An operation to find the killers of 11 soldiers in Benue State should not become an operation against innocent people. Shangev Tiev, in Konshisha local government area, has become unsafe for those unconnected with the killings. The bodies of the soldiers, including an Army Captain, had been found in the area after they were declared missing.
Leader of Tiv Professionals Group (TPG) Prof. Zacharys Gundu said soldiers had taken over St. Lucy Catholic Church, Awajir, Benue State, and were using it as a base. “Why take over a Catholic church and conduct Islamic prayers therein while denying members of the congregation from worshipping in their local church?” he wondered.
Also, he said the army had destroyed houses in Gwer East local government area, “which has nothing to do with the crisis and is about 100 Km from the crisis zone.”
According to a report, no fewer than 10 settlements in Shangevtiev had been reduced to rubble, including Bonta, Tse-Jembe ,Tse-Anyom, Gbinde, Aku, Gungul, Asoka, Guleya and Shiliki.
“Many locals, who lost their houses to the destruction, were seen walking long distances to look for shelter,” a report said. It continued: “Among them were women carrying babies. Some of them said their houses were burnt after a military gunship flew over, raining bullets on the villages.”
The story of 53-year-old Uganda Ugo who said he and his wife, and their two children, had trekked for three miles to get away from Agidi after it was razed, is touching. “I don’t know where I am running to but just for my safety and that of my family,” he was quoted as saying.
In his response, Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Muhammad Yerima said: “We are not killing anybody, all we are doing is searching for the people that killed the soldiers and we will find the people. Whoever said we are killing people and destroying properties is telling lies.”
Who is lying? The army sadly lost its men who were killed in the area. But it must go about the mission to apprehend the killers with a sense of responsibility and restraint. A wild and indiscriminate operation to get the killers, and recover the weapons they took from the killed soldiers, is unjust and unjustifiable.
The innocent locals facing the army’s reprisal instinct should not be made to pay for a crime they did not commit. The army should realise that there are innocent people who shouldn’t be punished.
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