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Okuama community leaders demand remains of slain villagers

The community heads of Okuama in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State, have made a frantic call for information on the remains and location of villagers’ bodies who lost their lives during the gruesome attacks of Thursday, 14 March 2024 involving the deaths of 17 army officers and soldiers—alleging the military had buried the victims in a mass grave while the others were dropped inside the river. According to reports, the Okuama heads claim that the community emptied on March 14 as residents fled to safety away from soldiers’ bombardment that ensued killing some and a second attack by gunmen, who murdered troops and villagers at the waterside. Saying stock of their dead is yet determined given the series of unfortunate events leading to this juncture, and the military’s takeover of the community barring access to inhabitants. They allege that while the army has claimed its fallen soldiers, residents have neither entered the community to account for their dead nor bury them as appropriate. Maintaining that since the incident of 14 March, the army, knowing the murderers of its personnel, is bent on implicating Okuama’s poor farmers, fisherwomen, and men.

One community leader says the corpses of its people who died on that day cannot be traced because the Army threw most of them inside the river. They buried the ones killed in the community; that is the reason they moved -in caterpillars and destroyed the community. There have been other postings by community heads saying “For the army to investigate the killing of their soldiers is not wrong, but to go hard on a whole community and other places is oppression; it is no longer investigation again, but a setup and a plan to wipe out all the Urhobo communities in that riverine. Okuama does not have any weapon buried in the ground, there is nothing of such. The caterpillars they brought were for them to bulldoze the buildings down and bury the people they had killed. The military board of inquiry is also a gang-up because the military cannot set up a panel and be the investigators, it i not proper and the whole world is condemning…the Okuama people do not have a hand in the killing of the soldiers. Our people even die more from the attacks. Yes, the gunmen who came on the other boats wore military camouflage. Our people did not recognize the killers because nobody anticipated what happened that day. The community was in commotion after soldiers shot and people were running for safety. If you see the video that one of our boys made as the boats came, it was from a far distance”.

However, the military continues to deny the allegations that it slew Okuama residents and buried them secretly. Dismissing the claims as unfounded and propaganda.

 

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