should still be allowed in to mourn and bury their loved ones.

“We read in the papers that the military moved heavy-duty equipment into the community after they sealed up the place. If it was to clean up the community and bury in mass graves, they should still allow residents to bury their dead ones.

“These dead ones, according to media reports, were allegedly killed before the soldiers were murdered. So they were innocent, they had no hands in the death of the soldiers.’’


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