Army commanders testify before panel, present video evidence
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.