By Jacob Segun
The Defence Headquarters, DHQ. on Saturday denied allegation of leaders of Tiv people in Taraba State under the aegis of Tiv Cultural and social Association (TCSA) accusing Nigerian military personnel deployed in Taraba State of raping their wives and daughters and also destroying their properties in the name of manhunt for bandits in Southern Taraba.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, DMO, Major General John Enenche.
While defending the Military against any wrongdoings as alleged by the Group, General John Enenche explained that the Troops only conducted a dawn raid at Rafin Kada in Wukari Local Government Areas and Yojaa in Donga Local Government Area of Taraba State on 29 June 2020.
He said this dawn raid on a confirmed bandits’ hideout was based on actionable human and technical intelligence on their activities in the general area.
Enenche said this intelligence was gleaned from both military intelligence sources in the field, as well as credible local sources in those same communities, who affirmed the activities of the bandits as it were.
He counseled the President General of the Association, Chief Goodman Dahida, on the need for them to understand that troops ” do not just embark on operations for the mere fun of it, especially when lives are at stake”
He said before operations were conducted, the Military Intelligence Fusion Cell gathered and effectively processed the pool of information, before emerging with actionable intelligence.
He pointed out this was to ensure that troops operate with utmost accuracy of information, and consequently know where to go and what to do.
While explaining that during the actual operation, the troops came in contact with suspected Tiv militias at Tse Juku village Enenche said that the armed militias opened fire on sighting the troops who responded with superior firepower thereby neutralizing 4 of them in the process while unconfirmed number escaped with gunshot wounds.
He said the troops also recovered 2 locally made rifles, 55 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 117 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 3 mobile phones, 3 AK 47 magazines, 2 motorcycles, one military shirt uniform, one Peace Corps ID Card belonging to one Mr Anyor Fidelis and some charms.
According to him, “When one considers that Nigerian soldiers engaged and neutralized 4 bandits and recovered the above-mentioned items from them, it is difficult to see or understand what “innocent civilian families” would be doing in the midst of armed bandits, as claimed by the Tiv Leaders,”.
He said the DHQ wondered why Tiv leaders failed to note or acknowledge the fact that these same troops deployed in Taraba State have to a large extent fostered peace in the state, particularly protecting mostly Tiv farmers against marauding armed herdsmen.
According to him, “It is, therefore, an act of mischief and deliberate attempt to discredit the concerted efforts of Nigerian troops in the theatre, as well as tarnish the image of the Nigerian Military
“Also disheartening is the allegation that troops are “colluding with Jukun militias to exterminate Tiv people”. Clearly, the Tiv leaders claim is incredible, to say the least, as it makes no sense that the military which has devoted so many resources in terms of manpower and equipment to protect the good people of Taraba State, would at the same time want to “exterminate” these same people
“As it is, amongst troops operating in Taraba State, are men and women from all ethnic groups in the country, Tiv and Jukun inclusive, who sacrifice their lives, undertaking hazardous and dangerous missions mostly at night, so that the good people of Taraba State can go about their daily activities without fear of intimidation
“As such, rather than commend the troops for their diligence, sacrifices, and commitment to fostering peace in Taraba state, it is most unfortunate to hear the TCSA disregard these sacrifices and efforts for cheap publicity
“Without any doubt, troops have left no stone unturned in the effort to foster peace between various ethnic groups, notably the Tiv and Jukun whose communal clashes are well-documented in the public domain
“These efforts are evident in the routine meetings and engagements organized by troops to bring peace to the troubled areas. This shows that the military has nothing against the Tiv people or any other ethnic group,” Enenche said.
The DMO Coordinator noted that Armed Forces of Nigeria have a mandate to go after armed bandits, herdsmen, militias, and all other criminal elements, be they Tiv, Jukun or from any other ethnic group for that matter. Troops are strictly guided by Rules of Engagement (ROE).
According to him, “this is in addition to the International Laws of Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law, amongst other constitutional provisions which guide the conduct of our troops in any engagement
“It is therefore mischievous to suggest that soldiers are “raping their wives and daughters, and also destroying their properties in the name of manhunt for bandits in Southern Taraba”.
He however assured that the Military High Command would investigate the claims with a view to unraveling the true state of affairs and enjoined the TCSA to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims in the public domain.