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Tinubu confers MON, OON on slain soldiers, offers houses, scholarships to families

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. Killing of soldiers in Delta demoralizing – COAS

.Security Chiefs, Governors attend burial in Abuja

.As 2 communities blame Tompolo for soldiers’ death

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From Cyril Mbah, Abuja

 

President Bola Tinubu says the federal government will provide scholarships up to the university level for all the children, including the unborn, of the Nigerian Army personnel killed in action at Okuama community in Delta State.

 

 

 

The President, who announced this at the funeral of the personnel at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, on Wednesday, directed the military authorities to ensure that the benefits of the departed are paid to their families within 90 days.

 

 

 

The President also declared that the federal government would provide a house in any part of the nation to each of the families of the four officers and thirteen soldiers.

 

 

 

At the solemn event attended by some state governors, the military hierarchy, and families of the deceased, the President bestowed posthumous National Honours on the 17 fallen heroes.

 

 

 

Lt Col Ali, Major D.E Obi, Major S.D. Ashafa, and Captain U. Zakari were given the award of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR).

 

 

 

Staff Sergeant Yahaya Saidu, Corporal Danbaba Yahaya, Corporal Kabir Bashir, Lance Corporals Abdullahi Ibrahim, Bulus Haruna, Sole Opeyemi, Bello Anas, Private Alhaji Isah, Clement Francis, Abubakar Ali, Adamu Ibrahim, Hamman Peter, and Ibrahim Adamu, were awarded the honour of Member of the Order of Niger (MON).

 

 

 

“On the 14th day of March, Lt. Colonel A. H. Ali, the Commanding Officer of 181 Amphibious Battalion, led three other officers and 13 soldiers to the Okuama Community to mediate in the lingering dispute with Okoloba Community.

 

 

 

“They went as peacemakers and peacekeepers respectfully seeking to bring an end to the hostilities between the two communities.

 

 

 

“They did not go with tanks, machine guns, and other weapons. They were on a mission of peace.

 

 

 

“Before the dastardly attack, Lt. Colonel Ali, as the Chief of Army Staff narrated to me, achieved great operational exploits; fighting terrorists and insurgents in the North East and North West before his deployment to the Niger Delta.

 

 

 

“Ali kept faith with his military calling until the end.

 

 

 

“On behalf of a grateful nation, we honour the sacrifice of Ali and the other gallant patriots who died that day. They will forever be remembered as heroes who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price,” the President said.

 

 

 

Reaffirming government’s commitment to justice, President Tinubu vowed to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to account.

 

 

 

While commending the military for not embarking on a reprisal attack on the community, the President declared: “I want to make it clear, once more, that those who committed this heinous crime will not go unpunished. We will find them, and our departed heroes will get justice.

 

 

 

“The elders and chiefs of Okuama also must help the military in fishing out the gunmen who committed the barbaric crime against our men.

 

 

 

“I wish to commend our Armed Forces for their restraint in choosing not to carry out any reprisal attacks on Okuama or its neighbouring communities. We must all ensure that the innocent people of Okuama are not made to bear the punishment of the guilty and wicked among them,” the President stated.

 

 

 

President Tinubu, while commiserating with the families of the fallen heroes and the entire Armed Forces, prayed God Almighty to comfort the bereaved.

 

 

 

“It is worth restating the debt of gratitude we owe these valiant soldiers and their families.

 

 

 

“As Commander-In-Chief, I do not take the contributions of members of our Armed Forces for granted. I recognize your valour and bravery. I honour your unflinching commitment to making our country safe from criminals, bandits, kidnappers, and insurrectionists.

 

 

 

“While we continue to grieve for the courageous men we lost that day, let us also, on this solemn occasion, be reminded of the unfinished business of working for peace and harmony in our communities. We must begin to rebuild our communities and make them into places where love, tolerance, and harmony will reign.

 

 

 

‘‘Leaders at all levels, especially community leaders and traditional rulers, must work to strengthen the bonds that unite us. We must end the cycle of violence and bloodletting,” the President said.

 

 

 

President Tinubu urged the Armed Forces not to be discouraged by the death of their fellow compatriots but to honour their memory by rededicating themselves to the service and defence of the nation.

 

 

 

“As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I have a message for you: Do not let the death of your compatriots discourage you.

 

 

 

‘‘There is no higher honour than the vocation you have chosen to pursue. We cherish you. We cherish your labour of love. We salute your daily sacrifice in protecting your fellow citizens from danger. We acknowledge your sacrifices to defend our nation,” the Commander-in-Chief affirmed.

 

 

 

However, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, has described the recent killing of military personnel in Delta State as demoralising.

 

He noted that it was sad that those responsible for their deaths were those they swore to protect.

 

According to him, the personnel were on a legitimate duty when they met their deaths.

 

Lagbaja spoke at the burial ceremony for the slain personnel in Abuja on Wednesday.

 

 

He also said that a total of 21 children had been orphaned and 10 women widowed by the actions of the culprits.

 

Lagbaja, however, sought the cooperation of the community to apprehend the culprits of the heinous crime.

 

Lagbaja said, “The Okuama killing has added to the care of the Nigerian Army and, by extension, the Nigeria state – 10 windows (three of whom are 4, 5, and 8 months pregnant), 21 orphans, and many other dependents which include parents. While commiserating with the families of these gallant soldiers, I assure them that the Nigerian Army and the good people of this country will not leave them in the cold. We shall do all within our power to provide succor to them and preserve the memories of their departed loved ones.”

 

 

He noted that the Army will not be deter by the incidents, vowing that the culprits would be brought to book.

 

He said, “I assure Mr. President and all Nigerians that the Nigerian Army remains committed to its constitutional responsibilities and will not be deterred by setbacks such as witnessed in the Okuama community. As tasked by Mr President and Commander-In-Chief of our Armed Forces, the Nigerian Army, with the assistance of its sister services and other security agencies, is committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Okuama murder to book and recover all service and personal belongings taken from the murdered troops.

 

“The Nigerian Army will continue to seek the cooperation of all well-meaning Nigerians, particularly in the affected area, toward swift and successful conduct of our search and recovery operations.”

.As 2 communities blame Tompolo for soldiers’ death

 

In another development, Two riverine communities have blamed former warlord Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo  for the gruesome murder of Nigerian Army officers and soldiers on Delta State last week.

 

The communities have also dispatched a highly worded petition to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, urging him to hold Tompolo to account for “his clandestine and murderous activities in the Niger Delta region.”

 

Leaders of the communities, Chief Peppleowei Daopu and High Chief Newman James Okpeke of Okuama and Igbomotoro Communities also urged the Federal Government to stop the military from continuing the reprisal attack in the areas which has led to systematic destruction of villages and killing of innocent villagers.

 

The community called on world leaders and international organizations to prevail on the military to withdraw its troops from the villages occupied as a result of the Incident.

 

According to the community leaders, “Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo has been alleged to be behind the killings in Okuama and Igbomotoru communities  where Nigerian soldiers were beheaded like chicken.

 

“We have it on good authority that the boats used by the military to their murderous expedition to Okuama are owned by Tompolo’s Tantita Security Company. It is also strongly believed that Tompolo sponsored the logistics for the boat operations as he has always provided the army in the Niger Delta.

 

“Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo long ago pocketed and deploys the soldiers to do his evil biddings. At this juncture, it will be pertinent to state that Tompolo is acting as the De-facto President of Nigeria, on the Niger Delta.

 

“He is running a parallel government, anti-establishment – whereby apart from the President, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation of Nigeria (SGF), Chief of Staff to Mr. President, Private Principal Secretary to Mr. President, National Security Adviser (NSA), and top military brass most especially the Nigerian Army are under his command and control.

 

“The army in the Niger Delta and their bosses in Abuja are in his pay roll – ready to be deployed for his illegal bunkering activities and vendetta war. It is also pitiable that the same Tompolo influences posting of soldiers to the Niger Delta by providing ammunition and funding of their operations to cover his nefarious bunkering activities under the guise of pipeline surveillance contracts.

 

“This is the crux of the matter that forced soldiers to act Tompolo’s script without minding the consequences of their actions. The question now is why was the police (the lead security agency) barred from Okuama and Igbomotoro communities during the killings till date?. Why was Delta State Governor, as the Chief Security Officer of the state also barred from visiting the communities?

“The killings in Okuama and Igbomotoro were motivated by million dollar largesse doled out by Tompolo and Patrick Akpobolokemi. What would have motivated an ARMY COLONEL AND TWO MAJORS to leave their duty posts (181 Battalion, Bomadi) and embark on the heinous, illegal and perfidious murder of innocent and harmless people of Okuama and Igbomotoro.

 

“The question is where was the Chief of Defence Staff when the first killings of innocent civilians by the Army? Were the soldiers on a legitimate duty at Okuama/Igbomotoro? Who funded the murderous army operations at Okuama and Igbomotoro? Where were the Tantita Security boats that conveyed the soldiers to Okuama/Igbomotoro for the illegal operations. Where is Patrick Akpobolokemi who ignited the killings in Okuama Community now? He must be arrested and prosecuted for the murder of innocent souls.

 

“We call on the Amnesty International, the United Nations, the International Human Rights Commission, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, the International Red Cross, the USA Embassy in Nigeria, the British High Commission and relevant bodies to intervene in this pogrom metted against innocent people by the Nigeria Army funded by Tompolo’s Tantita.

 

“As it is now, the loss of lives of innocents Okuama and Igbomotoru who were murdered in cold blood doesn’t matter?. As if they are not human beings. Instead they have been turned to refuges in their ancestral land in order to silence their voices and the truth from being heard,” the community leaders pleaded.

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