Military denies killing unarmed civilians, taking sides in Plateau crisis

THE military, on Thursday, January 25, denied killing Christians and taking sides in the ongoing ethno-religious clashes in the Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State.

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), in a statement released by its acting director, Defence Information, Tukur Gusau, a brigadier general, stated that the video by the chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Mangu Chapter, Timothy Daluk, was aimed to malign military personnel deployed to address the security challenges in the area.

It further described the accusations made in the video as baseless and untrue and lacking any reasonable foundation.

The ICIR  reported how 15 people were killed in the clash between Muslim and Christian groups in Mangu LGA on Tuesday, January 23.

A source who spoke to The ICIR also accused the military personnel deployed to the area of killing an unarmed civilian in the process, noting that the troop was abetting some Fulanis to burn the houses of Christians despite a 24-hour curfew imposed on the LGA. 

As alleged by the source, the LGA CAN chairman, Daluk, in a video obtained by The ICIR, accused the Nigerian military of overseeing the killings of Christians and destruction of property in the Mangu area.

According to him, the military is suppressing the Christian group, sending them away from their houses for the Muslims to burn their houses.

“At this particular point in time, they have sent every Christian away from the new market, thereby leaving the Muslims to come and burn their houses. They set the curfew. The curfew is only restricted to only people within Mangu – within the Christian domain. Within the Muslim domain, they are free to move and do whatever they want to do.

“And not only that, the military has killed three of our young men of which I know. One is before my church. They killed one yesterday, and I reported to security (officer), and he said it was fake soldiers.

“At first, he said I was lying until I proved to him beyond a reasonable doubt. Then he finally said it was fake soldiers. I said no, it was not fake soldiers; it was a real soldier who killed him. Finally, they made a signal to the soldier, and he disappeared from the scene,” the CAN chairman alleged.

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Meanwhile, reacting to the accusations, the DHQ stressed that the troops of Operation Safe Haven had carried out their duties professionally and by the rules of engagement. 

It also noted that the military had successfully arrested criminals involved in looting and burning of properties, as well as recovered weapons.

“It is deeply disturbing that a religious leader, who is expected to demonstrate high levels of moral judgement and truthfulness, has resorted to spreading falsehoods about the military and its personnel. We want to reiterate that the military remains neutral, focused, professional and committed to its constitutional role of protecting the lives and property of law-abiding citizens. We will deal with anybody found disobeying the law without bias or prejudice.




     

     

    “We therefore call upon the public to support the ongoing military operations aimed at decimating non-state actors operating in these troubled areas of the state. We will not be distracted by baseless accusations and remain steadfast in our commitment to restoring peace and security. We strongly caution individuals involved in making malicious comments against the military to cease from such acts. Henceforth,  any person found spreading falsehoods will face constitutional redress, regardless of their status in society,” the DHQ added.

    Soldiers shot unharmed civilians in Mangu – Local insists

    Speaking to The ICIR on the statement released by the DHQ, which denied the killing of Christians, a source who resides in Amgwan Sarki, a community in the Mangu LGA, explained that he was an eye-witness to one of the killings and harassment by the Nigerian military.

    “The issue we have in this country is very pathetic because, in everything, you want to be on the defensive side – to defend your own personnel. Yes, we agreed there are military personnel who are very professional in their dealings, but whenever the military doesn’t accept or acknowledge that they have bad eggs in them, we will never weed out bad egg soldiers in our system. That’s just the fact because if he had acknowledged that they were still investigating, that’s a different thing, but he categorically denied the killing.

    “He is not in Mangu here, he doesn’t know what’s happening, it’s just information that either his junior sent to him, and he’s acting on that. I am a civilian, and I told you they shot people in my community, and they are military personnel,” the source said.

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    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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