The Nigerian Army high command has released the report of a 10- member panel set up April 10 to probe an allegation of collusion between the Nigerian military and criminal herdsmen and bandits to kill unarmed farmers in Taraba state. The allegation was made on March 23 this year by a retired army chief Lt.-Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, himself a Taraba indigene. The panel submitted a report on April 25 and Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Yusuf Buratai briefed journalists May 20 on the committee’s findings which, according to him, did not find the military to be complicit in the killings in Taraba.
The panel reported that the crises in Taraba, particularly inTakum which is Danjuma’s home town, had been longstanding, predating the army’s arrival on the scene. It said they were “politically motivated, a result of political exclusion” and were worsened by “Taraba’s porous border” with the Republic of Cameroon. The report accused Taraba governor, Mr. Darius and chairman of Takum council of an attempt to involve the army in conflict.
Reactions to the report have been mixed. There are those that support the panel’s findings, and those that do not. A Middle Belt Conscience Guard (MBCG) says the findings “are in tandem with the widely held position of many other groups that carried out independent assessment of the situation.” Addressing journalists in Abuja, national coordinator of MBCG, Prince Raymond Enero, said “Gen. TY Danjuma should immediately re-secure his reputation by a remorseful retraction of his remarks on March 23, with an apology to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian Army and the good people of Nigeria. It is our firm conviction that all stakeholders in Taraba State should be cautioned against making inflammatory statements which have the potency to undermine, jeopardize or scuttle the efforts at peace and security to bring the communal clashes to a halt, with the intervention of the Army.”
The opposite position is represented by Jukun Development Association of Nigeria (JDAN) whose National President is Chief Bako Benjamin,. Speaking in Lagos, he described the panel’s work as “shody”, “empty rhetoric”. According to him, the panel “almost completely avoided the main subject of the matter – the attacks on and killing of farmers and innocent villagers, but addressed porous borders and previous misunderstandings between brothers in a deliberate attempt to raise tempers and portray the Jukun as historically troublesome.”
On our part, we at Peoples Daily shall only restate the position we took on the matter in an editorial on Wednesday April 18:
“What the army top hierarchy has done now setting up the panel of inquiry) is better than its initial reaction to what they saw as an outburst by someone who should have known better how to respond to the herder-farmer conflict in many states. It was a spur-of-the-moment reaction. Not good for the image of a highly professional army.
“We commend the army’s turn-around, and the courage it mustered to do so. We suggest a thorough job be done. In this regard. It should demonstrate the courage of its convictions by recommending the toughest punishments in the statute books for soldiers found to have breached the army’s time honored rules of engagement. And if it finds no one guilty it should say so.” Now that a report has emerged and the Army’s poistion revealed, we rest our case.