* Police also refute Plateau government’s claim of 500 deaths in suspected Fulani reprisal

Following a claim by Plateau state Governor Jonah Jang that the renewed Jos violence would have been averted if the Army commanders in Jos had acted on the intelligence report he sent to them, the Nigerian Army yesterday came hard on the governor for his “naivety” and “partisanship,” saying it cannot be blackmailed on the issue.

The Army’s reaction to Jang’s claim is coming on the heels of Plateau state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba’s refutation of claims by officials of the Plateau government that no fewer than 500 persons were killed in the reprisal attack at Dogo Na Hauwa.

In a press statement signed by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General AC Olukolade, the Army said the governor’s allegations were devoid of facts and were uttered to blackmail and paint the Army in bad light.

Apart from rejecting the deliberate plot to portray the Army as partisan, the statement said, “The Governor may have his political or other intents to achieve, but he should desist from compounding issues, at least in the interest of the people who are endangered by his proposition and disdain for the Army in particular.

“Coming from a Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of a state with substantial military background, it is unfortunate that Air Commodore David Jang (rtd) has demonstrated an embarrassing naivety in interpreting the dynamics of land operations. The Governor would have spared the nation his unfortunate remarks if only he consulted sufficiently before making his inciting declaration,” it added.

According to the release, “The Nigerian Army (NA) has noted with serious concern a statement made by the Governor of Plateau state, His Excellency, Da Jonah Jang to the effect that last Sunday’s killings in the Jos South Local Government Area of the state could have been averted if the Army had acted on the early intelligence report he provided.”

Calling on Nigerians to discountenance the allegations of the Plateau state governor, the Army restated its commitment “to support the joint operations and ignore those who engage in all sorts of misinformation, unwarranted and provocative statements with the main vision of rubbishing Army’s record of effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Army members of the joint task force are enjoined to remain focused and ignore attempts to dampen their morale in this critical national assignment.”

The visit of the governor to the Defence Headquarters yesterday, according to the statement, “clearly indicates that he knows the appropriate authority to consult in the event of dissatisfaction with the action of any Army commander. Rather than follow this process, he resorted to inflammatory remarks targeted at rubbishing the Army. His allegation insinuating bias is indeed unfortunate.”

The statement which said the army had always acquitted itself credibly in its joint patrol with other members of the various services noted that the involvement of the Army in Jos was due to the failure of the Police to cope with the January 2010 crisis that rocked the city.

Besides condemning the attack on the Army by Jang as unnecessary, the spokesman of the NA declared that the Army would continue to participate in joint patrol operations with a view to restoring peace and other in not only Plateau but also in other states where such operations are taking place.

“The Nigerian Army wishes to make it emphatically clear that it has no other interest in the state other than commitment to the operation and restoration of peace. The Army high command is working in concert with the Defence Headquarters to guide the operations of the Joint Task Force in Plateau state towards achieving government’s intention of ensuring adequate security in the area as quickly as possible.

“The Nigerian Army seizes this opportunity to commiserate with the families who have lost their loved ones in the unfortunate incident of last Sunday and previous skirmishes associated with the crisis in Plateau State,” the statement added.

Death figure 109 and not 500

Also yesterday, Plateau Police Commissioner Aduba accused state officials of inflating the number of deaths recorded at the recent Dogo Na Hauwa reprisal attack. The police commissioner blamed the state government for misleading the world on the true figure of deaths.

Aduba, who addressed a world press conference at the state Police Command yesterday, said such exaggeration by the state Commissioner for Information, Gregory Yenlong, was not only misleading but also capable of plunging the state into another round of anarchy.

According to him, the number of people killed and buried at the mass grave site at Dogo Na Hauwa was 70, comprising 12 male children, 26 female children, 16 female adults and 16 male adults respectively.  Aduba also said corpses privately buried by relations at Barkin Ladi were 18, Dogo Na Hauwa 12; and nine persons died at the Jos University Teaching Hospital. He gave the total death figure of 109 as against 500 as claimed by the Plateau Information commissioner.

According to the commissioner, “There is need to put the record straight, hence the whole figure of 500 and 371 variously credited to the state government through its commissioner for information  is fabricated and should be disregarded.”

Aduba said those who witnessed the mass burial included pathologists appointed by Plateau state commissioner for health, the Plateau state commissioner for information, special adviser, Special duties Government House, as well as the Chairman of  Jos South local government council, Police medical doctor and a team of detectives from State Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

The police commissioner announced that no fewer than 200 people have been arrested over the renewed crisis. He said the first group was arrested immediately after the incident of Dogo Na Hauwa. On interrogation, some of them said they were on a revenge mission over the killing of their members at Tim-Tim, Vwang, Kuru Karama and Kuru Jenta.

According to Aduba, 151 people were arrested in Mangu Local Government Area and other surrounding villages in possession of prohibited firearms and dangerous weapons. The CP denied allegation that the police were aware of the attack, saying “the police were not informed of any impending attack because Dogo Na Hauwa is a sleeping village located in a remote area.”

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