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Okuoma killings: Senate, Service Chiefs, Hold Closed-door Meeting
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Okuoma killings: Senate, Service Chiefs, Hold Closed-door Meeting

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Former Senate President and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Ahmad Lawan, has urged residents of the Okuoma community, Bomadi local government area of Delta State, where 16 military personnel were murdered last week, to volunteer information on the masterminds of the killings.

Senator Lawan made the demand on Wednesday in his remarks at the investigative hearing by the Joint Committee on Defence, Army, Navy, and Air Force set up to investigate the incident.

In attendance at the meeting, which started at exactly 3:42 p.m., were the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Gwabin Musa; the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja; the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan; and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla.

Recall that the Senate, at its plenary on Tuesday, mandated the joint committee to investigate the incident.

The upper chamber also urged the federal government to ensure that those responsible for the heinous crime are identified, apprehended, and brought to justice.

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Lawan, who is the Chairman of the Joint Committees, recalled in his opening remarks at a meeting between his team and service chiefs that “the troops of the 181 Amphibious Battalion, on Thursday, March 14, 2024, went on a peace mission to Okuoma Community in Delta State.

An incident occurred resulting in the loss of a commanding officer, two majors, a captain, and 12 soldiers during the peace mission.

Senator Lawan further underscored the need for the federal government to prioritise the issue of security, noting that the same takes precedence over investment in any other sector.

He described the killing of the 16 soldiers as “barbaric” and appealed to Nigerians to support the Armed Forces by volunteering information that would lead to the capture and prosecution of those behind various forms of insecurity across the country.

The former Senate President said, “We, in the Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly, will always support our military in whatever way we can. And the National Assembly has that history. We try to make meaningful appropriations for resources to be available at all times.

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“We know it has never been enough, and, in fact, I will take this opportunity to commend our Armed Forces for doing so much with the little we can afford.

“The insecurity in our country takes precedence over any other consideration, and, therefore, it is the position of the Senate that no investment in any sector can be more important than ensuring that we are secured as a country.

“We, therefore, are very sad as a parliament over this tragic incident. It is our hope in the Senate that those who perpetrated this barbaric and horrific act are captured and the law takes full course on them.

“I want to appeal to Nigerians that this is our Armed Forces, and they cannot secure us without us as citizens playing our part. Therefore, every citizen is supposed to support our armed forces. And those in the area where this incident happened must volunteer information because this is the only way we can stop something like this from happening another time.”

Speaking at the end of the closed-door meeting with the service chiefs, Senator Lawan described the session as fruitful. He maintained his stance that the people of the Okuoma community must offer useful information on those behind the murder of military personnel.

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He said, “We have been briefed about what happened. This meeting would be the first. We expect that we will also hold subsequent meetings when we have more and more interventions with respect to what happened.

“But let me say that the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, stands solidly behind our Armed Forces; we will continue to support our Armed Forces, and I assure Mr President that we stick to his direction and directive given to our Armed Forces to fish out the perpetrators of that heinous and horrific crime by killing our officers and men.

“For us in the National Assembly, there is no investment that the administration can do better than the investment in the Armed Forces and other security agencies for them to secure us and our properties. I believe that is what every Nigerian wants, and that’s what every Nigerian needs.”

Tribune Online/StreetReporters.ng

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