Alleged Killing, Raping in Taraba: Our Troops only Engaged Militias not Civilians -Defence Headquarters

1. The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to a trending video/article published on an online news platform wherein some self-styled “leaders of Tiv people in Taraba State” under the aegis of “Tiv Cultural and social Association (TCSA)” accused Nigerian military personnel deployed in Taraba State of raping their wives and daughters, and also destroying their properties in the name of manhunt for bandits in Southern Taraba.

2. During their press briefing, the “President General” of the Association, Chief Goodman Dahida, accused the military of raiding Tse Juku and Akinde villages in Donga Local Government Area of the State on the 29th of June 2020 and allegedly killing a family of four during the raid. Mr Dahida also alleged that the soldiers also “shot and wounded several others, and instead of apologizing for their action of killing a helpless poor family, the military High Command in Abuja addressed a press conference and hailed their men of killing bandits in Taraba State”.

3. He equally claimed that “This is not the first time the military is carrying out this kind of shoddy job in our area, last month, the Special Force deployed to Gbishe in the neighbouring Benue State carried out a raid on Gberifan Village in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, three houses were destroyed in the attack and three persons arrested”. He further alleged that, “At the same instances, we received complaints of military raping people’s wives and daughters at gun points”, amongst other claims.

4. While the DHQ would rather not join issues with Mr Dahida and the TCSA, it is however pertinent to state the facts so as to set the records straight.

5. For the records, First, troops indeed conducted a dawn raid at Rafin Kada in Wukari LGA and Yojaa in Donga LGA of Taraba State on 29 June 2020. For clarification, this dawn raid was on a confirmed bandits’ hideout based on actionable human and technical intelligence on their activities in the general area. This intelligence was gleaned from both military intelligence sources in the field, as well as credible local sources in those same communities, who affirmed the activities of the bandits as it were. What Mr Dahida should understand is that troops do not just embark on operations for the mere fun of it, especially when lives are at stake. Before operations are conducted, the Military Intelligence Fusion Cell gathers and effectively processes this pool of information, before emerging with actionable intelligence. This, as such ensures that troops operate with utmost accuracy of information, and consequently know where to go and what to do. Again, during the actual operation, the troops came in contact with suspected Tiv militias at Tse Juku village. The armed militias opened fire on sighting the troops who responded with superior firepower thereby neutralizing 4 of them in the process while unconfirmed number escaped with gunshot wounds. Troops also recovered 2 locally made rifles, 55 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 117 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 3 mobile phones, 3 AK 47 magazines, 2 motorcycles, one military shirt uniform, one Peace Corps ID Card belonging to one Mr Anyor Fidelis and some charms. When one considers that Nigerian soldiers engaged and neutralized 4 bandits and recovered the above-mentioned items from them, it is difficult to see or understand what “innocent civilian families” would be doing in the midst of armed bandits, as claimed by the TCSA.

6. Secondly, the DHQ wonders why TCSA failed to note or acknowledge the fact that these same troops deployed in Taraba State have to a large extent fostered peace in the state, particularly protecting mostly Tiv farmers against marauding armed herdsmen. It is therefore an act of mischief and deliberate attempt to discredit the concerted efforts of Nigerian troops in the theatre, as well as tarnish the image of the Nigerian Military.

7. Also disheartening is the allegation that troops are “colluding with Jukun militias to exterminate Tiv people”. Clearly, the TCSA’s claim is incredible to say the least, as it makes no sense that the military which has devoted so much resources in terms of manpower and equipment to protect the good people of Taraba State, would at the same time want to “exterminate” these same people.

8. As it is, amongst troops operating in Taraba State, are men and women from all ethinic groups in the country, Tiv and Jukun inclusive, who sacrifice their lives , undertaking hazardous and dangerous missions mostly at night, so that the good people of Taraba State can go about their daily activities without fear of intimidation. As such, rather than commend the troops for their diligence, sacrifices and commitment to fostering peace in Taraba state, it is most unfortunate to hear the TCSA disregard these sacrifices and efforts for cheap publicity.

9. Without any doubt, troops have left no stone unturned in the effort to foster peace between various ethnic groups, notably the Tiv and Jukun whose communal clashes are well-documented in the public domain. These efforts are evident in the routine meetings and engagements organized by troops to bring peace to the troubled areas. This shows that the military has nothing against the Tiv people or any other ethnic group.

10. For all intents and purposes, it is not be noted that that Armed Forces of Nigeria have a mandate to go after armed bandits, herdsmen, militias, and all other criminal elements, be they Tiv, Jukun or from any other ethnic group for that matter. Troops are strictly guided by Rules of Engagement (ROE) . This is in addition to the International Laws of Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law, amongst other constitutional provisions which guide the conduct of our troops in any engagement. It is therefore mischievous to suggest that soldiers are “raping their wives and daughters, and also destroying their properties in the name of manhunt for bandits in Southern Taraba”.

11. However, in line with global best practices, the Military High Command will investigate these claims with a view to unraveling the true state of affairs. The TCSA, meanwhile, are enjoined to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims in the public domain.

JOHN ENENCHE
Major General
Coordinator
Defence Media Operations
Defence Headquarters
3 July 2020.