Taraba Killings: Army Sets up Panel to Probe Allegation by Danjuma on Soldiers’ Collusion

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IG deploys surveillance aircraft in state as killings escalate
Paul Obi in Abuja and Wole Ayodele in Jalingo

The Nigerian Army on Monday constituted a panel to investigate the allegations of abuse and collusion by its troops in Taraba and other states with suspected Fulani herdsmen and other criminal groups to perpetuate heinous crimes, including killings.

The panel is in reaction to the accusation by the former Minister of Defence and Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Theophilus Y. Damjuma (rtd), who had accused the military, particularly the Nigerian Army, of colluding with herdsmen to commit atrocities in Taraba State.

Danjuma in his speech at the Taraba State University convocation ceremony recently, had charged indigenes of the state to defend themselves against killers, given the spate of herdsmen killings in the North-central region and other parts of the country and the inability of the armed forces to protect them.

The army had since 2015 conducted Operation MESA and Operation Ayem Akpetuma, among other military exercises in various states to stop the killings, which have continued unabated.
Inaugurating the committee, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, observed that Danjuma’s allegations among other accusations against the army, were grievous and could have deep consequences on the armed forces.

According to Buratai, “The Nigerian army has over the years conducted operations in line with its constitutional responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and providing aid to civil authority whenever it is called upon for such a task.

“However, the actions of the army in recent military operations, particularly in Taraba State, have been criticised by individuals and interest groups from different sectors of the society.
“Some of these concerns have come from the state government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and very senior citizens from the state.”
Buratai further stated that most recently, Danjuma had alleged that the armed forces of Nigeria were colluding with bandits and other criminal elements.

“Statements of this nature could damage the reputation of the AFN and thus cannot be ignored if the Nigerian army (NA) is to continue to earn the trust and respect of the Nigerian populace.
“Thus it became imperative for the NA to set up this panel to confirm the veracity or otherwise of these allegations. As members you were carefully selected based on your proven record of integrity and meticulousness.

“I have no doubt that you will do a great job. The terms of reference given to you is robust and has been articulated to enable you focus on the crux of the matter and expedite your actions towards unravelling the true situation of things.

“I have directed AHQ DAPP and the various formations to provide you with all the necessary logistics required for the completion of your assigned tasks.
“You are enjoined to visit all flash points and interact with various stakeholders and interest groups in Taraba State in order to come up with a comprehensive report,” he said.

Continuing, he added: “Let me hasten to add that the task at hand is a burning national issue, hence you are to treat this assignment with the seriousness it deserves.

“To this end, by the powers conferred on me as the Chief of Army Staff, I hereby officially inaugurate the constituted panel to investigate the allegations made against the NA in the course of operations in Taraba State.”

Speaking on behalf of the committee members, the Chairman, Major General Joseph Nimmyel (rtd), assured Buratai of the readiness of the committee to deliver on their mandate and terms of reference.
Nimmyel also commended the army for showing its commitment to be accountable to the people, by setting good example, specifically, by constituting a panel to investigate alleged abuses by the army in Taraba State.

The committee’s terms of reference include to ascertain and record the timeline of clashes and security breaches in Taraba State from 2015; to find out and document all military responses to the identified clashes in the state within the stipulated time.

The mandate also included ascertaining the role and actions of the commanders during the said clashes and security breaches in Taraba State, to ascertain and verify claims by Danjuma and to also verify all other claims by other groups and persons.
Other members of the committee are Brig Gen Saka Abubakar (rtd) Brig Gen. S. Muhammed, Brig Gen. R.K. Alexander, Brig Gen S.N. Eze, Brig Gen. K. Olajide, Abdul Atadoga Ibrahim (SAN), Mrs. Comfort Dawut and Col. MJ Gambo.

The committee is expected to submit its report on the April 19, 2018, in Abuja.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, has deployed a surveillance aircraft to Taraba State as killings escalate in the state.

Six people were again killed yesterday by herdsmen at Tati village in Takum Local Government Area of the state, bringing the number of people killed in various communities from last Wednesday to 19.
Besides the aircraft, three units of riot policemen have also been deployed to the state, bringing the total number of police units in the state to eight.

The IG announced the deployments yesterday when he paid a courtesy call on the State Governor, Darius Ishaku, in Jalingo as part of his three-day working visit to the state.
Idris noted that his visit to the state was in fulfilment of his promise to Ishaku when the governor paid him a visit in his office in Abuja last week to find a lasting solution to the incessant killings in the state.

“I want to announce to you that the surveillance aircraft you requested for is already in the state and we have also deploy additional three mobile police units to be deployed to flashpoints in the state to ensure the total restoration of peace,” he stated.

The IG equally disclosed that he would inaugurate a mobile squadron base in Takum today as part of efforts to boost manpower and police the state more effectively.
“I can assure you that we will do everything to ensure that the inhabitants of the state are safe and I would be inaugurating a mobile squadron base in Takum tomorrow (today) as part of our efforts in fighting criminality in the state”

The IG later met with traditional rulers and religious leaders in the state including members of the police community relations committee and other stakeholders in the state.
Welcoming the IG to the state, Governor Ishaku commended the police command in the state particularly the Commissioner of Police for working tirelessly and diligently to maintain peace in the state just as he commended the IG for his prompt response to his request for a surveillance aircraft and additional manpower.

He decried the continuous killings in several parts of the state which he said have become very worrisome and a huge concern to all lovers of peace.
“These killings have to stop. We cannot continue to live like this. Today at Tati in Takum, six people were again killed by these bandits. You have to do something urgently to wipe away our tears.

“I want to commend the state Commissioner of Police, Mr David Akinremi, for his tireless efforts at achieving peace in the state. IG, I can tell you that the command in the state is doing very well to maintain peace in the state.”