By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has debunked allegation of killing a man and his cousin in Taraba, saying its operations only targeted militia men in the state.
The DHQ stated this while reacting to a publication in a national daily, where one Mrs. Joy Aondover alleged that her husband was murdered and dumped in a well by gunmen suspected to be soldiers in Wukari Local Government of Taraba State.
She claimed that the soldiers barged into their home on the night of July 18, 2020, dehumanized her husband and forcefully abducted him.
She further claimed that they took him to their base at Kofa Amadu, near Takum, and when she visited the location on Sunday July 20, 2020, she was threatened and chased away. Other spurious claims made were that her husband and his cousin were killed and their bodies dumped in a well in the bush around Tor-Iorshaer, in Wukari Local Government of the State. And that her husband’s younger sister was taken to the site by a fulani man who witnessed the incident.
But the DHQ in a statement issued at the weekend by Major General, John Enenche Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters, said on 18 July 2020, following credible intelligence on the possible hideout of wanted Benue militia leader Terwase Akwaza Aka “Gana” around the General area of Tse-Audu village in Akate council ward of Donga Local Government Area of Taraba State, troops of Operation Whirl Stroke deployed in Kofa Ahmadu, Kasuwan Haske, Kashimbala and Akate all in Takum and Donga Local Government Areas of Taraba State in conjunction with troops deployed at Gbise and Zaki-Biam areas of Benue State, conducted a dawn joint raid operation to the identified hideout in Tse- Audu village.
The statement said the hideout was deserted as the bandits fled before the arrival of troops.
“Troops combed the general areas and recovered one locally made rifle, 2 camouflage uniforms, one dog tag, some substances suspected to be indian hemp and some charms. The hideout was then destroyed following which troops proceeded to Chachanji village where a school , shop and building belonging to Gana were identified. A diligent search of the premises was conducted and troops recovered one locally made mortar tube, one locally made rifle and 13 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition. The structures were then destroyed.
“From these, it is clear that troops indeed conducted a raid operation at Tse Audu community in Donga LGA of Taraba State around the time mentioned by Mrs Aondover, during which weapons and ammunition were recovered. However, it is important to emphatically state that the operation which was against the militia leader “Gana” who was alleged to be hiding in the community at the time yielded no arrests as no contact was made at the locations.
“Again, one wonders why Mrs Joy made no effort to either bring up with the matter with the Military authorities or the Nigeria Police back in July when the said incident happened but could willingly grant an interview months later in September.
“ Mrs Aondover’s tale also cleverly did not mention the name of the community or location where the said assault on the Aondovers took place. Again, Tor Iorshaer mentioned in her story is a notorious flash point in the communal clashes between the Tivs and Jukuns which prompted the recent deployment of troops in the community. Mr Aondover could, as such, have been involved in said clashes, leading to his death in the assertion is true. Mrs Joy also lied about visiting the troops location at Kofa Amadu as no such visit was recorded either by troops at the location, or by locals in the vicinity.
“From all indications, this story is the work of propagandists and mischief makers who are not happy with the way troops are decisively tackling the security challenge in the general area of Operation Whirl Stroke, and have decided to fabricate this story to smear the good image of the Nigerian Military. Meanwhile the Defence Headquarters has commenced investigation into the matter.