LAST week, a worrisome incident was reported in the media, of how 10 soldiers from the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, on December 19, 2020, escorted Fulani herdsmen to Ketu-speaking villages in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State.
The soldiers were alleged to have flogged the residents for rejecting Fulani herdsmen’s rights to graze their cattle on the farmlands of the villagers.
According to reports, the herdsmen had been sent away from the villages for continuously perpetrating crimes bordering on kidnap, murder and rape.
They returned on December 19 with soldiers who punished the villagers for sending the herders away.
The soldiers were also said to have gone to the palace of the traditional ruler of the community, Chief Olaleye Adigun, where they had summoned the villagers and sternly warned them never to evict the herdsmen again from the village.
That herdsmen trespass on peoples’ farmlands, graze their cattle on farms and attack the farmers whenever they complain is now a familiar narrative in Nigeria, commonly reported in the media.
What is not common, although there had been pockets of such rumours especially in the North, are soldiers of the Nigerian Army escorting rapacious herdsmen and forcing villagers to accept them and the havoc they wreak on the community.
Several days after the story was published, it has not been refuted by either the Nigerian Army or the Federal Government.
We call on the Army authorities, the Presidency and the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, investigate this incident and publish their findings.
It is inconceivable that soldiers of the Nigerian Army who are paid and maintained by taxpayers’ money are deployed for such biased and illegal assignment, apart from the fact that their action constitutes a threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
If the 10 soldiers had gone to the Ketu-speaking villages in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State of their own accord to engage in this act of national disgrace, the onus is on the military authorities to promptly fish them out and prosecute them according to the rules guiding conduct in the army.
Sweeping such ugly incidents under the carpet by tagging those involved as ‘unknown soldiers’ will no longer be acceptable to Nigerians.
As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, it is the duty of President Muhammadu Buhari to get to the root of this matter, given the danger it portends to the much-preached unity of the country.
The innocent citizens of Nigeria can no longer bear humiliation by soldiers whom they employed to protect them. Enough is enough.