File photo: Nigerian soldiers
According to Vanguard, some Taraba residents, yesterday, alleged that operatives of Ayem A’Kpatuma (Cat Race) military operation were aiding killer herdsmen in the state and harassing people.
This is coming on heels of mixed reactions trailing the advice of former Defence Minister, Lt. General T.Y. Danjuma (retd), to Nigerians to defend themselves against herdsmen to avoid what he described as ethnic cleansing.
However, the military quickly dismissed the allegations as false, insisting that it was carrying out its constitutional role diligently in the state. Commanding Officer, 93 Army Battalion Takum, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Gambari, said he had no authority to speak on the issue, but summarily dismissed the allegations as false.
Chairman Takum Local Council of Taraba State, Shiban Tikari, said General Danjuma’s call has vindicated the people of Takum, who had earlier cried out that the Exercise Ayem A’Kpatena was out to give cover to the killer herdsmen.
Some residents of Takum and Ussa local councils and Yanghtu Special Development Areas in Taraba, had, weekend, accused the Army operatives of Exercise Ayem A ‘Kpatuma (Cat Race) of brutality, bias, and complicity in their handling of the security situation in their areas.
Shiban Tikari, who led the condemnation of the Army operation in the area, told journalists that he had received series of complaints from his people that soldiers were molesting and brutalizing them.
Reacting to the Military Headquarters’ statement, disclaiming Danjuma’s call, Tikari noted that the soldiers started the operation in Takum local government on February 15 without notifying the council and traditional rulers in the area, leading to a lot of confusion.
He explained that he had to report the matter to Governor Darius Ishaku before the Army served him notification letter on March 1 when he officially briefed his people about the operation.
“Before the operation, there were cases of kidnapping and armed robbery by people using police and army uniforms. So, even when the army operation started people mistook them for kidnappers and it caused a lot of anxiety and apprehension.
“I have reports that soldiers have been breaking into people’s houses at night, harassing and demanding for people, but it was in front of the army barracks that a member of the state House of Assembly, Hossa Ibi was kidnapped and killed.
On his part, Rimamsikwe Karma, Chairman of Ussa Local Council, said the operation was causing more harm than good to the people of the area.
“The herdsmen that followed the Army to our council are not friendly with our people, they are strange faces to us and they are killing people,” he said.
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Darius Ishaku on Public Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Bello, picked holes in accusations by the military that Taraba State government did not co-operate with the military in the state.
He said: “Of recent, they head a town hall meeting with stakeholders in Wukari Local Government Area, they used Otoshi Recreation Centre, which is a facility of the government, they received the support of the local government chairman who gave all the support because of the instruction from the governor.”
Faulting General Danjuma’s advice, Col Paul Ogbebor (retd), who served under General Danjuma in Port Harcourt between 1973 and 1974, said by asking people to defend themselves, the former Defence Minister took his disappoint too far.
He added that Danjuma could have brought his grievances against the military to the association of retired military men, instead of making comments that could destroy the country, which he also helped to build.
He said: ‘’General Danjuma is a highly respected retired military officer. To have accused the military and said everybody should defend themselves spells anarchy.
“We, President Muhammadu Buhari and I served under him in Port Harcourt between 1973 and 1974. I have great respect for him. But he is taking his disappointment too far. We association of retired army, naval and air force men. If he had anything, he should have brought it up at the association instead of making comments that could destroy what we built. He is a builder.”
Also, the Sharkskin Fulani of Lagos State and Chairman, Association of Fulani Chiefs, South-West Nigeria, Pahaji Mohammed Babushka Bambado, criticised Danjuma for allegedly inciting Nigerians to take up arms against themselves.
The monarch, who described the comment as disappointing, especially coming from such persone as TY Danjuma, wondered why he chose such an avenue to talk on such a volatile issue when he knew how to get across to his friend in the villa without heating up the polity.
Bambado said: “He has access to his friend, President Muhammadu Buhari, and can easily take all his ‘evidences’ (if any) to him, but telling people to arm themselves is an invitation to anarchy, which, when it happens, will consume us all.”
Stay updated with the latest Nigerian news from Information Nigeria