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New information has emerged regarding the tragic events of March 14, where 17 soldiers were killed in Delta State.

The prevailing belief that the conflict between Okuama, an Urhobo community in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State, and Okoloba, an Ijaw town in Bomadi Local Government Area, was the primary cause of the devastating massacre now seems incorrect.

According to sources cited by Vanguard, there is speculation that a group of oil bunkerers, possibly hired as mercenaries, could be responsible for the violence.

The Army, extensively deployed across the creek and land areas of Delta and Bayelsa States, is actively pursuing the perpetrators and recovering stolen weapons.

Although several suspects have been apprehended, the military has yet to formally announce the capture of the assailants.

Based on intelligence reports, soldiers, who had been encamped in the Okuama community since March 15, conducted a raid on the Igbomotoru community in Southern-Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, on March 17. Their target was a suspected militant leader and oil thief believed to operate from this riverside community.

The storming of Igbomotoru swung attention to an alleged militant leader and oil thief, whose father is a retired army officer, and purportedly an Urhobo in Delta State as the mastermind of the Okuama killings. There is controversy over whether he is an Ijaw from Igbomotoru or maternally from Igbomotoru.

Some traced the militant leader’s paternity to Okuama and maternity to Igbomotoru. When the inter-communal crisis between the two communities started brewing, the community leadership, reportedly, contracted him to come and fight for them, which he did by mobilizing his boys to Okuama.

According to Vanguard, it was the information that made the army send troops to Igbomotoru, Bayelsa State, in search of him.

However, a stout clue that oil bunkers were behind the butchery emanated when a supposed militant, who claimed to have participated in the killing, stated in a trending video, that they killed the military men for their support for another set of oil bunkerers.

He also said that if they had allowed soldiers to take away Okuama community leaders, the youths would be rendered powerless.

Generally, his statement in the video centred on divergence among oil bunkers in a part of the Niger Delta that entailed the use of soldiers to settle scores.

His words: “That is why the action (assassination of the soldiers) took place but people say the soldiers came for peacekeeping. Point of correction – no army came for peacekeeping. They are(sic) fighting in support of somebody (names withheld), who ordered them to do.”

However, within the week, another militant group, which identified itself as Amagbein Force, also in a trending video, pledged its loyalty to its leader, who happened to be the same militant leader that the army went in search of at Igbomotoru.

Could it be a coincidence? The group member, who spoke, did not make a direct claim that they participated in the killing of soldiers at Okuama, but said oil bunkering would not stop unless the government settled the matter peacefully, and easily.

He urged the Federal Government to hand over waterways security to the right person doing the work for peace to reign, saying the militants would stand with their leader, Amagbein, till death do them part.

Amagbein, in the past, denied allegations by the army that he was a militant and oil bunkerer, but has kept running.
Many expect that the army, which confirmed narrowing investigations to “persons of interest and their cohorts”, will release the outcome of its investigations shortly.

Credit: Vanguard

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