By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – Dura, a serene community in Du district of Jos South local government area of Plateau State has been in the news for the wrong reason in the last two months.
Since September 3rd, 2018 when a retired Army General, Idris Alkali was reported missing and the army said investigations revealed that he went missing in the vicinity of Dura, the community and the neighbouring ones of Doi, Dwei, Latya, Lo-Pamdyet among others in the district have known no peace.
A recent visit to the communities was depressing; the communities which once bubbled with social activities and businesses were a shadow of themselves as the communities were deserted. The eerie silence was scary; apart from the presence of army personnel who were keeping watch, business premises, worship centres, recreation centres and residential buildings were all empty with no sign of life.
The peace of the communities got shattered on the 2nd of September when armed men at about 8pm attacked a shopping complex at Lo-Pamdyet and killed 11 people while others sustained various degrees of injuries in the incident.
The attack triggered a protest on the 3rd, the day General Alkali was passing through the community to his destination in Bauchi State while his car was allegedly stopped as angry youths blocked the road. According to the army, that was the last time he was seen.
Few days after the retired General was declared missing, the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, General Tukur Buratai tasked the Headquarters of 3 Division of the Nigerian Army in Rukuba, Bassa local government area of the State to conduct a search and rescue operation and find the retired General dead or alive, find his vehicle and if anything happened to him, find those who were responsible so that they could be prosecuted.
The Division’s Garrison Commander, Brigadier-General Umar Mohammed who headed the operation went into action, demonstrating that the Army had the capacity to work and get results if they so determine.
Although issues of human rights abuses, unprofessional conduct, indiscriminate arrests and detention, harassment and intimidation were raised in the course of the search, the army despite obvious destruction and loss of lives denied any wrongdoing and in collaboration with the Nigeria Police and the State Fire Service commenced the draining of water from one of the mining ponds at Dura where the army said intelligence revealed that the late General’s car was dumped.
After two weeks of draining water from the pond, General Alkali’s car, a Toyota Corolla with registration number, KWARA MUN 670 AA and two other vehicles were removed from the pond on September 29 while the search for his body continued.
About a month later, the army disclosed that the arrested suspects had given credible information about an open shallow grave where the General’s body was initially buried at Dura but later exhumed when his car was discovered.
The General Officer Commanding, GOC, 3 Division, Major General Benson Akinroluyo said, “The senior officer was assaulted and killed, his belongings such as clothing, cash, phones and laptop were shared by those who killed him. His body was dragged before being moved to somewhere else and his car was driven and pushed into the abandoned mining pit filled with water. He was later buried in a shallow grave in an area popularly known as ‘No man’s land’ within the community.”
From the Wild Bunch (recreation centre) junction at Doi village of the district, the army led journalists in a 10 minutes brisk walk to the alleged shallow grave at ‘No Man’s Land’ they claimed the remains of the late retired Army General, Alkali was initially buried but later dug out to another destination.
The Garrison Commander who led a team of journalists to the said shallow grave stated that “four different people unknown to one another at different times took us to the open shallow grave where the senior officer was earlier buried but subsequently removed. Sniffer dogs that were cultured with the personal effects of the senior officer led us to the same shallow grave and hovered around the area.”
The GOC and the Garrison Commander maintained that the eight people; Chuwang Samuel, Nyam Samuel, Pam Dung, Mathew Wrang, Moses Gyang, Timothy Chuan, Yakubu Rap and Chuwang Pwajok who were recently declared wanted by the State Police Command in connection with the incident knew about the whereabouts of the remains of the late retired General.
They maintained that they would not rest until the body of the deceased was recovered as the expert who allegedly assisted some community members in exhuming the corpse was in custody. On Wednesday afternoon, the army disclosed that it has discovered the body of the retired General in an abandoned well at Guchwet village in Shen District of Jos South Local Government Area.
The Garrison Commander said it was one of the suspects who reported himself last week to the Police that led the army to the abandoned well where the body of the retired General was found.
The water from the well was drained on Wednesday morning and the remains of the retired senior military officer was pulled out and covered in a green and white body bag when journalists visited the scene.
The Garrison Commander said the operation was conducted by the Nigerian Army in collaboration with the Nigerian Police and the Fire service. Although no medical test was carried out to confirm if the body parts found were actually those of General Alkali, the Army insisted that their findings confirmed the body parts packed in a body bag were those of the retired officer.
The retired general was then given a military parade by Brigadier Generals who carried his remains into an ambulance as the Garrison Commander added that military parade would take place at the site of the well after all the body parts have been removed.
Since the body parts were discovered, diverse views have been expressed by citizens about the efforts of the army in search and rescue operation with many calling for similar zeal to be deployed in finding the alleged herders and unknown gunmen who attacked communities, killing thousands who were mostly women and children.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, Enoch Tongshak expressed his views thus: “I commend the army for the feat in finding the missing General assuming what they are telling us is the truth. It shows they have the capacity and I believe the COAS who gave the task also gave the resources for this feat to be achieved.
“But my worry is this; is it because one of them was involved, that was why they put so much effort into it? Apart from the commendation, this should also serve as an indictment on them that they know the right thing to do to stop the killings in Plateau and other States but it seems they intentionally refuse to do the needful in bringing to book the so-called herdsmen who kill people in their sleep.”
Also, Sena’an Garba faulted the army for what she termed, “preferential treatment” in finding the missing General. According to her, “the whole issue concerning the missing General is a sad one, no matter what, no one will be happy that his or her family member died that way but the army has not shown such level of commitment in ending the killings in the State.
“The vigour and dedication displayed were lacking in their approach to the incessant killings going on in the state. Many have died but because they were just common people, nobody cared. However, I will ask that the army should also help us find the nocturnal killers in the state starting from those who killed innocent passers-by in Lo-Pamdyet before the issue of the missing General came on board.”
On his part, Clement Izang cautioned that citizens should not because of the feat seek the use of the army in internal security but advocated that the Nigeria Police Force which looked helpless except for the supportive role they played during the operation, be fully trained and equipped to enhance their capacity in handling internal security.
According to him, “The army probably did this to save face and stand for one of its own but I believe that there are intelligent people in the Police Force who are incapacitated because of low morale and lack of working tools. The Police should be fully equipped because it seems the army did the work of the Police and there was back-up financially and all. This back-up should be extended to the Police Force so that they can work and rid the society of unwanted elements.”