Written by Andrew Agbese, Mahmud Lalo & Ahmed Mohammed:
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) the 3 Armored Division, Jos Major General Saleh Maina yesterday dismissed claims by Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang that he alerted the Nigerian Army two hours before last Sunday’s attack on three villages in Jos South Local Government Area of the state. Maina said neither the state governor nor any of his officials telephoned him with such a report.
Governor Jonah Jang had said on Tuesday that he received a security report at about 9pm on Saturday and that he sent the same message to the army commanders in Jos, but that the army failed to take any action until the villages were sacked.
Jang equally said that he received reports that the attackers came about three hours after he sent the security report to the army commanders, which puts the time of the attack at about 12 midnight, even though the attack victims later testified that it happened at about 3am on Sunday morning.
General Maina, who is the commander of the Joint Military Federal Government Special Task Force to restore peace in Plateau State, said at a rare news briefing in Jos that he had no foreknowledge or report of the attack and only got to know of it through text messages after it had taken place.
He said the time he received the text messages can be verified from any of the GSM network centers. On receiving the information, he said, the military task force immediately deployed troops to the affected villages and that they arrived at the villages fairly quickly despite the difficult terrain.
The GOC said the military got on top of the situation soon after the attack as it deployed troops to those villages as well as other neighbouring villages that were not attacked. He said the soldiers pursued the attackers till they came in contact with 25 of them. They killed four and arrested one of them, he said.
The GOC described statements credited to Governor Jang as “unfortunate,” saying for a person who rose to the rank of one star general in the military to make such comments was uncalled for “if he is not misquoted by the media.” “Plateau Government official’s statements were misleading, inciting and it will only aggravate the situation,” he added.
The GOC also warned the public warned against attacking and stoning soldiers, such as what happened at Bukuru Gyel and other places which he said led to the death of two soldiers while several others were injured. “Enough is enough,” he said. Maina said soldiers cannot be accused of taking sides in the Plateau crises because they have laws governing their operations and they were deployed to professionally maintain peace and restore law and order in all parts of the state.
The GOC said those calling for his redeployment have missed the point, as he did not post himself to the state, adding that whatever posting he receives as a military man he would always say ‘amen’ and ask God to guide him. He added that he had handled a similar operation in his home state of Borno, where most of those involved were Muslims and that he had never been accused of bias. He wondered why he could be said to be biased in the present situation.
It would be recalled that following last Sunday’s attack on the three villages, Governor Jang told reporters at the State House in Abuja on Tuesday that he got wind of the attack before it occurred and alerted the military, but that they took no action until the villages were sacked with the loss of over 100 lives, mostly of women and children.
Army Headquarters had responded to Jang’s allegations on Wednesday, describing them as naïve and embarrassing. A statement by Army spokesman Brig General Chris Olukolade said the Army was shocked that a governor with substantial military experience such as Jang could incite the public against the army by falsely accusing it of complicity in the Jos crises. He said Jang was “extraordinarily partisan” in the Plateau conflicts and that the Army would not be blackmailed into supporting his position.
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