Army com­man­ders tes­tify be­fore panel, present video ev­i­dence

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By Cle­ment A. Oloyede

Two Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cers of the 93 Bat­tal­ion of the Nige­rian Army ac­cused by Moon valley pe­ti­tion­ers of tak­ing sides with Jukuns in sev­eral Tiv-Jukun crises yes­ter­day gave tes­ti­monies to ex­tri­cate the Army of par­tial­ity.

The cur­rent CO of the bat­tal­ion, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Gam­bari and an As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor of Re­search at the De­fence Head­quar­ters, Col. Nsikak Edet, who com­manded the bat­tal­ion from 2012 to 2014, ap­peared be­fore the Sir Jus­tice Bio­bele A. Ge­orgewill-led sev­en­man Pres­i­den­tial panel of in­ves­ti­ga­tion to re­view com­pli­ance of the armed forces with hu­man rights obli­ga­tions and rules of en­gage­ment.

Led in ev­i­dence by the Army’s coun­sel, Og­beni Bi­ola Oye­banji, Gam­bari said the pe­ti­tion writ­ten by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Moon valley com­mu­nity was not true, adding that the tes­ti­mony of the pe­ti­tioner that a gun be­long­ing to the Army was found with a dy­ing Fu­lani man was also not true.

He said based on re­ports of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties like kid­nap­ping and cat­tle rustling, he sent four of­fi­cers and 60 sol­diers to a place called Join Wa­ters, a bound­ary be­tween Nige­ria and Cameroon.

“When they got to a vil­lage where they saw a de­com­posed corpse, they searched the vil­lage and dis­cov­ered it was empty but with in­di­ca­tions that peo­ple were liv­ing there,” he said.

Gam­bari said the of­fi­cer that led the troops, Lt. H.B. Aminu, de­cided to com­mence with­drawal and sent 3 of­fi­cers and 59 sol­diers to Kashim­billa of about 3hours away from the vil­lage to go and get a ve­hi­cle to con­vey the corpse, adding that he ob­served in his re­port that the of­fi­cer made a tac­ti­cal er­ror with this de­ci­sion.

“Un­know­ingly, about 30 peo­ple dressed in Army cam­ou­flage and armed with AK 47 were hid­ing and ob­serv­ing the move­ments of the troop. About an hour af­ter the sol­diers left for Kashim­billa, the at­tack­ers opened fire on Lt. Aminu and the sol­dier left be­hind with him.

“In the course of run­ning, the sol­dier aban­doned the Gen­eral Pur­pose Ma­chine Gun (GPMG) which is a big­ger gun weigh­ing more than 16kg with­out am­mu­ni­tions and nor­mally han­dled by two per­son­nel. The armed men took the gun,” he said.

He said when Lt. Aminu re­turned and told him of the at­tack, he led a team to search for the sol­dier and re­cover the gun. He said, “We saw the sol­dier and went back to search for the GPMG and couldn’t find it un­der the grass the sol­dier said he hid it while run­ning.”

Un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion by the pe­ti­tioner’s coun­sel, Bar­ris­ter Mike Ut­saha, the wit­ness said the de­ploy­ment of the GPMG was the only time he has ever had to de­ploy the gun for an oper­a­tion and that the de­ploy­ment was based on the threat anal­y­sis car­ried out be­fore the op­er­a­tions.

The sec­ond wit­ness, Col. Edet also de­nied the al­le­ga­tion that the 93 bat­tal­ion was par­tial in the area. He also de­nied the al­le­ga­tion that he was trans­ferred be­cause of high­hand­ed­ness on his part.

“I served for the ex­act two years ex­pected of a CO be­fore I was trans­ferred and I was thor­ough and pro­fes­sional,” he said.

The Army also pre­sented two video clips from Gam­bari and Nsikak show­ing the meet­ings for peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion or­ga­nized for the war­ring com­mu­ni­ties by the two COs.

The panel af­ter tak­ing the two wit­nesses ad­journed fur­ther hear­ing on the pe­ti­tion to Oc­to­ber 23rd when the panel would re­turn to Abuja af­ter sit­tings in other geopo­lit­i­cal zones.

The panel will con­tinue to­day with an­other mem­o­ran­dum against the Nige­rian Army be­fore head­ing to Maiduguri on Sun­day for the North-East zone sit­tings.

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