By Johnson Eyiangho
The Nigerian Army on Friday said allegations against it by retired Gen. T.Y Danjuma that it colluded with militia in Taraba and refused to protect the people were untrue.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, made this known at a news conference in Abuja where he gave details of the findings of the 10-member panel the Army constituted to probe the allegations.
The panel, which comprised serving and retired army personnel, representatives of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), was set up on April 10. It submitted its report of April 25.
Danjuma, on March 24 at the convocation of Taraba State University in Jalingo, alleged that some troops on internal operation in Taraba colluded with killers and herdsmen who attacked communities in the state.
He said that the troops failed to protect the residents against the attacks.
“You must rise to protect yourselves from these people; if you depend on the armed forces to protect you, you will all die.
“I ask all of you to be on the alert and defend your country, defend your state,” he admonished.
Danjuma said that the unnecessary killings, which were akin to “an act of ethnic cleansing” being perpetuated against the people of Taraba, specifically and Nigeria at large, must stop.
He accused the military of being part of the killings.
But Buratai, who was represented by Maj.-Gen. Nuhu Angbazo, Chief of Military/Civil Affairs, said: “With respect to the statement by Lt.-Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, it is clear that the allegations were not true.
“There is a need to urge for caution on the part of the elder statesman in view of the security implication of such comments.’’
Buratai exonerated the army, saying that there was no collusion between it and bandits in Taraba as alleged by the former chief of army staff.
Rather, he said, there was “sustained media campaign to belittle Nigerian army and other security agencies’ operation in the state’’ without saying who was behind the campaign.
He stated that the panel found that Taraba governor made several attempts to remove the Commanding Officer of 9 Battalion, Lt.-Col. I.B. Gambari, for “his refusal to be dragged into the state politics’’.
Buratai also alleged that the chairman of Takum Local Government Area attempted to undermine the authority of the commanding officer but did not give detail.
He commended the officer and troops on operation in the state for their professional conduct.
According to the army chief, most of the crises over the years in Taraba were particularly in Takum, Wukari, Ussa, Donga and Sardauna Local Government Areas.
“There was absence of Nigerian army deployments in some crisis-prone areas in the hinterland in Taraba state,’’ he said, and blamed it partly on the porous Nigeria-Cameroon borders and arms proliferation in the state.
“There was a massive proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Taraba, some of which have been recovered from warring parties, criminals and unauthorised persons,’’ he added.
Buratai also said blamed the unending clashes in the state on its “highly heterogeneous and division along ethno-religious lines.’’
“It is apparent that the clashes in Taraba are as a result of clan and communal crisis that predates this present government.
“Most of the crises in the state are politically-motivated and some persons are deliberately escalating the situation for selfish gains.
“The army is also of the view that the situation in Taraba has steadily deteriorated largely due to distrust, intolerance, lack of inclusion and accommodation of different ethnic groups in the state,’’ he said.
According to him, this has made it difficult for the army to carry out its constitutional role in the state without being tainted.
He commended the panel for doing a thorough job.
By Johnson Eyiangho