By Kingsley Omonobi and Abel Daniel
Governor Umaru Tanku Almakura yesterday condemned the killing of some Fulani herdsmen by soldiers in Keana Local Government Area of the state Thursday saying that those killed were not insurgents, describing the action as uncalled for.
Almakura spoke at the palace of His Royal Highness, the Osana of Keana, Emmanuel Elayo, during a condolence visit to the affected community in Keana.
This was coming against the backdrop of allegations by the Amnesty International that ‘’more than 1500 people were killed in the armed conflict in the north-eastern Nigeria in early 2014′’ by troops under questionable circumstances, describing it as human rights abuses.
The Defence Headquarters, however, promised yesterday that it would investigate the allegation of human rights abuses against suspected terrorists by troops, even as it said the claim was confounding as due process had always been observed in dealing with insurgents in line with international best practices.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade.
However, Governor Al-makura faulted the operation by the troops saying that their failure to liaise with the stakeholders in the community before carrying out the attack was wrong.
’’The Fulani herdsmen were gathered in a funeral ceremony of one of their elders when the soldiers invaded them and started shooting and killing them in just about a hundred meters away from the town. They were crying and wailing that they were mourning the death of their elderly man, but the soldiers would not hear but shot nine of them at the spot and later killed six men within the neighbourhood.
“But what we are hearing is that they were insurgents. They could not have been insurgents because every citizen here including the Ardo who is the leader of the Fulani settlement here is a member of Keana. The Ardo is one of the members of the community- based peace committee who has participated actively in the reconciliation between the Tiv and Fulani herdsmen in the state.
“The insurgents are in the forest from where they operated in places like Benue, Kogi and Adamawa. These ones here could not have been the terrorists. We must investigate diligently the circumstances surrounding this operation that led to the death of these innocent herdsmen,” Almakura said.
He however appealed to the Fulani to remain calm and avoid taking laws into their hands as efforts shall be made to ensure that justice was done.
Replying, the Osana of Keana, Dr. Elayo regretted the ugly incident saying that those who were killed by soldiers were not insurgents but members of his community who had been living in the area for the past 20 years.
According to Elayo, “when I heard about the killings, I called the Commissioner of Police but he told me that his men were not part of the operation. I also called the soldiers stationed in Keana but they said their superiors ordered them to remain in the station and that they would not violate the order.
“Let the government help us bring back the deserted Tiv who were chased out of Keana and had their yam produce destroyed by insurgents. Let them come back and do their farm work. If not, there would soon be hunger in Nasarawa State.”
Saturday Vanguard also observed that the deserted Tiv communities in Keana had been taken over by Fulani herdsmen at the time of visit to the area as angry youths in Keana protested to Governor Almakura asking him to send soldiers away from their community.
They also insisted that they preferred the police to soldiers. Normalcy is however, gradually returning to the area as people were seen going about their businesses.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquaters has countered the allegations by Amnesty International that more than 1,500 were killed in armed conflict in North-Eastern Nigeria in early 2014. It doubted the serious allegations of human right abuses in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.The Director of Defence Information, Major General Olukolade said, ‘’This report is a new dimension to the well-known fact that the security operation in that part of the country was necessitated by the need to address the gross abuse of human rights being perpetrated against Nigerians by the terrorists.
“It is noteworthy that despite the peculiar asymmetric nature of the security challenge, measures have been put in place to ensure compliance with tenets of human rights and rules of engagement by troops involved in the conduct of the mission.
“It is in this respect that most of those apprehended in the counter-terrorist operations are kept in custody. These detention facilities have been visited by Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and others to verify the conditions of detainees.
“This is even in the face of destruction of relevant amenities by the terrorists who have burnt down prisons, courts and government facilities in that part of the country in the course of their ceaseless attacks.
“The claim contained in the Amnesty International’s report attributing gross abuses of human rights of Nigerians to both the terrorists and the security forces is quite confounding.”