By Fidelis Soriwei:
A discreet investigation into the allegation of complicity levelled against the Nigeria Army was complicit in the massacre of 500 people during the sectarian crisis that rocked Jos last Sunday may be underway.
The killings, which have continued to attract widespread condemnation from within and outside the country, were carried out in three villages in Dogo Nauwa, Ratsat and Jot, all in Jos South Local Government Area, Plateau State.
The Governor of Plateau State, Air Commodore Jonah Jang (rtd.), had claimed that he called army commanders to intimate them with a security report of an imminent attack in that area, but that the army took no step to forestall the crisis. But the commander of the army unit overseeing security in the area, Major-Gen Saleh Maina, the General Officer Commanding, 3 Brigade in Jos, had countered that no government official called him and that he only got text messages from non-government sources.
“No government officials called me prior to the mayhem at Dogo Nauwa and other surrounding villages, they all have my numbers. Some of the text messages received gave us wrong direction.” Maina was quoted to have said.
However, even as the controversy rages, the Minister of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd), on Friday, hinted that an investigation might be ongoing. Abbe spoke to journalists at the Yar’Adua Memorial Centre Abuja, in Abuja shortly after the presentation of a book in Abuja on Friday, however, declined to elaborate on the nature of the investigation. The book, “Winning Hearts and Minds: A community Relations Approach for the Nigerian Armed Forces,” written by Professor Ebere Onwudiwe and Professor Eghosa Osaghae, was reviewed by the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Professor Attahiru Jega.
Asked what government would do about the conflicting claims on the role played by the army in the killings, Abbe said, “What reaction do you expect from me? Both of them have their positions and we are studying both.”
The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, who was also at the event, declined comments on the raging controversy, saying he was preoccupied with efforts to bridge the wide gulf in communication between the military and the Nigerian populace.
“I would not like to make comments on that. I don’t like to make public comments on issues that are political. All I am trying to do here is to ensure that the gap that does exist between the civil populace and the military is bridged.”
But the Senate Committee Chairman on Defence, (Army), Alhaji Ibrahim Idah, challenged Jang and others making the allegations against the Army to prove it.
He said that the accusations could be verified as the GSM companies involved could be invited to provide the evidence of the calls and the time they were made.
He said that the Senate would only depend on facts as the Army had come out to deny the allegation.
“The soldiers have come to say clearly that they were not alerted, so anybody can make any accusation. As far as we are concerned, we depend on the facts available on the ground.
“The accusation is verifiable. If you phone somebody, the GSM company will have the number and the time. And this is the challenge: if anybody called the Army let the GSM company be contacted to confirm that.
“So we are confident that they abided by the rule of engagement, they did a good job and we want all Nigerians to support them. If people make accusations, let them come with proof.”
Prior to his defence of the military in the raging controversy over the killings in Jos, the Katsina-born senator had said that “somewhere, people were pleasantly surprised” that there was no military intervention in the country.
“I said somewhere; I was not (afraid) because I was confident of the quality of the members we have in the armed forces; there was no doubt in my mind that they know what is right and they would do it and they did it.
“I said some people were pleasantly surprised but I want to assure you that we know what is going to happen, that we are in touch with them consistently, and they assured us that we had no cause to doubt their assurances that they were going to do well and they did well.”
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