NGO Express Misgiving Over Ex Ayem A Kpatuma
From Msughshima Andrew, Makurdi
As the Nigerian Army begins Ex Ayem A Kpatume in Benue state, a Non Governmental Organization, NGO, Benue Valley Initiative (BeVIN) has expressed misgivings about the exercise.
BeVIN is established to project, protect, preserve and sustain the overall interest of the Indigenous People of the Benue Valley.
Recall that on the 7th of February, 2018, the Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Army, Major General D.D. Ahmadu announced on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General T.Y. Buratai, the planned conduct of Exercise Ayem A Kpatuma covering Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger States.
Speaking to journalists in Makurdi on the on going exercise, through their Chairman, Terhemen Oscar Aorabee, Esq. the organization said they commend wholeheartedly and with great expectations the decision of the Federal Government to set up the Exercise.
They also acknowledged the fact that it is within the constitutional responsibilities of the military to intervene and assist in Internal Security Operations where the Police is incapable or has failed to maintain law and order.
“We also welcome the decision by the Nigerian Army to assist in humanitarian services which is what most civilized Military do in times of great crises like the present case. However, we still have our well founded misgivings about the Exercise Ayem a Kpatuma”, BeVIN chairman said.
Enumerating the Organization’s misgivings, Barr. Aorabee who was flanked by his Secretary, Daniel Orshi Ayoh and other members said while they would love the Exercise Ayem A Kpatuma to succeed, the prejudicial posturing, antecedents and body language of the principal operators of the security apparatus of the Federal Government, especially the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Minister of Defence in their respective outings concerning the killings in Benue and Nasarawa States has given room to entertain fears and misgivings about the real intention behind the deployment of troops.
“Firstly, we are left to wonder why the Nigerian Army decided to announce the commencement of the exercise ten days before hand, as well as the timeline within which the exercise would be concluded.
“The pertinent question begging for an answer is this: Was such announcement made to give enough room for the Fulani armed militia to inflict maximum damages within the 10-day window and leave, then prepare to return at the end of the 44 days and continue the carnage within the Benue Valley?
“Secondly, the mandate of raids, Cordon and Search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force, does not appear to include the flushing out of the armed Fulani militia from the farms and homesteads from where they have displaced the predominantly Tiv farmers and occupied, so that the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) can return to their ancestral lands and continue with their farming activities”.
They stressed the fact that thousands of lives and property worth billions of Naira have been lost to the armed herdsmen and Fulani militia in Benue State in the past few years with no meaningful arrests rather a handful of persons arrested by the Nigerian Police have been set free.
They also recalled that in Gboko recently, hundreds of innocent Benue people were swiftly rounded up and clamped into detention and are still languishing there while the leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and MACBAN who owned up to the genocide in Benue State are walking the street as freemen.
BeVIN insisted that the indices of the success of Exercise Ayem A Kpatuma must necessarily include the arrest and prosecution of all the principal actors in the genocidal killings in the Benue Valley.
In the light of the foregoing, the organization therefore demand that Exercise Ayem A Kpatuma should not be limited to raids, Cordon and Search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force within the towns and Tiv villages and the recovery of illegal arms in circulation.
They urged that the exercise be extended to the flushing out of armed Fulani militia and herdsmen to allow farmers to return to their ancestral lands and farms to continue their farming activities sayung “We will not count Exercise Ayem A Kpatuma as a success unless and until the displaced persons in the various IDPs camps are successfully returned to their places.
The military must observe human rights specifically:
“Avoid rape of our women as it was reported in similar operations by the military, avoid the subjection of law abiding citizens to extrajudicial killings, torture, harassment and intimidation, should not embark on extrajudicial killings of civilian populations in the Benue Valley among others.
They called on the National Human Rights Commission and other International agencies like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Committee of the Red Cross to keep an eagle eye on the Exercise to prevent the Nigerian Army from violating the rights of Benue people.
The also want them to ensure the army keeps to the Rules of Engagement in Internal Security Operation and where infractions occur, the documentation of such infractions for the purpose of bringing those involved to book be ensured.