A COUPLE of weeks after he retired from the Nigerian Army as its Chief of Administration, Major-General Idris Alkali went missing on his way from Abuja to Bauchi through Jos on September 3, 2018.
This touched off a massive search operation as ordered by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Tukur Buratai. While embarking on the search, the Army Headquarters through its Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, assured members of the public that it would be conducted with utmost professionalism.
This assurance became necessary when indigenes of the villages around Dura-Du District near Jos where the retired officer was suspected to have gone missing started fleeing their homes in fear of a military operation.
According to the statement: “The attention of Headquarters 3 Division has been drawn to reports that the residents of Dura-Du District have fled and abandoned their homes and business premises to avoid being clamped down by the troops involved in the Search and Rescue Operation for the missing retired senior officer.
“Please be informed that the Nigerian Army is a professional organisation that conducts its operations with international best practices and respect for fundamental human rights”.
We are seriously worried that following the recovery of the General’s car in a derelict mining pond in Dura-Du, reports of indiscriminate “intimidation” of journalists covering the sad event and also members of the public are mounting.
The Plateau State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists on Monday, October 8, 2018, issued a statement threatening the boycott of military activities if its officers continued with the “arbitrary harassment, intimidation and arrest” of its members and members of the public as part of the search activities.
The NUJ lamented the arrest and detention of a Correspondent for 28 hours. We share the grief of the Army and members of the family of the missing General. We support all efforts to rescue him alive or recover his remains in the sad event that he has lost his life.
We also look forward to the unravelling of the circumstances behind his disappearance, especially as other vehicles have also been recovered from the mining pond. The Army’s search is a patriotic duty and personal obligation to its missing officer.
We, however, plead with the military authorities to keep their words on the need to be as professional as possible in the search. We do not see how the detention of a journalist helped the mission as there was no evidence that he was connected to the incident.
We need all hands on deck in this mission. The military needs the cooperation and support of the public, especially indigenes of the vicinity, to succeed in the search. They should provide an enabling atmosphere for that.