By Austen Akhagbeme

Ever since the end of Nigeria’s fratricidal war in 1970, Nigeria has not lost trained military personnel in one swoop, in a local civil fracas like we had in Okuoma, Ughelli South local government of Delta state last week Thursday. And this is highly condemnable.

Sixteen soldiers, including 3 officers and the Commanding officer of the 181 Amphibious Battalion of the Nigerian Army, ran into an ambush and were killed on their way back from a Peace mission in a community crisis between the Urhobo community of Ukuoma and her Ijaw neighbors.

No matter the provocation, the killing of peacekeepers, moreso soldiers, who lay down their lives for the safety of all, is most unwarranted and highly condemnable. Those who are responsible for this distardly act must be fished out to face the full wrath of the law.

However, even as condemnable as the action of these restive Ukuoma youth are, caution must be taken on the part of the military command not to repeat the ugly history of the past when over 395 people and properties worth millions of Naira was lost and the entire community of Udi, in Bayelsa state was leveled down in what seems like a reprisal attack by the military hierarchy.

To do that is to say we have learned nothing from our ignoble past, and that jungle justice is tolerable in the eye of the Nigerian state and her supposedly peace-loving people. The rule of engagement must be applied in fishing out the culprits and care and tact must be taken in order not to escalate the crisis and make life unbearable for the innocent women and children living in these coastal communities.

Because of the insinuations, accusations, denials and counter accusations from all parties, an urgent official inquiry which will involve all parties to the crisis, should be set up by the government to unravel the remote and immediate cause of the crisis.

Questions must be asked about the possibility of the involvement of an outsider force, who probably, must have taken advantage of the crisis to unleash mayhem on our peace-loving Soldiers.

Again, the so-called proclaimed and widely acclaimed success of the Amnesty program in the Niger-Delta must be reviewed in earnest. Why do we still have so much arms and ammunition in the hands of the wrong persons within the Niger-Delta, despite the presidential Amnesty program which presupposes a thorough laying down of arms by militant groups within the Niger-Delta region?

It is high time the leadership at subnational level, begin to take responsibility and therefore, be responsive to the seemingly little threats to life and property such as communal skirmishes by way of nipping them in the bud.

Who could have thought that a seemingly harmless scuffle for a piece of land by two belligerent communities, could escalate to the scale of a national tragedy that we have in our hands today? Yet, this could easily have been nipped in the bud by a sensitive and proactive government at the state level.

Despite the anger in our hearts, we must go into the root cause of the problem, taking cautionary measures to avoid more wastage of lives and properties. Let us all follow the rules of engagement.

News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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