Okuama Killings: Military authorities can’t declare civilian suspects wanted – Lawyers


A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has dismissed as illegal  the declaration by the Defence Headquarters of eight suspects wanted over the killing of 17 military personnel in Delta State.

BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that suspected residents of the Okuama Community, on 14 March, ambushed and murdered the Commanding Officer of 181 Army Amphibious Battalion, two majors, one captain and 13 soldiers.

The troops were ambushed and killed while responding to a distress call arising from a clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities in the South-southern state.

In response, the Defence Headquarters, had  declared eight suspects wanted over the murder of the military personnel.

Reacting via a post on X handle, on Thursday, Mr Effiong said the declaration by the Nigerian military authority was illegal.

The Lagos-based lawyer said the police, not the military, ought to have made the declaration.

“These individuals (wanted suspects) are not members of the Armed Forces and therefore not subject to service law.

“It is illegal to declare anyone wanted without a court order,” he said.

He stressed that if the military authorities have suspicion that the suspects had committed a crime, they should have passed the information to the police for action.

Mr Effiong said the declaration by the military authorities amounted to “bastardising” Nigerian institutions.

“This Gestapo behaviour has to end,” he stated.

Similarly, Stanley Alieke, another Nigerian lawyer, told newsmen  that although military personnel were the ones murdered, military authorities have no power to declare civilians wanted over the incident.

“Marshall Law only applies to those in the military. The military has no jurisdiction over the issue. The best thing they should have done was to report to the police.

“It is the police that have the jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute offenders,” he said.

Mr Alieke said even the police have no right to declare anyone wanted without obtaining such power from the court.

“Both the police and the military have no right to declare anybody wanted without a court order,” the lawyer said.

Meanwhile, a monarch who was one of the eight persons declared wanted by the Defence Headquarters over the killings, the Ovie of Ewu Kingdom in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, Clement Ikolo, has surrendered himself to the Delta State Police Command in Asaba on Thursday.

The Ovie did not allow minions of the law to smoke him out before he surrendered himself.

The Nigerian Army had, since, reportedly flown to Abuja the Ovie of Ewu kingdom in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, Clement Ikolo, in connection with the killing of 17 Nigerian Army Officers and Soldiers.

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