Indications are rife that the military may arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah and their sponsors if ongoing investigations by the military established that they had a hand in the bloodbath in Benue State, Brig. Gen. Agim, the acting Director Defence Information stated.
Brig. Gen. Agim, who made this known Tuesday in Makurdi, was reacting to allegation by the leadership of Miyetti Allah that its members and cows were killed by the military in Nasarawa State.
Agim said the military has commenced investigations into the complicity of the group in last week’s killing of two soldiers and injuring of five others attached to Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, a military spike operation, to end herdsmen incursions and armed banditry in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states.
He said, “I want you to understand that in our operations in other states, especially in the far North, we discovered that in such areas, the Miyetti Allah had been suffering issues of cattle rustling. We arrested rustlers with their cows and we returned same in hundreds to them.
“We are even shocked that Miyetti Allah that is supposed to be a lawful association is claiming that their members were killed. That is why we said that investigation is ongoing and if it is discovered that Miyetti Allah or any group is involved, they will not go scot-free.
“A lot of people have been posing the question to us on why we have not arrested them (Miyetti Allah). If you listen to them complain, you will know that they also have issues.
“But the issue is that no one, no matter whatever wrong he feels he had been subjected, the law of the land does not allow you to take up arms against other people, and that is what we stand for.
“So on the allegation by the chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, Mohammed Hussein, that OPWS killed six herdsmen and 150 cows, I wish to make it abundantly clear that the Special Forces troops of OPWS did not kill herdsmen or cows as claimed by the MACBAN chairman in Lafia; it is completely false and unfounded.
“The truth of the matter is that on June 26, 2018, at about 6 a.m., some troops of OPWS carried out a cordon-and-search operation at a suspected herdsmen militia camp at Barkin kota Village in Keana local government area of Nasarawa State.
“After the initial success of the operation, the militia elements reorganised and attacked our team, killing two soldiers and injuring five personnel, including the Officer Commanding, who led the operation.
“Following this incidence, some troops of OPWS were mobilised for reinforcement. In the fire fight that ensued, some of the militia must have sustained some casualties as we were able to extricate our men that were injured.
“In the course of the fighting, OPWS troops recovered one AK 47rifle fitted with magazine, two locally made guns, one pistol, one axe and 800 rounds of 7.62mm special. This was the criminal group that our troops were able to destroy their camp.
“So for the chairman of Nasarawa State chapter of MACBAN to identify and associate them as members of his association begs for questions and answers.
“While the military is not in a hurry to link MACBAN to this militia, investigation has begun to unravel those behind the death of our men. The military is ready to take down those who are responsible alongside their sponsors, no matter how highly placed.”
Assessing the operation, Brig. Gen. Agim said, “Within the two months of OPWS launch, it has recorded tremendous achievement in its efforts to restore peace and order in Nasarawa, Taraba and Benue states.
“With the reduction in the frequency of attacks, IDPs are returning to their homes in droves. Particularly, in Logo local government area alone, about 20,000 IDPs have returned home. It is estimated that close to 100,000 IDPs have so far returned to their abandoned homes across Benue State.
“OPWS troops have continued to carry out special patrols of farmlands to sustain the peace and build confidence of the displaced persons as they return to their economic activities.
“So far, OPWS troops have arrested 21 suspects and recovered 20 weapons and 882 rounds of assorted ammunition in Nasarawa State since the inception of the operation.
“Similarly, the force has recovered three weapons, nine rounds of ammunition, while 12 suspects were arrested in Taraba State. In addition, we have also recovered four weapons and 169 rounds of ammunition as well as 13 suspects apprehended in Benue State since our operation commenced.”
He stated that the Nigeria Air Force component of OPWS had flown a total of 54 sorties, totaling 90 hours 25 minutes, in support of the operation in the affected states.
Still on the planned arrest of masterminds of the killings, Major Adeyemi Yekini, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, said, “If I have any positive evidence suggesting that a particular group is fueling, sponsoring or is behind the killings in the three states of Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa, we will go after such a group, be it Miyetti Allah or any other group for that matter.”