The Nigerian Army says its investigation has revealed that the allegation by a former defense minister, General Theophilus Danjuma (retd) that it troops were conniving with herdsmen to attack and kill people across villages in Taraba and other parts of the country was not true.
Rather, the Army said findings of the 10-man investigative panel set up to investigate the allegations of the former defense minister revealed that the sustained media campaign against the military in Taraba State, in particular, was because of the refusal of attempts by local leaders to draw the military commanders.
Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff said this in a statement in which he gave snippets of the findings of the investigative committee set up to investigate the allegation of the former defense minister on Friday.
According to him, the committee visited and interacted with government officials, the governor, security agencies and other stakeholders in the three senatorial zones of Taraba State in the course of its investigations.
The 10-man panel comprising senior Army officers (both serving and retired) and members from the National Human Rights Commission, Nigerian Bar Association, and other Civil Society Organizations was inaugurated on 9 April 2018.
“The major findings of the Investigation Panel were as follows: There was no collusion on the part of the Nigerian Army and units operating in Taraba State with any bandit(s) as stated by Lieutenant General TY Danjuma (Retired). There were few instances where locals drag soldiers outside strict military duties to intervene in civil disputes. There were good collaborations, synergy, and cooperation between the Nigeria Army and other security agencies operating in Taraba State.
“There is a sustained media campaign to belittle the military operations in Taraba State. Most of the crises over the years in Taraba State were particularly in Takum, Wukari, Ussa, Donga and Sardauna Local Government Areas.
“There was absence of Nigerian Army deployments in some crises prone areas in the hinterland in Taraba State. The Nigeria-Cameroon common borders in Taraba State were porous. There was a massive proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Taraba State, some of which have been recovered from warring parties, criminal and unauthorized persons.
“Troops deployed in Taraba State for Operation MESA were not paid RCA by the state government since February 2018.
“There was inadequate communication equipment in the units which impede Nigerian Army operations. Some of the localities in the hinterland in Taraba State were not accessed by road,” the Committee said.
It also pointed out that Lieutenant Colonel IB Gambari, the Commanding Officer of the 93 Battalion, commands his unit effectively and professionally and was only being vilified by some people/government of Taraba State for his refusal to act outside his professional duties or do the biddings of some government officials.
“The Executive Governor of Taraba State made several attempts to ensure the removal of the Commanding Officer of 93 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel IB Gambari from command for his refusal to be dragged into the state politics.
Taraba State is highly heterogeneous and divided along ethno-religious lines. The Chairman of Takum LGA, Hon Shiban Tikari made several attempts to undermine the authority of the Commanding Officer 93 Battalion through some officers of the unit.
The troops have a good understanding of the Code of Conduct/Rule of Engagement. There were security breaches/clashes in Taraba State till date which has necessitated the deployment of troops in the state. The responses of Nigerian Army troops deployed to forestall these crises were commendable despite daunting challenges. The 20 Battalion operating at Sardauna Local Government Area lacks combat motorcycles. Some of the challenges facing the units operating in Tarana State include terrain, inadequate intelligence, inadequate communication, and manpower problem.
There was verifiable evidence that 2 Nigerian Air Force helicopters with registration numbers NAF 574 and NAF 575 landed in Gembu on 15 March 2018 and 11 April 2018 respectively without the knowledge of the local authority.
“The Nigerian Air Force helicopters and personnel that landed in Gembu area were for the proposed establishment of Nigerian Air Force Base at Gembu. Dairies and other relevant documents pertaining to some major security breaches/clashes were maintained by units operating in the State, however, the units did not document the after-action review.”
The Committee also noted in the report that the clashes in Taraba State are a result of clan and communal crisis that predates the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. It added that while most of the crises in Taraba State are politically motivated, some persons are deliberately escalating the situation for selfish gains.
“With respect to the statement by Lt Gen TY Danjuma (retired), it is clear that the allegations were not true, hence there is a need to urge for caution on the part of the elder statesman, in view of the security implications of such comments,” the Committee said.
The Committee, however, recommended that Army Headquarters should devise a means to be independent in its operation across Nigeria so as to insulate soldiers from the overbearing influence of politicians in government especially with particular reference to the sponsorship of Nigerian Army operations in states.
It also asked Army authorities to address the challenges of manpower, communication and provision of adequate and timely intelligence to support Nigerian Army operations in Taraba as well as the need for multi-stakeholder engagement at all levels to douse tension, beef up the manpower of units, project its civil-military cooperation relationship by creating awareness prior to the provision of people-oriented programmes in the state.
It also asked Defence Headquarters to implore the Services to follow due process in the establishment of any new military location/base in any state.
While commending the Commanding Officer of 93 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel IB Gambari, for his professionalism, the Committee urged the military authorities to impress the need for an after-action review on its commanders in order to improve on future Nigerian Army operations.
It also asked for the education of the political class on the implication of polarizing the military to achieve selfish gains, while asking the Taraba State government to prosecute criminal elements arrested and handed over during the course of Nigerian Army operations.