The Taraba State Government and the Jukun Development Association of Nigeria (JDAN) have rejected the “no guilty” verdict of the Gen. John Nimyel’s panel, which investigated Gen. T.Y. Danjuma’s allegations of criminal acts of collusion by the army in the killings of innocent people in the state.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu, the government said it was baffled on why the panel would return a verdict of not guilty to the army, when military’s “atrocious activities” were documented and known within and outside the shores of Nigeria.
The government described the report as an extension of the army’s bias, which “it exhibited and has continued to exhibit over the crises”.
It said with the verdict, the army has proved once again the appropriateness of the popular axiom that one cannot and should not sit in judgment in a case in which it is also the accused.
“The army under General Tukur Buratai, lacks the courage, capacity and fair mindedness to do what is right to protect victims of the herdsmen massacres committed not only in Taraba State but also in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Zamfara and Kogi states,” the statement said.
It said the verdict of not guilty did not surprise the people because they had watched in awe as the soldiers, who were meant to preserve lives and quell the marauding killings of the herdsmen, had looked the other way when the killings took place.
“We in Taraba State and all other Nigerians who have followed the Army’s shocking acts of looking the other way while the massacres raged in these parts of the country are not surprised by the verdict of ‘not guilty’, which the army panel returned in favour of the army. The case of the Army’s culpability in the killings is very widely known and acknowledged within and outside the shores of this country. It is on record that even Amnesty International had reason to condemn the Army’s lukewarm attitude to the killings in the past.
“The Army and other security agencies did not only fail to stop the killings anywhere and everywhere its soldiers were deployed, they deliberately promoted it by looking the other way so that the killers could have unhindered access to their unarmed and helpless victims.”
JDAN, at a news conference in Ikoyi, Lagos, yesterday denounced the report and demanded the setting up of an independent judicial panel of enquiry to conduct an unbiased investigation into the allegations of military complicity in the killings.
Its National President, Chief Bako Benjamin, had said the panel’s report, falls far short of expectations and can at best be described as a shoddy job fit for the waste bin.
He lamented that rather than give hope of justice to the families of the innocent farmers and other villagers hacked down by the herdsmen, the Army merely engaged in “empty rhetoric” of setting up of panels to cleanse themselves of wrong doings, a practice, for which he said, they are becoming notorious for.
According to him, the Nigerian Army yet again missed another opportunity to cleanse itself of allegations of gross abuse levelled against them by Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma and human rights organisations, including Amnesty International (AI).
“The Nigerian Army panel did a very poor and unprofessional job and wasted the opportunity to scribble their names in gold. The report is unacceptable to Jukun people and therefore it is hereby rejected in its entirety,” he said.
He wondered why the principal characters (Fulani herdsmen) accused of precipitating the crisis that gave birth to Gen. Danjuma’s allegations were never mentioned in the report.
The panel, he stated, almost completely avoided the main subject of the matter, which were the attacks and killing of farmers and innocent villagers, but was addressing porous borders and past misunderstandings between brothers in a deliberate attempt to stir up tempers and portray Jukuns as historically troublesome.
“It is also curious that the panel deliberately refused to use a single material out of the hundreds of documented paper works, audio and video recordings of witnesses, community leaders and youth groups with shocking and gruesome evidences of ethnic cleansing and genocide in more than 20 villages across southern Taraba,” he said.