Femi Makinde, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Friday Olokor, Justin Tyopuusu, Olaleye Aluko and Godwin Isenyo
The Ministry of Defence said on Monday that it had received reports from Nigerians on the misconduct of soldiers as regards the farmers and herdsmen’s clashes and had put such soldiers through “disciplinary procedures.”
The ministry said it, however, had yet to receive any report from Taraba State, adding that its doors were open to complaints from Nigerians on the activities of the troops.
Col. Tukur Gusau, spokesperson for the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, stated this in an interview with our correspondent on Monday, noting that the government could not work with “general comments or allegations, if no specific report was made to the military authorities.”
Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali
A former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd), had on Saturday at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University, told Nigerians to defend themselves against killers, saying the Nigerian Armed Forces were not ready to defend them.
He had said, “There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state (Taraba) and of course, some rural states in Nigeria, we must resist it. We must stop it. Everyone of us must rise up. Our armed forces are not neutral. They collude with the bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians… If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.”
The defence ministry in a release on Sunday said Danjuma’s comment was “highly uncalled for,” and asked Nigerians to report any member of the armed forces, suspected to be colluding with herdsmen.
On Monday, the defence minister’s Public Relations Officer, Gusau, told our correspondent that some soldiers had undergone “disciplinary procedures” after complaints received from Nigerians.
Gusau said, “We have the Human Rights violation desk in all the formations of the Nigerian Army and a similar channel in the other arms of the military. Nigerians can also come directly to the Ministry of Defence. They can go to the Nigerian Army headquarters. Our doors are always open.
“If a soldier on duty has done something you feel is inappropriate, you have a duty to report that soldier. The office of the defence minister is open to everyone.
“The era where civilians are afraid of military actions is gone. Yes, we have been having such reports about the misconduct of soldiers in the theatre of operation. Nigerians have been coming to report incidents and we have been taking care of them. There have been disciplinary procedures. Soldiers have been put through disciplinary procedures.
“We have not received anything yet from Taraba State. We need to work on specific things. To my knowledge, we didn’t receive anything in respect of our operations in Taraba State.”
Meanwhile, a civil society, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, has asked the Federal Government to investigate Danjuma’s claim, noting that it was dangerous for Nigerians to take up arms to defend themselves.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “The DSS should come in to throw light on the situation in Taraba State. There is no need to call for arms to defend ourselves. The polity should not be heated with inflammatory statements. The Federal Government must be compelled to make sure that they get information about the Taraba issue.
“Elder statesmen should also be ready to assist the military to identify those troops who are supporting ethnic cleansing and banditry.”
YCE scribe urges Buhari to review security architecture
The Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to thoroughly review the security architecture of the country.
Olajide stated this in reaction to the comment made by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), urging Nigerians to defend themselves against killers.
Olajide spoke on Sunday in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Osogbo.
He said, “When somebody like Gen. Danjuma makes such a far-reaching statement, there is every reason for all Nigerians to do very sober thinking; and for the government to sit down and do a thorough appraisal of the security architecture of Nigeria.
“I have wondered why the killings have persisted since January 1, 2018. It appears to have escalated in Benue State and at every occasion that Mr. President and Chief of Army Staff have made commitments and assurances that the killings will stop, invariably, the same day there would still be killings.
“There have been reasons for some Nigerians to believe that there has been some executive collusion here and everybody must know that perception is reality. When people start believing that there must be backing for these criminal acts then you know that all is not well with such a country. The citizens are supposed to have 100 per cent confidence in their government, they are supposed to have absolute confidence in their government to protect them.
“The moment they start suspecting the government… we have had something similar to this from Governor Ortom, but none has been this as direct as what Gen. Danjuma said. The Federal Government must reassure Nigerians that this is not so and certain critical steps must be taken.
“Nobody has been penalized for anything. Mr. President told the whole of Nigeria that the Inspector-General of Police disobeyed him and till today we still have this same IG there.
“The General has raised the alarm that there is fire on the mountain and everybody must take heed. But I sincerely hope that we will not get to a point where Nigerians will have to rise up to defend themselves.
“The Federal Government must sit up and reassure Nigerians that the government is able and willing to protect lives and property in the country. The rampaging herdsmen must be arrested, prosecuted and convicted if found guilty.”
The Vice Chairman of the Yoruba Unity Forum, Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu, also restated his call to the Yoruba and the rest of the nation to rise up and defend themselves since government had failed repeatedly to defend them.
Ladigbolu, who is a retired Archbishop of Methodist Church Nigeria, said this in Osogbo.
He said the best thing to do in order not to die cheaply from the hands of the killer herdsmen was for everybody to be prepared to defend themselves and their territories, as security agencies had failed.
Ladigbolu said, “Nigerians should be ready to defend themselves. I said that early last year at the palace of the Ooni of Ife and some people misunderstood me. But I don’t see any way out even now. If government will not protect the people, then individuals have the responsibility to be on the alert and ensure that they do not allow any trespass on their land, farms; and whatever they can do to ensure their safety without breaking the law of the land, they should do it.
“I am glad that the person of Gen T.Y. Danjuma status is saying the same thing now. I agree with him.”
Ohanaeze youths vow to defend Igboland
The Ohanaeze Youth Council, the youth wing of the apex Igbo socio-political body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has backed Danjuma’s self-defence call.
OYC President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, on Monday in a statement in Enugu, said the Igbo youth organisation had identified self-defence, in the form of armed resistance as the most effective panacea for herdsmen attacks.
Isiguzoro said Igbo youths were ready to defend the South-East.
Although he was quick to point out that the Ohanaeze youth wing was not armed, Isiguzoro said any herdsmen attacks in Igboland would not only be resisted, it would also be avenged.
He said, “Danjuma has justified the position of Ohanaeze Youth Council Worldwide. We are ready to resist the herdsmen militia.
“It has been our earlier stand; we have been calling for self-defence. So today we are re-echoing that stand.
”Nobody should expect that Ndigbo would fold their arms and watch these killer herdsmen come here and achieve their evil agenda. We shall resist it with the last drop of our blood.
“We have no arms anywhere but Ndigbo are emergency specialists – we have our own way of fighting our battles without rockets and guns.”
The Ohanaeze youth leader faulted the planned amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect, noting that the Federal Government had no reason to deploy the army against the Indigenous People of Biafra.
He also agreed that Nigerian security agencies were collaborating with the herdsmen.
“Like Danjuma clearly pointed out, there seems to be a collaboration between the security agencies and these herdsmen.
“It appears there are two laws in this country – one for the Igbo and other sections of the country, and another for the Hausa-Fulani.
“How else will one justify the recent statements in the media that the Federal Government was considering amnesty for the Boko Haram terrorists? It is shocking; it is unthinkable.
“This is the same government that hurriedly branded the IPOB as a terrorist organisation. The same government is now courting internationally acclaimed terrorists,” Isiguzoro said.
‘Danjuma’s statement has vindicated us’
The Executive Chairman of the Takum Local Government in Taraba State, Mr. Shiban Tikari, has said the statement by Danjuma had vindicated his people and himself.
The local government chairman stated this in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday.
Tikari and his counterpart in the Ussa LGA, Rimansikwe Karma, had on Wednesday last week accused the army operatives of extortion and brutality.
They also alleged that soldiers provided cover for the killer herdsmen to attack communities in Takum and Ussa LGAs.
Tikari stated, “The General TY Danjuma’s statement that the armed forces are not neutral has actually vindicated our earlier stance.
“I had shouted on top of my voice that the army’s Operation Ayem Akpatuma provided cover for the herdsmen to attack us, but I was not taken seriously.
“For the person of Gen. TY Danjuma to speak out in that manner means a lot and I want Nigerians and the President to take his message with all seriousness.
Takum Youths want army to be fair
Also, the Youth Leader of Takum, Mr. Emmanuel Umaru, appealed to the military to be fair to all.
Umaru alleged that the coming of the military coincided with the coming of the Fulani herdsmen who invaded communities and killed people in Kpashi, Muji and Kwesati, among others.
He stated, “Last year, the Fulani left our communities and never returned, only to return the same day the army began Operation Ayem Akpatuma and subsequently attacked our communities. This is very suspicious.
“In a clear case of complicity, the military were alerted to the attack on Kpashi village, but it took them five hours after the attackers left before they got there.
“This kind of action and the brutality and extortion of the civilian population is most unfortunate. We are ready to cooperate with the army to succeed in their exercise, but they should be just and fair to all.”
Take Danjuma’s comment seriously —Williams
A former Chairman of the Nigerian chapter of Transparency International, Maj. Gen. Ishola Williams (retd), on Monday urged the Federal Government and security agencies to take Danjuma’s comment seriously if seen as a wake-up call.
Williams, who said it was not the first time that such a call had been made, noted that heated reactions over it were because Danjuma was a former minister of defence.
He said, “Is he the first person to say so? Many people have said so before him. It is not about whether I support the call or not. The most important thing is; is it a wake-up call or a voice stronger than others who have made such call in the past. If it is a wake-up call, the presidency and security agencies should take the comment seriously.”
ACF keeps mum
The pan-Northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, on Monday declined comment on Danjuma’s statement.
When contacted on the telephone on Monday, National Publicity Secretary of the northern body, Alhaji Muhammad Biu, declined comment over the issue.
Our correspondent had asked the ACF spokesman to comment on the allegation by the former Minister of Defence that the Nigerian Armed Forces were colluding with herdsmen to attack Nigerians, while also asking them (Nigerians) to defend themselves