The Nigerian Army yesterday commenced a major operation to put an end to the activities of all armed men and criminal gangs engaged in wanton killing and destruction of lives and property in three states in North-central Nigeria.
This is coming at a time when the Tiv and the Fulani, who have been at loggerheads over encroachment on farmlands as well as cattle rustling on both sides, resolved to cease fire.
The Director, Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, who disclosed the major army offensive in a statement issued yesterday, said troops have already been deployed to parts of Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states for the operation.
The statement said the operation was meant to capture and neutralize all the enclaves of criminal gangs.
“The Nigerian Air Force, Police and other security agencies are also participating in the operation designed to restore peace in the affected states”, Olukolade said in the statement.
He enjoined law abiding citizens to cooperate by providing timely and useful information to facilitate the operation as it affects their localities.
Meanwhile, the Tiv/ Agatu in Benue and Fulani herdsmen have expressed regret over their lingering clashes, which have caused massive destruction to human lives and properties, describing the feud as “needless and avoidable”.
In this vein, both parties yesterday agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities, warning that henceforth, no party should attack the other.
This was part of the resolutions reached after a two-day high-level tripartite meeting held at Benue state Government House, Makurdi, between the Brig-Gen. Atom Kpera Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Committee and a Fulani delegation led by President of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Bodejo Abdullahi, with a committee of security agents headed by the DIG Operations, Michael Zuokumor.
Other members of the security team at the meeting include Commissioner of Police in-Charge of Counter Terrorism at the Force headquarters, CP S.L. Wakama, Benue State Commissioner of Police, Adams Audu, the Commissioner in-charge of mobile police and several traditional rulers in attendance.
The forum emphasized that the Fulani have not been chased out of the Benue, assuring them of their safety and peaceful co-existence with Tiv/ Agatu rural farmers.
It was also resolved that Tiv/Fulani would immediately set up a joint task force to check the activities of criminal elements on both sides and implement details of the peace agreement.
I was also resolved that all the parties would continue to meet from time to time to build confidence and keep track of the implementation of the peace agreement.
Similarly, the forum, which took major steps towards resolution of the crisis, called on all parties to avoid taking the laws into their hands no matter the provocation, avoid rumour peddling and false stories capable of heightening insecurity and fear, dismantle all illegal roadblocks and desist from searching motor vehicles to harass anyone, stop all tracks on persons of specific nationalities and properties.
It warned sternly that these acts constitute criminal offences for which the police will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute culprits.