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Falana urges soldiers to end reprisal attacks in Delta community

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Nigerian soldiers

Human rights lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, has urged the Federal Government to put an end to soldiers’ retaliation attacks in Okuama village in Ughelli South Local Government Area in Delta State.

Falana made the call in a message made accessible to journalists on Sunday.

Recall that some enraged bandits reportedly ambushed soldiers dispatched to the region to quell a communal riot.

Soldiers from the Joint Task Force, led by General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Jamal Abdussalam, recovered 15 soldiers’ bodies in the Okuama hamlet.

Some Okoloba youths were claimed to have attacked and killed three Okuama youths—Igho Meshack, Godspower Awusa, and Okiemute Agbabuleke—as they were returning from Okwagbe due to an age-old land dispute in the area.

In a revenge attack, some Okuama youths on Wednesday reportedly ambushed Mr. Anthony Aboh, an indigene of Okoloba, and held him captive.

However, JTF agents acted quickly and proceeded to Okuama to rescue the hostages.

In response to the development, Nigeria’s Senior Advocate urged the military to stop killing citizens while also calling for a thorough investigation into the situation.

In a statement posted earlier on Saturday night, the lawyer criticised the soldiers’ horrific killings. He also demanded that the culprits apprehended for their involvement in the incident face immediate prosecution.

Falana said, “Unfortunately, some villages were attacked last night by angry soldiers. After the attack, the villages were set on fire during the nocturnal military invasion.

“Having regard to the destruction of Odi and Zaki Biam over the killing of soldiers, the authorities ought to have taken adequate measures to prevent the attack and burning of the affected villages. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has not issued any statement on the barbaric incident.

“In view of the tragic turn of events, I call on the military authorities to halt the destruction of the properties of innocent people in the warring communities. It ought to be pointed out that collective punishment is a serious offence under domestic and international law.”

Falana further stated, “Therefore, the Delta State Government should ensure that the murder suspects and arsonists among the civilians and soldiers are fished out and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to other criminal elements in society.

“Once again, I commiserate with the bereaved families of the slain officers and soldiers. Since they were brutally killed in the course of duty, the Federal Government and the Delta State Government should compensate the dependents of the deceased military officers and soldiers. Compensation should also be extended to the victims of reprisal attacks by angry soldiers.”

Meanwhile, on March 14, 2024, some enraged community youths surrounded the troops of the 181 Amphibious Batallion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, who were on a peace mission to the Okuoma village in Delta State.

In the unprovoked attack that followed, the commanding officer, two majors, a captain, and twelve soldiers were said to have been brutally slain.

Reacting to the incident, Falana stated, “We join the members of civilised humanity in condemning the brutality meted out to the military officers and soldiers as they were deployed for a peacekeeping mission to resolve the crisis in two warring communities in the Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State.

“We are, however, pleased to note that the military remains focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the country.

“Having regard to the massacre of innocent people when the military invaded Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam in Benue State in similar circumstances, we commend the military authorities for resisting the temptation to subject the two warring communities to a reprisal attack. By all means, the army should avoid a repeat of the history of having multiple tragedies.

“We have confirmed that, in line with the directive of the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gwabim Musa, some of the gunmen involved in the heinous crime have been arrested. The Delta State Government, the respective local governments, and the leaders of two warring communities should assist the police in identifying and isolating the remaining reckless murderers and unravelling the motive behind the heinous crime.

“While we commiserate with the Nigerian Army and the bereaved families of the slain military officers and soldiers, we call on the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into the case with a view to prosecuting the suspects without any delay,” he stated.

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