Falana Condemns Soldiers’ Killing In Delta, Faults Military’s Reprisal

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said innocent people cannot be attacked even in a war situation

Okuama: Six Burning Questions Regarding Killing Of The Nigerian Soldiers
A photo of burning houses in Okuama community Delta State


Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Monday, condemned the heinous killing of 16 military personnel in the Okuama community of Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State last week during a rescue mission.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), however, faulted the alleged burning of the village by the military in what can be described as a reprisal.

Falana, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme, experienced sympathy with the bereaved families of the slain soldiers but said the military authorities could have prevented a reprisal because of the country’s past experience in Zaki Biam, Gbaramatu and other places.



The slain military personnel responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuama and Okoloba communities, both in Delta State, before they were killed on Thursday, March 14, 2024.



The beheaded corpses of the slain soldiers were later recovered from a neigbouring rivers, while the stomachs and hearts of others were ripped off.

President Bola Tinubu, the Senate, the host Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, as well as civil society organisations have condemned the gruesome murder of the soldiers and called for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.

However, over the weekend, some angry soldiers patrolling the creeks allegedly razed the village after their colleagues were killed, even as residents of the coastal community fled to neighboring Ughelli.


Avoidable Reprisal

Falana said the reprisal was avoidable if the military commands and the Federal Government had cautioned soldiers early enough not to embark on any act of retaliation and gave them assurances that justice would be served immediately.

“On the night of the 16th (of January), angry soldiers stormed Okuama village and set it on fire. For me, it is unavoidable,” Falana said. “You can’t blame soldiers alone because there is a general notion in the society because of loss in the judicial system, everybody embrace mob justice.”

“Even the statement of the President yesterday (Sunday). We are in a democratic system of government. The President cannot order military authorities to fish out civilians involved ina heinous crime. That is the duty of the police,” the senior lawyer stated.

Falana said those arrested should be handed over to the police and arraigned immediately as this action would have doused tension in the coastal village.

He faulted the idea collective punishment, saying that it contravened the Geneva Convention and other international laws which Nigeria is a signatory to.

“There are innocent people in Okuama who are as angry as the government in ensuring that the criminal elements are brought to justice but when you go and set their houses on fire and attack innocent people, you have offended domestic laws because it is right in our country that there is no vicarious liability in criminality.

“Nigeria domesticated the Geneva Convention in 1960 and under Article 33 of the the Geneva Convention, collective punishment is prohibited. Innocent people cannot be attacked, even in a war situation,” he said.