By Pam Ayuba:
A MID calls for his removal, the military commander in charge of the Joint Operations in Plateau State yesterday defended his integrity.
Maj.-Gen. Saleh Maina, who is the General Officer Commanding 3 Armoured Division, Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, Jos, confirmed that he received several text messages and phone calls before the killings in Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Rassat villages.
But he disagreed with the state government that those text messages came from government officials.
“I want to make it categorically clear that no official from Plateau State Government called me or forwarded a text message to me. But they all have my numbers.”
But Gen. Maina said he was deceived as the messages misdirected him,” maybe deliberately”.
The GOC stressed that the text messages actually came from his men who he said alerted him of the invasion of the villages in Barkin Ladi and Jos South local government areas.
He also confirmed that his men told him that the invaders were Fulani herdsmen, who were coming in large numbers to kill people.
He said the Fulani, according to the text messages, had dangerous weapons.
Gen. Maina said he immediately sent troops to the areas specified in the text messages.
He added: “However, I would like to tell you that some text messages were received, and I am going to give them to you. I thank God we are in electronic and high technology era in the country today. The various GSM companies can confirm or verify or otherwise. I will even give you the text messages which reached us. I would now read the text messages now. I quote: “That a group of Fulani herdsmen are on their way to Barkin Ladi Local Government Area for a battle and they are equipped with usual things.” I responded immediately to clear things in that area.”
Though the GOC could not state exactly when the killers struck, he said each time he received such distress calls or text messages, he ensured that soldiers were dispatched to those flash points.
“We received another phone call as at 14 minutes to nine (8:46pm) that a large number of Fulanis armed with sophisticated weapons are in Fobur, heading to Shen. I want you to take note of the villages because we were sent to the wrong direction; maybe deliberately. It was Shen around four minutes to nine, (8:56pm). We deployed patrol vehicles to Shen, Du and the environs around quarter pass two in the morning (2:15am). By 2:45am on Sunday 7, the captain was at the scene, that is Dogo Nahawa. The captain was led by a man in the village. They were in the village by 10 minutes to 3am. Then I got another text message that Fulani were operating at Dogo Nahawa; that was at 3:41am.
“3:45am is 15 minutes to four and our troops got there by 2:45am and I was told the carnage started at 4am. By quarter pass four (4:15am), our troops were at Rassat. By 5 o’clock in the morning they were at Zot. By 5:30, they were at Natong and by 8 o’clock in the morning, we had deployed a larger number of troops.
“Some of them were in pursuit of the invading personnel. In the process, by quarter pass three (3:15pm) in the afternoon, we were able to come in contact with the suspected invaders; five of them, and one was killed and four were arrested and handed over to the police.”
Gen. Maina, who is commander of the Joint Task Force in Jos, said he visited Dogo Nahawa to inspect the damage with a delegation from the Defence Headquarters, led by a very senior Major-General.
The confirmation by the GOC came a day after military authorities in Abuja dismissed allegations levelled against them by Plateau State Governor Jonah David Jang.
Asked to comment on calls that he should be sacked, Gen. Maina, said he was surprised. He added: “Amen! Amen!”
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