CDD condemns killings in Delta and Bayelsa Communities; calls for measures to address deteriorating civil-military relations

20 March 2024
20 March 2024

[ABUJA, NIGERIA] The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa) joins other well-meaning groups in condemning the reported attacks in Okuama and Igbomotoru communities in Delta and Bayelsa States in Nigeria which has allegedly resulted in the deaths of 16 soldiers and 40 civilians. The killing of both soldiers and civilians is deplorable and should promptly be followed by independent investigations with the objective of bringing the alleged perpetrators of the dastardly acts to justice. While we condemn the actions of citizens purported to have carried out criminal attacks on the soldiers, we strongly condemn the unprofessional conduct of officers who are alleged to have invaded communities and visited jungle justice on innocent and defenceless residents, including forcing women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities to flee their homes. CDD calls for an independent investigation to ascertain the facts and hold all perpetrators on all sides to account.


While deeply commiserating with the families of the individuals who lost their lives, we call for restraint and the de-escalation of tension in the affected areas. What is required now are efforts to restore peace and ensure all those who took the laws into their hands are brought to justice. More importantly, the families of the victims, be they soldiers or civilians, need to be comforted and supported in this time of distress. As an institution of the Nigerian State, the military has the responsibility to maintain the highest standards of professionalism in its interactions with Nigerian citizens. The disturbing reports of reprisal attacks on communities since the unfortunate incidents occurred, will lead to a further escalation of the situation and the needless loss of more lives. Such knee-jerk reactions violate the fundamental rights of members of the affected communities in Delta, and Bayelsa States where reports spoke of angry soldiers razing houses in retaliation. While we note that the military high command has denied responsibility for these actions, we call on the Federal, State and local authorities to work with community leaders to identify those responsible for these heinous crimes, apprehend them and bring them to justice.     


The Nigerian Army, with its central role since independence of defending the country’s territorial integrity, must not allow criminals to provoke it to undermine the fundamental rights of innocent people. CDD West Africa recalls that similar punitive expeditions in Odi and Zaki Biam created more problems instead of solving them. These ugly precedents led to distrust and animosities between the nation’s security forces and citizens. Furthermore, deploying brute force in situations like these aggravates the risk of radicalising communities and provides justification for the formation of hardline groups. The example of the Boko Haram insurgency, which escalated partly as a result of the extrajudicial killing of one of the group’s leaders, offers an enduring lesson on how not to manage such conflicts.  The Nigerian government and the military high command must therefore learn the crucial lessons from these past experiences and exercise restraint.


Consequently, CDD calls for an independent and impartial investigation into the remote and immediate causes of the recent skirmishes in the Delta. An exhaustive investigation should take into consideration the perspectives of communities, including representatives of the civil society. It is important to ensure that those found guilty of these heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. CDD West Africa similarly calls for important steps to be taken to address the deteriorating relations between the citizens and the military. We similarly call on all stakeholders, traditional and community leaders to promote peacebuilding and be mindful of the need to seek peace and preserve Nigeria’s unity.



Sa’eed Husaini

Acting Director

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa)

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