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Okuama: Army clears air, says residents can’t return home now




By Peters Monday, Abuja

Following the outcry of the public to allow residents of the embattled Okuama community to return home, the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Gen. Christopher Musa, has stated that the Army is on a cordon-and-search operations in Okuama community, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.


Congress had reported that on March 14, 2024, 17 soldiers, including the Commanding Officer of 181 Amphibious Battalion, two majors, one captain, and 13 personnel of the battalion were killed by irate Youth in Okuama community.


Angered by the killings, the military had raid the community, causing residents to flee the community.


However, the murdered soldiers were buried at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, on March 27, with President Bola Tinubu, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-General Taoreed Lagbaja; Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar; and Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, in attendance.


The defence headquarters said the residents of Okuama would return only when the cordon-and-search operations are over.


CDS, while speaking at Arise TV on Wednesday, emphasised that the community is currently not accessible due to the cordon-and-search operation currently ongoing in the area.


He reiterated, “When we finish the cordon and search operations (which is searching every nook and cranny within the community); because we know they have a lot of weapons bought from crude oil theft, then residents can return to their homes.


“During the disarmament exercise that was conducted, a lot of them didn’t hand over their weapons. And also, due to closeness to riverine areas with other countries, they’ve found ways to bring in weapons.

“Their access to weapons made them able to perpetrate the crime.


“It’s for us to thoroughly clean the community to ensure no weapons or explosives are left behind and no one is hiding.


“At the end of it (cordon-and-search), the communities will go back and rebuild. We’re working together with the community; nobody is doing anything to infringe on their rights.


“Also, since it’s an ongoing operation, we wouldn’t want them to come in and be shot or mistaken for antagonists. We’re duty-bound to protect them. As soon as we’re done with the cordon-and-search, they’ll go back.”


The defence headquarters further accused the community of harbouring the criminals.


“Those communities (residents) know the criminals. And some of them benefit from these acts of criminality.


“If they say they don’t know them or are not aware of them, they’re far from the truth. Investigations will unravel this. The cordon-and-search is temporary and will be over soon.”