By Jude Owuamanam:
THE General Officer Commanding, 3rd Armoured Division, Maj.-Gen. Saleh Maina, on Thursday denied allegations that officials of the Plateau State government contacted him before the invasion of three villages in Jos North Local Government Area on March 7.
Maina told journalists that no government official called him prior to the killings at Dogo Na Hauwa and other surrounding villages, adding that his men only acted on the text messages received concerning the violence.
The GOC was apparently reacting to allegations by Governor Jonah Jang that he ignored all calls and security reports prior to the pre-dawn invasion of three villages in Barkin Ladi and Jos South Local Government Areas of the state.
“No government official called me prior to the mayhem at Dogo Na Hauwa and other surrounding villages, they all have my numbers. Some of the text messages we received gave us wrong direction,” he said.
Maina, who, however, admitted receiving text messages that some people were about to strike, said that a captain led a troop to the scene of the mayhem at Dogo Na Hauwa at about 2:45am while another larger troop also arrived the village by 8:00 am.
He said that at about 11:00am on Sunday, the military arrested five of the invaders and immediately handed them over to the police.
He condemned what he described as the tarnishing of the image of the military over its operation in the state, stressing that the task force should not be seen as an enemy or as being partisan in the unfortunate development in the state.
He said, “Members of the task force should not be seen as enemies or as being partisan. I personally supervised the operation in Maiduguri to restore normalcy and order and there was no sentiment whatsoever on the part of the military.”
But, despite attempts to extricate himself from the allegations, Maina continued to receive more knocks.
The latest call came from a group, the Voice of Truth and Reason, whose coordinator, Mr. Joseph Fadeyi, said that Maina abandoned his patriotic calling as an officer of the Nigerian army.
He said that instead of engaging in circumlocution, Maina should come out to explain in clear terms why there were more killings and burning after the Plateau State government had declared a 24-hour curfew and the army had effectively taken over security.
In a statement in Jos on Thursday, Fadeyi said, “Since the aftermath of this recent crisis, accusations and counter-accusations have been running from all parties in the conflict, especially, regarding the military. Already, relevant authorities have stated irrevocably, that there was a military involvement, the military has denied same.
“Whether the officers involved did so as ordered or wilfully, is a subject of investigation, the General Commanding Officer of the 3rd Armoured Division, Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, Rukuba Barracks, Maj.-Gen. Saleh Maina, personally has not answered the citizens of this country and Plateau State in particular.”
Fadeyi questioned why some people who had been indicted by various panels on past Jos crises were still appointed into the present presidential panel.
He asked that no more panels be set up since they had served no useful purpose, adding that certain individuals only used the platforms provided by the panels to make inflammatory statements and insinuations.
He also called to question the use of sophisticated weapons and wondered why ordinary herdsmen should be so professional in handling sophisticated weapons.
However, the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Gregory Yenlong, in a reaction, said the governor would not like to join issues with the GOC or the Nigerian Army, since the preoccupation of the government was the restoration of peace in the state.
He said, “The governor would not like to join issues with the GOC. He has made his point clear. The major preoccupation of the government now is the restoration of peace and building the confidence of the people in the peace-building process.”
But, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relation, 3rd Armoured Division, Lt.-Col. Galadima Shekari, maintained the position of the GOC that no official of the state government called him in respect of the crisis.
He said on the telephone, “The GOC made it clear that no official of the Plateau State Government called him in respect of the attack on Dogo Na Hauwa.
“The text message he received from some government officials misdirected the GOC about where the incident was taking place.”
Also on Thursday, hundreds of Plateau women marched half-dressed round the Jos metropolis and demanded the immediate removal of the GOC.
Traffic crawled to a standstill as the women, who wore black attire, led by Mrs. Esther Nbanga, stormed the State House of Assembly at about 10:30 am to register their grievances.
They then marched half dressed to the Government House, with many of them carrying placards denouncing the military operation in the state and calling for the withdrawal of the military from the state.
Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Mr. Istifanus Mwansat, who received the women, stated that the government was not sleeping over the unfortunate development .
At the Government House, Ray Field, the women were received by the state Deputy Governor, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, who prayed along with them for a total restoration of peace to Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Plateau State Coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps, Mr. Nurudeen Baba-Ahmed, has said that the number of corps members posted to the state has been reduced by half.
He said that the number was reduced from 2,400 to 1,200. He spoke at the passing out ceremony of the 2010 batch of corps members posted to Plateau State on Thursday.
He said that the reduction was to ensure that corps members were kept safe as a result of the recurring crises in the state.
He assured parents of the safety of their wards during the service year.
Also, the Director-General, NYSC, Brig.-Gen. Ismaila Tsiga, has said that he will grant the request of any corps member in Plateau State seeking re-deployment if the crisis in the state persisted.
The DG said this when he visited the NYSC camp in Plateau State, on Wednesday.
He assured the corps members that none of them would be posted to rural areas.
“Your security in the camp is guaranteed. Soldiers will be deployed here to stay with you in the camp for 24 hours a day, but you must not leave the camp if you are not authorised to do so. Security is a collective responsibility,” he said.
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