Benue crisis: There’s intrusion of criminals on both sides - Buratai
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, recently toured crisisridden areas of Benue State. Concerned about the terrain, which poses major challenges to troops, he assured in this interview that the Nigerian Army is already building confidence in the people who fled their homes to return. He also posited that criminal elements are involved in the killings in the state, from the locals to armed herders. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: What is your assessment of the areas that you have visited?
One very important thing that I discovered was that the troops are well-positioned and are performing their duties excellently, and they have already given the people the confidence for them to know that there is security and they can go back to their homes. We are also increasing more troops to cover the area. You know, that place is sort of where three states converge together, they have a common boundary that is Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba. So, it’s very important for us to look at it and see how we can further reinforce the troops.
Mobility on the water is also very critical, which we are also looking into. Already, there is a planning committee on the ground from the Defence Headquarters who are working on this and there are a lot of boats that have been brought in for deployment.
Overall security will depend on a number of factors: Everyone is coming to play his role, especially the state and we the security agencies, the local governments have their role, also, to play in the provision of roads, provision of social amenities. They are quite fundamental, so we hope they will look at it critically and see how they can improve the terrain in terms of movement, in the provision of roads. You saw how difficult it was when it rained for us to come out. I think something should be done by the state and local governments.
Also, certain policies or certain laws need to be repealed or reviewed to give everybody a sense of belonging. I think that is very fundamental and if it is done, it will help us a lot to ward off some of these insecurities. But one point is that there is intrusion by criminals on both the side of the herders,
and that of the locals. We shouldn’t give them that chance to cause disharmony because the insecurity challenge we have on hand is enough. But by and large, security is everybody’s responsibility. DT: What would you say is the major challenge of securing these communities?
Like I said, mobility in relation to additional troops that we intend to deploy to provide security and restore confidence in the locals, is important. The most important thing is that they should support the military in terms of provision of information that will help us in flushing out the bandits, or criminal elements that are operating within the environment. DT: What should be the effort of the state government to support the military?
There is need for more local government roads, more state government roads, to be constructed, apart from what the federal government is doing. It is very important that this issue is looked into, so that we will be able to move rapidly or respond swiftly whenever there are security challenges in the area.
DT: There is controversy over the arrest of the Commandant of the Benue State Livestock Guard, Alh. Aliyu Teshaku. What’s your take on the issue?
Investigation is still on, and if we find anybody directly involved in any criminal activity, definitely, he will be arrested accordingly. It is an investigation, an arrest has been made by the appropriate agencies, as well as any other group that is involved. If an investigation has any connection with them, we will definitely get across to the appropriate agencies to make the arrest. So, it is an investigation based on intelligence.
If we have concrete intelligence on any other group, rest assured that we will take appropriate action. What we are doing now is focusing on criminal elements who are on the ground, causing havoc.
Lt.-Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai, Chief of Army Staff