March 29, 2018

Herdsmen attacks: More people may be slaughtered unless .. – Taraba govt


Darius Ishaku

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Taraba State  government, yesterday, raised the alarm that more people may be killed in the state by herdsmen in the coming days unless the Federal Government and the military changed their tactics.

Darius Ishaku

The government also lamented that the Federal Government and the military failed to act on series of information it promptly made available to them to avert previous attacks.

Senior Special Assistant to the Taraba Government on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Abu, said in a statement, yesterday, that there were documented evidence to prove that the Federal Government and its security agencies simply refused to act and save the lives of those lost to the attackers.

The statement also drew attention to the ongoing military operation in the state, codenamed “Ayem A’Kpatuma,” which is taking away knives and sticks from farmers but leaving herdsmen with AK-47 to attack their targets with ease.

It said further that the state governor had reasons to directly accuse the military in Taraba State of outright collusion with herdsmen against the people, which had made it possible for the militia to unleash maximum damage on their targets and escape arrest.

It’s untrue  — Military

But the Defence Ministry denied all the allegations, saying it was yet to receive any petition from Taraba State against the military operations in the state.

Spokesman of the ministry, Col. Tukur Gusau, said: “Nigerians have been coming to report incidents against the military but we have been taking action against them but we have not received anything yet from Taraba.”

Also reacting to the development, Director of Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen. Texas Chukwu, denied receiving any letter of complaint against soldiers’ misconduct from Taraba State.

The statement

The Taraba State government statement read in part:  “Governor Darius Ishaku had reason to write the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on January 26, 2016 to complain about threat to peace and security in Taraba State.”

In that letter signed by Governor Ishaku, he lamented the “devastating effects of internal conflicts involving the Fulani and Tiv, which led to the sacking of 200 settlements in Gassol, Bali, Ibi, Donga and Gashaka Local Government Areas by herdsmen believed to have moved into the state from neighbouring countries.

“In the letter also, the governor informed the Presidency about the concerns raised by some traditional rulers in the state concerning the influx of Fulani militia people and about the subsequent attacks on their communities. Letters of complaints from the traditional rulers whose communities suffered from these attacks were also attached and forwarded to the Presidency.

“In the same letter, the governor urged the Presidency not to view these attacks and killings as inter-ethnic clashes anymore because the attackers take over ‘conquered’ communities and farmlands in large numbers. The government called on the Federal Government to take a more serious view of the crises and act decisively on it but nothing happened.

“On July 5, 2017, Governor Ishaku, in a letter to the Acting President, drew his attention to the precarious security situation as contained in a letter written by contractors handling the Kashimbilla Dam project and called for high level intervention. He called on the Army, Navy and Air Force to establish permanent security bases in the area. This was again ignored.

“The Taraba State Government had complained against the conduct of the Commanding Officer of 93 Battallion, Ada Barracks in Takum on several occasions but no action was taken against him by the military high command. For example, the Fulani militia attacked communities in Takum and Ussa on  May 6, 2018.

“The crisis led to the abandonment of 224 cows belonging to the herdsmen. The Taraba State government took possession of these cows and handed them over to the Commanding Officer for safe keeping until the owners return to collect. This was meant to be a ploy to get the perpetrators of the crisis arrested. Sadly, the Commanding Officer released the cows without arresting anybody.”

“There was another case when the commanding officer marched soldiers to attack and brutalise communities in Kashimbilla. Properties of the people were damaged while many were injured.The letter said the Commanding Officer had been partial and discriminatory in the discharge of his duties and requested that he should be transferred. The advice was ignored. This letter dated August 11, 2017 and signed by the Governor himself showed that the Governor has always raised the alarm on the security situations in the state but was always ignored.

“On  January 30, this year, the Governor of Taraba State wrote another letter to the Vice President to again complain about the attitude of the Commanding Officer of 93 Battallion, Takum, Lt Col Ibrahim Babatunde Gambari whose soldiers always looked the other way when the herdsmen militia men come to kill.

“In the letter, the governor said the security situation in the country and in Taraba State demanded that every security officer cooperate and take directives from the chief security officer of the state which is the governor but lamented that this has not been the case with the commanding officer.”

The letter listed instances of security challenges in which the military failed to live up expectations.

“The kidnapping of Hon Hosea Ibi, member Taraba State House of Assembly on  30th December  at a residence right opposite the army barracks in Talkum. He was subsequently killed after 15 days in the custody of his abductors.

“The attack on the vehicle of the Chairman of Takum LG January 28, 2018 along Takum-Wukari Road which resulted in the death of a student of the College of Health Technology

“On the day, 28/1/18, a man named Chidiebere Okonwa was again kidnapped opposite the Army Barracks, Takum after several gunshots were fired. The wife of the victim escaped and reported to the military in the Quarter Guard but the soldiers refused to act

“The letter also alerted the military authorities of a planned massive movement of Fulani and their cows into Takum LG. The motive was to provoke the people and precipitate crisis. The military in-charge of security area did nothing.

“The widely publicised report on social media and which was investigated and confirmed to the effect that a chopper dropped arms in a village near Wukari was simply downplayed by the security agencies. Three persons were later arrested and one of them had 50 pieces of AK-47 guns in his possession. The man confessed that all their arms and ammunition had arrived Taraba State that they will launch an attack  in 10 days.

“Despite all these efforts by the Taraba State Government to get the military to act, they never did. Since then, the arms and ammunition brought into the state have been deployed against the people in various communities in the state by the herdsmen.

“The present operation “Ayem Akpatuma” in the state has also been discriminatory. While every instrument including cutlasses and kitchen knives have been taken away from the people, the herdsmen have been left with AK-47 guns.

“Through these various acts of deliberate mischief on the part of the military authorities, thousands of people have been killed and a lot more may be killed unless the military turns a new leaf,” the document concluded.