The Taraba State Government and groups, including Middle Belt organisations, on Sunday rejected the report of a panel set by the Nigerian Army to investigate the allegation levelled against soldiers by a former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (retd.).
The state government and groups stated this in separate interviews with The PUNCH, while commenting on the report submitted by the panel on Friday
Danjuma had, in March, advised Nigerians to defend themselves, saying soldiers were not neutral in the killings allegedly being perpetrated by armed Fulani herdsmen.
He said soldiers colluded with the bandits to kill people.
The 10-man army panel, which was inaugurated on April 9, by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, had dismissed Danjuma’s claims and asked the elder statesman to take caution.
The panel said in its report, “There was no collusion on the part of the army and units operating in Taraba State with any bandit as stated by Danjuma. There was good collaboration, synergy and cooperation between the army and other security agencies operating in the state.
“Most of the crises in Taraba are politically motivated and some persons are deliberately escalating the situation for selfish gains. With respect to the statement by Danjuma, it is clear that the allegations are not true. Hence, there is need to urge for caution on the part of the elder statesman, in view of the security implications of such comments.”
Army can’t be a judge in own case –Taraba govt
But the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Taraba State on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Dan-Abu, told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that the state government rejected the report in its entirety.
Bala noted that what the army did was simply to take the position of a judge in its own case.
He stated, “The allegations were made against the army and what we expected them to do was to set up an independent panel to investigate the allegations and not to assemble their men to give them justice in their own case.
“The armed forces should set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations if they must be taken seriously.
“The allegation that the army is colluding with the armed herdsmen to kill Nigerians was not only made by retired Lt.Gen. T.Y. Danjuma and the Taraba State Government, but the Amnesty International too accused the Army of complicity in the killings, so they cannot deny that.
“The Army was the one that set up the committee, provided terms of reference and received the report from the panel. No one was invited to review the report of the panel. They sat on the report and came up with their findings, so what do you expect?” he asked.
Report, window dressing –Jukun group
On his part, the National Youth Leader of the Jukun Development Association, Mr. Zando Hoku, rejected the report, describing it as window dressing. He said it was meant to appease the powers that be.
“We, the Jukun, have rejected the report. However, we are not surprised because we saw it coming.
“The evidence of collusion is so glaring for all to see. We are on the ground and we knew all that had happened, but the Army was the judge in its own case and it did what was pleasing to it,” he said.
Army deceiving the world –Tiv Group
Reacting to the panel report, the President-General of the Tiv Cultural and Social Association Taraba State, Chief Goodman Dahida, said the army was deceiving the world.
According to him, the army was the one accused of colluding with bandits to kill Nigerians and wondered why it still presided over the investigation.
“We expected the army to have set up an independent joint civil and army committee to investigate the allegations to prove to Nigerians and the world the truth or otherwise of the allegations.
“We reject the report and call on the army to revisit the allegations which were not just in Taraba, but other states of the federation,” he said.
CD, CDHR back Danjuma, say army panel not thorough
Also, two civil society organisations, the Campaign for Democracy and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, knocked the army panel over its findings and for not being representative, noting that an “independent and judicial panel” ought to look at Danjuma’s claims.
The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “The army will always be in a perpetual denial. Let us be clear and emphatic. Twelve or 11 soldiers were killed in Kaduna State and there was an initial denial. Look at what is happening in Taraba. How can the army claim that none of its personnel was involved in all the anomalies going on there?
“The person who made these claims was once a defence minister, a former Chief of Army Staff and we know he was not speaking from a position of ignorance. He is in the political circle and he has information on issues in the state.
“The panel to investigate the Taraba incident should not be an army affair. It should comprise the civil society organisations and other critical stakeholders in and outside the state.”
Also the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu said, “Danjuma’s comments were a wake-up call and the army conducted itself rightly to set up a panel to verify those allegations. However, in doing that, they breached one of the pillars of justice which is that nobody can be a judge in his own affairs.
“The outcome of a predominantly military panel will always be suspicious. This is why the army is arousing the curiosity of Nigerians with their going into investigations without a genuine intention to get the details or facts of the matter. What would have been ideal in the Taraba matter is a judicial panel of inquiry which comprises professionals.” – Punch.