MEMBERS of the House of Representatives Committee on Defence were in Warri, Delta State, on Wednesday, for the scheduled investigative hearing into the killing of 17 military personnel at Okuama community, in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

The investigative hearing was in line with the resolution of the House during its sitting on March 19 to investigate the remote causes of the incident.

The PUNCH reports that 17 military personnel, including a Lieuetenant Colonel, two Majors and a Captain, were ambushed and killed by yet-to-be-identified gunmen while they were in Okuama on a peacekeeping mission.

Following the incident, military personnel, in what was considered to be a reprisal, demolished and razed houses in the Okuama riverine community, with residents taking refuge in the neighbouring bushes of Ewu Kingdom.

The House committee members, led by Babajimi Benson, arrived at the sitting venue at the Government House Annex, Edjeba, in Warri South Local Government Area of the state, at about 10.45 a.m. but waited endlessly for indigenes of the troubled Okuama community to make their presentations.

However, while the waiting lasted, sources said the villagers failed to show up for “fear of arrest or intimidation by the military.”

However, the committee chairman, while addressing journalists, said the committee had received useful memoranda on the incident from some stakeholders.

Benson also disabused the minds of Okuama indigenes who might be worried about their safety, assuring them that “there would be no witch-hunt whatsoever.”

He advised members of the public who are willing to submit a memorandum to do so in 10 copies and submit the same to the committee within one week.

He said they could submit such memoranda to the clerk of the committee, Musa Aliyu at the National Assembly, Abuja, or at the public investigative hearing.

He said, “The House of Representatives Committee on Defence looks forward to a robust engagement and meaningful contributions from all stakeholders.

“We came in yesterday (Tuesday). We met Governor Oborevwori and we told him our mission. We’re here today (Wednesday) to see members of the community on camera and by way of memoranda.

“We’ve received a lot of memoranda from them but they’ve not turned out physically. The window is extended for a week. So we’re still expecting a lot more memorandum from the people of Okuama community.

“We’ve assured the governor and the people that we have the full backing of the House of Representatives to ensure that this matter is reviewed from both sides and followed to a logical conclusion.”

Benson assured the villagers of protection, urging them to come forward.

He said, “The community people are scared to come out vis-a-vis another list of wanted people being released. They have sent in a memorandum and we’re still giving them a week to turn in a further memorandum in the next one week.

“The Clerk of the house is receiving the memory. We’ve dedicated our time to ensure justice is done and people return to their community, perhaps better than it was before. We need to be fully armed with enough information before we visit Okuama. We will visit the place after hearing from the victims themselves,” he said.