•Herdsmen militia killed two soldiers, injured CO, four others
•Troops nab 21 suspects, recover 20 weapons
•100,000 IDPs returns back to Benue state
The Nigerian military has debunked the allegations by the chairman of Nasarawa State branch of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) that forces of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPSW) were involved in the extra judicial killing of Fulani herdsmen and hundreds of cattle.
But that it was the deadly killer herdsmen that killed two soldiers and injured five other personnel including the Commanding Officer (CO) during a gun duel at their Camp in North Central State.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim, at a briefing in Markudi, Benue State on Wednesday, said there is no truth in the allegation by the chairman of Nasarawa MACBAN, Mohammed Hussein, that OPWS killed six herdsmen and 150 cows.
“I wish to make it abundantly clear that the Special Forces troops of OPWS did not kill herdsmen or cows as claimed by the MACBAN chairman in Lafia. The information is completely false and unfounded,” Agim stated.
The OPWS was established on June 8, 2018 by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin in consultation with the Service Chiefs and Commanders of other security agencies with the mandate to completely restore law, order, peace and security in four affected states; Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
To this end, Agim said it is the duty of OPWS to ensure that all the people in these affected states go about their lawful duties without fear of molestation from any quarters. These, he said, the military has done at great cost to our personnel which include some paying the supreme price.
He said: “The truth of the matter is that on June 26, 2018, at about 6.00am , some troops of OPWS carried out a cordon and search operation at a suspected herdsmen militia camp at Bakin Kota village in Keana LGA of Nasarawa state. After the initial success of the operation, the militia elements reorganized and attacked our team, killing two soldiers and injuring five personnel including the Officer Commanding. Following this incidence, some troops of OPWS were mobilized for rei:nforcement. In the fire fight that ensued some of the militia must have sustained some injuries as we were able to extricate our men that were injured.
” In the course of the fighting, OPWS troops recovered one AK 47 Riffle fitted with magazine, two locally made guns, a pistol, an axe, and 800 rounds of 7.62mm special. This was a criminal group that our troops were able to destroy their camp. For the Chairman of the Nasarawa state chapter of MACBAN to identify and associate them as members of his association begs for questions and answers. While the military is not in a hurry to link MACBAN to this militia, investigation has begun to unravel those behind the death of our men. The military is ready to take down those who are responsible alongside their sponsors no matter how highly placed.”
The DDI emphasized that within the two months of OPWS launch, it has recorded tremendous achievement in its efforts to restore peace and order to the general area of Nasarawa, Taraba and Benue states.
He said that with the reduction in the frequency of attacks, IDPs are returning to their homes in droves.
Particularly, he said, in Logo LGC alone, about 20,000 IDPs have returned home, estimatatinf that close to 100,000 IDPs have so far returned to their abandoned homes across Benue State.
He said the OPWS troops have continued to carry out special patrols of farmlands to sustain the peace and build confidence of the displaced persons as they return to their economic activities.
Agim also said some suspects were arrested in their hide outs in Rukubi in Nasarawa state on June 2018. He added that a suspect arrested was identified as Joseph Igbatim and a locally made pistol was recovered from him.
He stated that while in Doma LGC, cordon and search was conducted at suspected armed militia hide out in Yelwa. Items recovered included a single barrel gun, two motorcycles abandoned by armed men that fled the area following troops’ arrival.
According to him, one suspect was arrested and he confessed that the gun belonged to his son, Abubakar Haruna who is currently at large, adding that the two suspects are currently undergoing interrogation.
So far, Agim said, OPWS troops have arrested 21 suspects and recovered 20 weapons and 882 rounds of assorted ammunition in Nasarawa state since the inception of the operation.
He further stated: “The force has recovered 3 weapons and 169 rounds of ammunition as well as 13 suspects apprehended in Benue state since our operation commenced.
“The NAF Component of OPWS has flown a total of 54 sorties totaling 90 hours, 25 minutes in support of OPWS. The sorties include, Air interdiction using the Mi-35 helicopter gunship, Armed Recce using the F-7Ni supersonic jet and the Mi-35M, ISR using the King Air 350, ATR 42 and Diamond 42,lastly Patrol flights using the Bell 412. The air support has been a force multiplier and added great value to the successes recorded in the Operation.”
In a related development, Agim said OPWS was fully launched in Zamfara state three weeks ago and for strategic reasons, a new commander, Maj-Gen. Abubakar Maikobi has been appointed for that Operation and to be known as OPWS II.