Delta Bloodbath: Monarch Detained, Residents Flee Amid Military Crackdown

The Delta bloodbath: 17 soldiers killed, traditional ruler detained, and a crackdown on illegal oil bunkering in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta region.

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Geeta Pillai
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Delta Bloodbath: Monarch Detained, Residents Flee Amid Military Crackdown

Delta Bloodbath: Monarch Detained, Residents Flee Amid Military Crackdown

The traditional ruler of Ewu Kingdom in Delta State, Clement Ikolo, has been detained by the Nigerian military for over a month in connection with the killing of 17 soldiers in the Okuama community. Despite Ikolo's voluntary surrender and commendation from the Chief of Defence Staff, he remains inaccessible to his family and associates.

The incident has sparked a military crackdown in the region, with soldiers deployed to search for the masterminds of the attack. Many residents have fled their homes in fear of reprisal, seeking refuge in the forests and neighboring areas. The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, visited the affected communities, urging the people to return home and shun violence.

The killing of the soldiers, including a Commanding Officer, two Majors, one Captain, and 12 soldiers, occurred on March 14, 2024, while they were on a peace mission to the Okuama community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State. The Chief of Defence Staff ordered an immediate investigation and manhunt for the killers, leading to some arrests.

Why this matters: The Delta bloodbath highlights the ongoing security challenges in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region, where illegal oil bunkering and community conflicts have led to violence and instability. The incident has far-reaching implications for the safety of both security personnel and civilians in the area.

A feud between an illegal oil bunker, Endurance Okodeh (alias Amangbein), and a sophisticated cartel of powerful illegal oil bunkers, led by ex-militant leader Government Ekpemukpolo (alias Tompolo), is believed to be at the root of the conflict. The illegal oil cartel in the Niger Delta comprises influential Nigerians and foreigners, including top military operators, government officials, and retired oil industry players.

The incident has also been linked to an age-old land dispute between the Okoloba and Okuama communities, with the military intervention seen as favoring Akpobolokemi's community, Okoloba. A coalition of civil society groups has vowed to launch a global campaign to address sabotage in the country's oil and gas industry, calling on President Bola Tinubu and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to stop awarding pipeline contracts to individuals and groups linked with armed rebellion and militancy.

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has confirmed the arrest of eight individuals linked to the brutal murder of six policemen, state on February 23 and 26, 2024. The deceased officers were honored posthumously, and their families received the payment of their entitlements at an award ceremony in Abuja.

Tension has mounted in the coastal communities of Rivers State as the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has extended the search for the suspected killers of the 17 soldiers to the oil-rich state. Federal troops surrounded the home of a former militant commander in Usokun, Degema LGA, Rivers State, resulting in a gun battle and the death of two of the ex-militant's men. The ex-militant was subsequently arrested and taken into custody.

In the midst of the military crackdown, residents of the affected communities in Delta State remain displaced, with many facing starvation and in dire need of medical assistance while hiding in the forests. The Ewu-Urhobo Traditional Council of Chiefs has expressed concerns about Ikolo's well-being and urged for his prompt release. The ongoing military operations aim to apprehend the suspected killers and restore peace to the region, but the impact on the local population has been severe.

Key Takeaways

  • Ewu Kingdom's traditional ruler detained over killing of 17 soldiers
  • Military crackdown in Delta region, many residents flee homes in fear
  • Feud between illegal oil bunkers believed to be behind the conflict
  • 8 suspects arrested over killing of 6 policemen in Delta state
  • Military operations continue, but impact on locals is severe