Authorities of Operation Safe Haven, the Special Task Force in Jos have debunked allegations that troops turned a blind eye when herdsmen attacked villages in Bassa LGA, killing people and burning houses because they didn’t have Orders to respond.
“It is practically impossible to issue out orders to troops and for them not to respond to any distress situation aimed at saving the lives and property of law abiding citizens considering that they are drawn from all the security agencies, cutting across ethnic, religious divides and under oath to maintain peace and security in the nation”, it said.
The Paramount ruler of Irigwe ethnic nationality in Plateau State, The Bra Ngwe Irigwe, Rt Rev Ronku Aka, had alleged that soldiers watched as his people were killed by suspected herdsmen during a recent invasion of Bassa Local Government Area.
He told the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation led by Rev Gideon Para-Mallam and other officials of the non-governmental organization on a sympathy visit to his palace in Miango that the soldiers deployed in the area said they could not defend the helpless victims because there was no instruction that they should do so.
However, a statement by Major Ishaku Gaji Takwa, Military Information Officer titled ‘Re: Allegation on Troops Not Responding to Prevent Attacks in Plateau Untrue’ denied.
It said, “The attention of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) has been drawn to a publication, where it was alleged that troops of OPSH told residents that they had no instruction to repel invaders during attacks on some communities in Bassa LGA.
“This allegation is not only false and baseless but a malicious and futile attempt to once again malign the good work troops of OPSH have been doing to restore normalcy to troubled areas in line with its operational mandate.
“It is pertinent to note that OPSH is committed to safeguarding lives and property in line with global best practices of adhering to rules of engagement (ROE), standard operating procedure (SOP) and respect for fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
“For the records, OPSH deploys in a joint operations involving all security agencies whose mandate is to bring lasting peace on the Plateau and environs.
“It is practically impossible to issue out orders to troops and for them not to respond to any distress situation aimed at saving the lives and property of law abiding citizens considering that they are drawn from all the security agencies, cutting across ethnic, religious divides and under oath to maintain peace and security in the nation.
“Therefore, the submission that troops have not been given permission to protect communities is not only false but wicked as the mandate of OPSH is explicitly clear on what should be done in an event of such unfortunate situation in line with the SOP.
“However, it would be appreciated if anyone has information that would help identify personnel that is alleged to have given such excuse as to not given orders to respond to distress calls.
“It is also important to stress that prior to deployment, troops are adequately briefed on their expectations for operations in realization of OPSH mandate.
“Currently, the Commander OPSH has ordered the beefing up of security and increased patrols to safeguard all troubled areas to prevent recurrence of such sad incidents.
“All law abiding citizens are therefore enjoined to cooperate with the security agencies by providing credible information that would aid the security agencies in performing their duties.
“The good people of Bassa and environs are once again urged to use the phone numbers distributed by OPSH to report activities of suspicious elements in their domain for prompt response.”
Earlier the Monarch had lamented the tragedy that befell his people in the Bassa Local Government Area following the recent invasion of their communities by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen.
According to the monarch, some security operatives who were deployed in the communities during the attacks told the residents they had no instruction to repel the invaders.
The monarch stated this when the President of the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, Rev Gideon Para-Mallam, led other officials of the non-governmental organization on a sympathy visit to his palace in Miango.
The group had earlier taken relief materials to internally displaced persons on Friday
The traditional ruler said the destruction that took place in his kingdom had further exposed the handicap of the governors and the council chairmen as chief security officers in their respective areas of jurisdiction in the country
Aku said, “I don’t blame the local government chairman in Bassa or the governor of the state over the calamity that has befallen my people.
“At peace meetings, the governor will give order but the security men will go and do a different thing.
“During the recent attacks in my communities, the soldiers and other security operatives were around. As the invaders were carrying out the attacks in Jebu Miango and advancing to other communities we expected them to confront the invaders and stop the destruction going on but that did not happen.
“When I enquired what was happening, some soldiers cried to me that they did not receive the order to repel the attackers on the communities.
“Some of them who expressed frustration over the situation wondered the essence of holding guns which they could not use and left the scene while the attackers continued with their destruction in the communities.
“If the security agents were deployed and allowed to do their job, may be, the attackers would not have succeeded with their evil plans and my people would not be suffering what they are experiencing at the moment.
“But we don’t want more deaths in the communities. I have told my people not to retaliate what was done to them but we need justice going forward.”
The President, Gideon & Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, Para-Mallam, while condemning the incident, said the violence in the communities must not be allowed to continue.
He called on the government to double its efforts towards protecting citizens’ lives and property.
Gunmen last week invaded over 10 communities in the Bassa Local Government Area and set over 400 houses on fire.
Over 40 people were said to have been killed during the attacks which also left several people injured with 22,000 others displaced.