- As lawmakers order police investigation
Nigerian military authorities in Niger State have urged residents of Kopa, Lunko and neighbouring communities in Bosso Local Government area of Niger State, where 12 soldiers and 8 villagers were killed last Thursday to return to their settlements, assuring them of their safety.
General Officer Commanding, GOC, 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade gave this assurance yesterday when he paid a courtesy visit to the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello to his office in Minna. This is even as Niger lawmakers led by the Niger East Senatorial District, Senator David Umaru, have charged the Nigerian military to stop killings and release the detainees to allow the real authority (police) to investigate and prosecute.
Umaru disclosed this in a press briefing in Minna that the continued detention of the over 60 persons in the military custody was unlawful, saying that more lives have been lost in the community from the military invasion.
Residents of the villages had fled their homes on Thursday following a face-off that led to the death of an officer, 8 soldiers and Air force men for fear of reprisal attacks by the military.
But the visiting GOC who was received on behalf of the governor by his deputy, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Ketso, said that now that normalcy has returned to the area, state government should use all its information apparatus to plead with the villagers to return back to their homes, assuring that the safety of their lives and properties are guaranteed.
The General expressed the appreciation of the military high command to the state government for its prompt intervention, visit to the scene of the incidence and to 31 Artillery Brigade, to condole with the officers and men over the loss of their colleagues.
He disclosed that the 57 suspects arrested by his men and the cache of assorted weapons recovered are to be handed over to the Police by today (Tuesday 9th of August) for further investigation and prosecution.
Oyebade who described the State as his home, assured the government and the people of his Division’s commitment to protect the peace the state is known for.
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello urged the people of the state to continue to be peaceful and report any suspicious persons or movements to appropriate security agencies.
He described the incidence as unfortunate and stressed the need for joint operation by all security agencies so as to prevent the state from being infested with criminals flushed out from neighbouring states.
The governor assured the GOC of the state government’s support to the military while charging them to always respect rules of engagement.
He also called on political office holders, politicians to be sensitive in their utterances and shun rumour capable of truncating the peace and the cordial co-existence the state is known for.
Special prayers were offered for the repose of the souls of the deceased during the courtesy visit.
But Senator Umaru, who was joined by other lawmakers in the state, said that the General Oyebade has misled the public by claiming it was a joint operation, asking “why only military casualty, ‘If it was joint operation why are people detained by the military rather than the police”.
He explained that the role of the military is spelt out clearly in section 217 sub- section 2a and b of 1999 constitution as amended without ambiguity, adding that the GOC tagging the people as gun runners and bandits was very unfortunate despite that no court has found them wanting.
Umaru berated the Niger State government not to have visited the community since the invasion, insisting that a high powered judicial commission of inquiry should be set up to investigate the crisis.
He further added that the people have been displaced in large number, but their leaders were trying to calm them down before they could ascertain the gravity of the impact and number of death recorded.
“We are serious minded and responsible people representing our community in Niger State and cannot play politics with the lives of our people as alleged by the commissioner of information, Mr. Jonathan Tsado Vatsa in his statement”.
Senator Umaru stated that it is the responsibility of the government to provide security and welfare for the people, anything contrary was not carrying out its duty as government.
He noted that the claim that the soldiers embarked on operation NESA in Niger State rather than the operation ZUMA was wrong.