- Jukuns reject army chiefâ€™s defence of collusion in killings
Wole Ayodele in Jalingo and Sunday Okobi in Lagos
Five persons were thursday killed in a communal clash between the Mumuye and Fulani tribes in Yorro Local Government Area of Taraba State.
The fresh killings came as the Jukun Development Association of Nigeria (JDAN) has rejected in its entirety, the report by a panel set up by the Nigerian Army to probe allegation of collusion of Nigerian soldiers in the constant killings going on in some parts of the dtate, where Fulani herdsmen have allegedly been attacking farmers and innocent villagers.
The clash, which affected three villages namely: Malali, Dila and Yaladi-Depo, was said to have been ignited by the news of the killing of a Mumuye youth who was working on his farm by Fulani herdsmen.
When news of the killing of the Mumuye man filtered into the town, other Mumuye youths mobilised themselves and stormed the Fulani settlements in the area to carry out reprisal attacks.
Confirming the incident in a telephone interview, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. David Akinremi, said five persons have been arrested in connection with the mayhem.
Akinremi further revealed that security operatives are on the trail of other suspects who are currently on the run just as he noted that security has been beefed up in the area to forestall further attacks and reprisals.
According to him, â€œWe have arrested five people in connection with the incident and they are currently being interrogated at the command headquarters while we are on the trail of others that are on the run.
â€œWe are definitely going to arrest and prosecute all those involved in the crisis but presently, security has been beefed up in the area to prevent further breakdown of law and order.â€
However, speaking in a telephone interview, the Chairman of the local government, Joseph Sonweri, said six people were killed in the clash.
Sonweri, who said the cause of the crisis was still unclear, however confirmed that security agencies are on the trail of the boy that is alleged to have caused the clash.
â€œI canâ€™t tell you exactly what happened now because we are still trailing the boy that was said to have led the attack. He is on the run and his family have deserted their house.
â€œWe spoke to him early in the morning but his line is off now so we are trailing him. Until we get him or any of his accomplice that we can know exactly what happened,â€ he said.
Also speaking on the incident, the traditional ruler of Yorro, Chief Ado Adamu Mazan, condemned the killings and enjoined security operatives to restore peace.
The chief, who revealed that the community has already forwarded their complaints to the Commissioner of Police for necessary action, stated that the clash was caused by a misunderstanding between herdsmen and farmers in one of the villages.
In his words: â€œIt was just a little misunderstanding between herdsmen and farmers in one of the villages. We were told that some Fulani herders strayed into a farm belonging to a native, leading to the clash.â€
The chief however disclosed that the police commissioner has responded promptly by sending security to the area just as he called on the people of the area to tolerate one another.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Lagos, yesterday, JDAN National President, Chief Bako Benjamin, disclosed that the report of the panel set up by the Nigerian Army to probe allegation of collusion of Nigerian soldiers in the constant killings going on in some parts of Taraba State was far short of expectations and can at best be described as a shoddy job fit for the waste bin.
He lamented that rather than give hope of justice to the families of the innocent farmers and other villagers hacked down by the herdsmen, the army merely engaged in â€œempty rhetoricâ€ of setting up of panels to cleanse themselves of wrong doings, a practice, for which he said, they are becoming notorious.
According to him, the Nigerian army yet again missed another opportunity to cleanse itself of allegations of gross abuse levelled against them not only by General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) but by a number of other human rights organisations including Amnesty International (AI).
Benjamin said: â€œThe Nigerian army panel did a very poor and unprofessional job and wasted the opportunity to scribble their names in gold. The report is unacceptable to Jukun people and therefore it is hereby rejected in its entirety.â€
This was in response to the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Burataiâ€™s remarks on the 10-member committee set up to probe former Defence Minister, Danjumaâ€™s allegation of militaryâ€™s involvement in the pogrom going on in Taraba State.
Buratai had said there was no truth in the allegations, urging the people to have confidence in the soldiers posted to the area to defend them against the rampaging Fulani herdsmen.
He wondered why the principal characters (Fulani herdsmen) accused of precipitating the crisis that gave birth to Danjumaâ€™s allegations were never mentioned in the report.
The panel, he further stated, almost completely avoided the main subject of the matter which is the attacks and killing of farmers and innocent villagers, but was addressing porous borders and past misunderstandings between brothers in a deliberate attempt to stir up tempers and portray Jukuns as historically troublesome.
â€œIt is also curious that the panel deliberately refused to use a single material out of the hundreds of documented paper works, audio and video recordings of eye witnesses, community leaders and youth groups with shocking and gruesome evidences of ethnic cleansing and genocide in more than 20 villages across southern Taraba,â€ he said.
Benjamin said Amnesty Internationalâ€™s claims and conclusions against the Nigerian army are not far-fetched.
â€œThe Nigerian army must come to terms with the enormous responsibility that rest on their shoulders to keep this country united, it must also realise that it owes Nigerian citizens a duty to be unbiased and thoroughly professional under a democratic government. It must completely shun the temptation to play to the gallery,â€ he said.
According to JDAN president, Burataiâ€™s defence has confirm that it is increasingly likely that the Nigerian Army does not know where to draw the line between defending the nation and enforcing and controlling indiscipline within its ranks.