The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Monday inaugurated a panel of inquiry in Abuja to investigate claims by a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), that the armed forces were colluding with herdsmen in Taraba State to perpetuate the killings and destruction of communities.
Buratai, after inaugurating the committee headed by Maj. Gen. John Nimyel (retd.), said Danjuma’s claims “could damage the reputation of the military and could therefore not be ignored.”
The army chief ordered the panel to confirm the truthfulness or otherwise of the allegations.
Danjuma, also a former Minister of Defence, had said on March 24 at the convocation of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, that Nigerians must defend themselves against the killer herdsmen, as the armed forces were not ready to defend them.
“There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and of course, some rural states in Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up. Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements; they cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one. Defend yourselves because you have no other place to go,” Danjuma had said.
The Ministry of Defence on the following day had criticised Danjuma’s statements, saying they were uncalled for and could lead to anarchy in the country.
But Buratai said on Monday that if the army was to earn the trust of Nigerians, there was a need to investigate Danjuma’s claims.
The army chief ordered that the panel must visit all flashpoints in Taraba State and interact with various stakeholders in order to come up with a comprehensive report.
Buratai said, “The actions of the army in recent military operations, particularly in Taraba State, have been criticised by individuals and very senior citizens from the state. Most recently, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), alleged that the Armed Forces collude with armed bandits and other criminal elements. Statements of this nature could damage the reputation of the armed forces and thus cannot be ignored if the army is to continue to earn the trust of the Nigerian populace.
“Thus, it became imperative for the army to set up this panel to confirm the veracity or otherwise of these allegations. You are enjoined to visit all flashpoints and interact with various stakeholders and interest groups in Taraba State in order to come up with a comprehensive report. The task is a burning national issue and you are to treat this assignment with the seriousness it deserves.”