…We’re for peaceful coexistence — Military
By Peter Duru
MAKURDI—Barely 48 hours after the deployment of military to Benue State to check bloody herdsmen incursions, ethnic leaders of the state have expressed displeasure and apprehension over their activities, alleging that the exercise was aimed at providing cover for armed herdsmen to take over Benue land.
But in a swift reaction, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 707 Special Forces Brigade Makurdi, Major Olabisi Ayeni, maintained that the army would, in the course of the exercise, bring the killings to an end and ensure peaceful coexistence in all Benue communities.
In a statement issued by Chairman of the joint ethnic leaders and President General of Mdzough U Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege, on behalf of the Idoma National Forum and the Omi Ny’Igede, they accused the military of allowing open grazing in the state.
The statement read in part: “We wish to express our profound displeasure at the emerging trends of the military operation tagged, Ayem A’ Kpatema.
“The general public may recall our initial apprehension about the real mission of troops deplayed to Benue State and true to our predictions, the flag off of the exercise has confirmed our fears.
“A pamphlet circulated by Nigerian Army has defined the real intention of the military in Benue State. The pamphlet confirmed that the military had come to provide cover for armed herdsmen to take over our land.
‘’The publication of the pamphlet in Tiv language gives the impression that the Tiv are the target of the exercise, whereas the herdsmen attacks cut across the entire Benue State, which is multi ethnic. This profiling of the Tiv people is also unacceptable.”
We are for peaceful coexistence — Military
However, the counter statement by the military read in part: “The Nigeria Army is a Federal Government agency saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians as well as protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
“All that the army needs to do here is to ensure that no Benue resident is killed or displaced from their homes, that is all we are doing.
“We want to ensure peaceful coexistence among the herders and farmers. We are not saying herdsmen should not obey the anti open grazing law enacted by the Benue State government.