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Army vows to get killers of murdered 17 officers/ Soldiers in Delta

Army vows to get killers of murdered 17 officers/ Soldiers in Delta


The bodies of the 17 officers and soldiers killed while on a peacekeeping operation at Okuama, Delta State were laid to rest, yesterday, at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja.

The bodies, conveyed in 17 military and other private hospital ambulances, arrived at the cemetery at exactly 2:33pm. They were interred at exactly 5:40pm.

In his address at the burial, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, vowed that the Nigerian Army would not rest until they get the killers of the officers and soldiers.

The COAS, while noting that the deceased were murdered in a most “reprehensible manner”, vowed to get all their weapons, ammunition, equipment and other items seized from the soldiers whose body parts, he said, took over 72 hours to recover after their gruesome murder.

An emotional laden Lagbaja, while noting that the officers were on a legitimate duty in the community, regretted that they were killed by the same people they went to protect. He said the death of the officers and soldiers has added to the care of the Nigerian Army and, by extension, the Nigeria state 10 widows, three of whom are between four, four, and eight months pregnant, 21 orphans, and many other dependents which include parents. He also said their death would not in any way deter the army from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities of protecting and defending the nation.

The COAS, while thanking President Tinubu, and Nigerians for honouring the memory of the departed officers and men, said, “ordinarily, this burial ceremony should not be a speech-making occasion. But you will agree with me that it will be insensitive of us, and disrespectful to the memory and legacy of the gallant men we have come to bury, not to make speeches, no matter how brief.

He said: “As the Chief of Army Staff, I consider putting fine men and women in harm’s way, sometimes knowing that they may not return to their families and loved ones, my toughest job. Correspondingly and intriguingly, my men know that when I send them out, despite the equipment, training, and other forms of preparations, sometimes some may not make it back alive, while some may return handicapped or invalid.

“Ours is a profession that deals with matters of life and death. When soldiers die in the hands of the enemies of the State, we take it as dying for what the nation has considered a just cause; we celebrate them as gallant heroes. But when they are gruesomely murdered by the very people they are trained, equipped, and took an oath to protect, it is highly demoralising.

“Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer news that 17 of the Nigerian Army’s finest men, whom we have come to bury, were murdered in a reprehensible manner on March 14, 2024, in the Okuama community of Delta State while they went on a legitimate peace-making mission. It grieves my heart that it took our search and recovery effort over 72 hours to recover some vital organs of the decapitated and disemboweled bodies of my men that were scattered all over the Okuama community by the community youths and their friends.

“I consider it the most barbaric act any citizen or community can commit against the authority of the state, and I must place on record that a lot of restraints have been exercised, so far, in our search and recovery efforts for missing arms, ammunition, other equipment, and body parts.

“Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the Okuama killing has added to the care of the Nigerian Army and, by extension, the Nigeria state – 10 windows (three of whom are four, five, and eight 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 succour to them and preserve the memories of their departed loved ones.

“As we commit the bodies of these gallant soldiers to Mother Earth, I wish to thank His Excellency, President Bola Tinubu, GCFR, the leadership and members of the National Assembly, members of the Federal Executive Council, executive governors – particularly of Delta and Bayelsa States, as well as all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians for their support and encouragement to the families and loved ones of our murdered personnel on the one side, and the Nigerian Army and, indeed, the Armed Forces of Nigeria on the other in this difficult time. Your condolence messages have been most comforting and reassuring to the Nigerian Army.

“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, towards swift and successful conduct of our search and recovery operations”.

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