Against the backdrop of recent scathing allegation of collusion between the Nigerian Army and killer herdsmen in the North Central States of the country to kill the Nigerians they should be protecting, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai has set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the allegations.
The panel which has ten (10) days within which to carry out its assignment has retired Major General Joseph Nimyel as President. Other members of the panel are retired Brigadier General Saka Abubakar, Brigadier General Sani Mohammed, Brigadier General Stanley Eze, brigadier General Kayode Olajide, Brigadier General Alexander Ridley, and Colonel Gambo Mohammed.
Also in the panel are Barrister Abdulrahman Ayinde Yakubu representing National Human Rights Commission, Barrister Abdul Atadoju Ibrahim, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Mrs. Comfort Darut representing Civil Society Organizations.
Speaking at the inauguration, the COAS said, “The Nigerian Army has over the years conducted operations in line with its constitutional responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and providing aid to civil authority whenever it is called upon for such a task.
“However, the actions of the Nigerian Army in recent military operations particularly in Taraba State have been criticized by individuals and interest groups from different sectors of the society.
“Some of these concerns have come from the State Government, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and very senior citizens from the state.
“Most recently, on the 24th March 2018, a former COAS Lt Gen TY Danjuma (rtd) speaking during the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University; alleged that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) collude with armed bandits and other criminal elements.
“Statements of this nature could damage the reputation of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and thus cannot be ignored if the Nigerian Army is to continue to earn the trust and respect of the Nigerian populace.
“Thus it became imperative for the NA to set up this Panel to confirm the veracity or otherwise of these allegations.
Buratai said, “As (Panel) members you were carefully selected based on your proven record of integrity and meticulousness. I have no doubt that you will do a great job”.
“The Terms of Reference given to you is robust and has been articulated to enable you focus on the crux of the matter and expedite your actions towards unraveling the true situation of things.
“I have directed AHQ Department of Army Policy and Plans and the various formations to provide you with all the necessary logistics required for the completion of your assigned tasks.
“You are enjoined to visit all flash points and interact with various stakeholders and interest groups in Taraba State in order to come up with a comprehensive report.
“Let me hasten to add that the task at hand is a burning national issue, hence you are to treat this assignment with the seriousness it deserves.
“To this end, by the powers conferred on me as the Chief of Army Staff, I hereby officially inaugurate the constituted panel to investigate the allegations made against the NA in the course of operations in Taraba State”.
The Army Chief stated further that though he feels the allegation was unnecessary, “But we are ready to take the blame if it is proven as alleged.”
Recall that the former COAS and Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Yakubu Danjuma, in Jalingo, at the convocation ceremony, raised alarm that there was an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the country and asked Nigerians to rise up to resist it.
He said Nigerians must be alert to defend themselves and their country, pointedly accusing the military of complicity in the killing of farmers by herdsmen.
A visibly enraged elder statesman at the ceremony said, “When I arrived this arena, I saw rich cultural display, and I was amazed at the rich cultural heritage of our people. Taraba is a mini Nigeria with diverse ethnic groups living together relatively peacefully. But the peace in this state is under assault.
“There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and of course, in some riverine and rural states in Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up.
“Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.”
While urging Nigerians to rise up to defend themselves, Danjuma said Somalia would be a child’s play if they failed to act.
“This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other rural states of Nigeria; otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play. I ask every one of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory and defend your state. Defend yourselves because you have no other place to go. God bless our country,” he said.
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