*Ex-Defence Minister refused to appear, says panel
*Says politicians behind crisis
By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA-THE probe panel set up by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.General Tukur Buratai, to investigate allegations made against the Nigerian Army in the course of operations in Taraba State, has dismissed the allegations.
This was even as the panel said some troops went outside their mandate to carry out illegal activities in the state.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.General Tukur Buratai, who disclosed the content of the panel’s report submitted two weeks ago to him, at a press conference, Friday, in Abuja, said the former Minister of Defence, Lt General TY Danjuma,failed to appear before the panel in the course of its investigation even when he was invited for appearance.
The Army boss, who was represented by the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, Army Headquarters, Major General Nuhu Angbazo:”With respect to the statement by Lt Gen TY Danjuma (retired), it is clear that the allegations were not true, hence there is a need to urge for caution on the part of the elder stateman, in view of the security implications of such comments.”
He added:”He added:It is apparent that the clashes in Taraba State are a result of clan and communal crisis that predates this present Government.
“Most of the crises in Taraba State are politically motivated and some persons are deliberately escalating the situation in Taraba State for selfish gains.”
The Nigerian Army, according to him, was of the view that ” the situation in Taraba State has steadily deteriorated largely due to distrust, intolerance, lack of inclusion and accommodation of different ethnic groups in the state.”
“This situation has made it very difficult for the Nigerian Army to carry out its responsibilities in the state without being tainted.
“Consequently, all sides in Taraba State need to be cautioned against making inflammatory statements that are detrimental to peace and security, “he further said.
Buratai said:” The Nigerian Army in keeping with its roles as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution will continue to engage stake holders in Taraba State to find a lasting solution to crises in the State.”
Buratai’s text as read by General Angbazo read further:”There is also a need for the Nigerian Police Force and other prosecuting agencies to prosecute all the suspects arrested in Taraba State for involvement in various crises.
“It is the opinion of the Army Headquarters that the Investigation Panel did a thorough job.
“The Army Headquarters therefore up holds the recommendations of the Panel.
“The general public is enjoined to note that, the Nigerian Army is a formidable institution and the pride of the nation.
” The Army will not rest on its oars when responding to the security challenges in the Country. In synergy with other security agencies, the Nigerian Army will continue to work towards ensuring that the security and territorial integrity of our Nation is guaranteed.”
Recall that following the allegations made against the Army in the Taraba crisis, Buratai had set up a 10-man panel comprising senior Army officers (both serving and retired) and members from the National Human Rights Commission, Nigerian Bar Association and other Civil Society Organizations, to investigate the veracity of the allegations made against the Nigerian Army.
The Panel was inaugurated on 9 April 18 and it visited government officials, security agencies and other stakeholders covering the three senatorial zones of Taraba State, including the governor of Taraba State.
“The major findings of the Investigation Panel were as follows:”There was no collusion on the part of the Nigerian Army and units operating in Taraba State with any bandit(s) as stated by Lieutenant General TY Danjuma (Retired);there were few instances where locals drag soldiers outside strict military duties to intervene in civil disputes;there was good collaborations, synergy and cooperation between the Nigeria Army and other security agencies operating in Taraba State;there is sustained media campaign to belittle the military operations in Taraba State, “text read.
It further read:” Most of the crises over the years in Taraba State were particularly in Takum, Wukari, Ussa, Donga and Sardauna Local Government Areas.
“There was absence of Nigerian Army deployments in some crises prone areas in the hinterland in Taraba State.
” Nigeria-Cameroon common borders in Taraba State were porous.
“There was a massive proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Taraba State, some of which have been recovered from warring parties, criminal and unauthorised persons.
“Troops deployed in Taraba State for Operation MESA were not paid RCA by the state government since February 2018.
“There was inadequate communication equipment in the units which impedes Nigerian Army operations.
“Some of the localities in the hinterland in Taraba State were not accessed by road.”
He said the” Commanding Officer 93 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel IB Gambari commands his unit effectively and professionally and was only being vilified by some people/government of Taraba State for his refusal to act outside his professional duties or do the biddings of some government officials.”
“Lieutenant General TY Danjuma (Retired) could not be accessed by the Panel.
“The Executive Governor of Taraba State made several attempts to ensure the removal of the Commanding Officer of 93 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel IB Gambari from command for his refusal to be dragged into the state politics.
“Taraba State is highly heterogeneous and divided along ethno-religious lines.
“The Chairman of Takum LGA, Hon Shiban Tikari made several attempts to undermine the authority of the Commanding Officer 93 Bn through some officers of the unit.
“The troops have a good understanding of the Code of Conduct/Rule of Engagement.
“There were security breaches/clashes in Taraba State till date which has necessitated the deployment of troops in the state.
“The responses of Nigerian Army troops deployed to forestall these crises were commendable despite daunting challenges.
‘The 20 Battalion operating at Sardauna Local Government Area lacks combat motorcycles.
“Some of the challenges facing the unit’s operating in Taraba State include terrain, inadequate intelligence, inadequate communication and manpower problem, “he said.
He also said:” There was verifiable evidence that 2 Nigerian Air Force helicopters with registration numbers NAF 574 and NAF 575 landed in Gembu on 15 March 2018 and 11 April 2018 respectively without the knowledge of the local authority.”
“The Nigerian Air Force helicopters and personnel that landed in Gembu area were for the proposed establishment of Nigerian Air Force Base at Gembu.
“Dairies and other relevant documents pertaining to some major security breaches/clashes were maintained by units operating in the State, however the units did not document the after-action review, “he said.
The Panel, he said, recommended to Army Headquarters that :” Device a means to be independent in its operation across Nigeria so as to insulate soldiers from the overbearing influence of politicians in government especially with particular reference to sponsorship of Nigerian Army operations in states.
“Address the challenges of manpower, communication and provision of adequate and timely intelligence to support Nigerian Army operations in Taraba State.
“Emphasize the need for multi-stakeholder engagement at all levels to douse tension in Taraba State.
“Beef up the manpower of units in Taraba State.
“Project its civil military cooperation relationship by creating awareness prior to the provision of people oriented programme and sustain it through vigorous pursuit and provisions to Tarabans.
“Inform the Defence Headquarters on the need for the Services to follow due process in establishment of any new military location/base in any state.
“Commend the Commanding Officer of 93 Battalion Lieutenant Colonel IB Gambari for his professionalism.
“Impress on its Commanders the need for after-action review in order to improve on future Nigerian Army operations.
i. Educate the political class on the implication of polarizing the military to achieve their selfish gains.
“Impress on Taraba State government to prosecute criminal elements arrested and handed over during the course of Nigerian Army operations.”