Apr. 7, 2014
By Peregrino Brimah
Barely 24 hours after the Nigerian military deployed troops to the volatile middle belt, Benue and Nasarawa states, an attack on a Fulani settlement near Keana, Nasarawa state left up to thirty Fulani dead on Thursday, April 3rd.
It is important we follow the chronology of the events carefully in investigating the true nature of the nation’s current state of security.
The Vanguard in its Thursday article captioned, “50 killed as soldiers battle Fulani insurgents in Nasarawa,” reported of this “military” mission as follows: “success was Thursday recorded as troops killed over 50 Fulani insurgents in Keana local government area of Nasarawa state in a gun duel.”
The dailies reported of this “successful mission,” that “sophisticated weapons were recovered by the military.” DailyTrust described it as involving 10 military trucks and four Armoured Personnel Carriers.
The military assault was said to have followed “a tip-off about their hideouts in Tse-Azer and Maraba Giza area of the state,” the Punch further stated.
A further ‘validation’ of the purpose of the attack was given by a resident according to the papers. Resident said: “This part of the state has received and seen strange Fulani faces more than any time in the history of our existence in Keana and its environs. We wonder where they came from because they are not the normal Fulani that we know. Most of them don’t even have cows and one continues to wonder what their work is in this state.”
But within the report in the Punch of April 4th, in a quote from Channels TV, by Friday, the true nature of the attack had started to be questioned. The Channels TV report and Punch report were on April 4th, after what really transpired began to be questioned.
Channels Tv of April 4th stated: “Nigeria’s military authorities have said that they have not received any report of killings by its troops operating in Nasarawa State… The military spokesperson, Major-General Chris Olukolade has, however, promised that investigations will be carried out to ascertain if those who carried out the attack are actually military soldiers.”
All the while, from April 3rd, PremiumTimes in their account of the same incident, had called it an extrajudicial military deadly engagement as reported by locals. PremiumTimes said: “The soldiers stormed the Fulani settlements about a kilometre away from Keana Town in the early hours of Thursday in a convoy, and allegedly shot at every Fulani in sight.
Most of the deceased were said to be over 70 years old who were not fast enough to flee the rampage.”
The report as with another report on the DailyTrust on April 4th, stated that Muhammed Husseini, the secretary of Miyetti Allah was fuming over the murder of innocent Fulani settlers and was threatening to sue the government for this massacre of at least 30 people.
By April 5th, Ynaija reported that the Nasarawa state governor, Tanko Al Makura was outraged about the Thursday massacre, declaring at the palace of His Royal Highness the Osana of Keana, Emmanuel Elayo, that the action of the military was “uncalled for,” and that “the casualties killed were not insurgents.”
Governor Al Makura went on to say: “The Fulani herdsmen were gathered in a funeral ceremony of one of their elders when the soldiers invaded them and started shooting and killing them in just about a hundred meters away from the town. They were crying and wailing that they were mourning the death of their elderly man, but the soldiers would not hear but shot nine of them at the spot and later killed six men within the neighbourhood… But what we are hearing is that they were insurgents. They could not have been insurgents because every citizen here including the Ardo who is the leader of the Fulani settlement here is a member of Keana. The Ardo is one of the members of the community-based peace committee who has participated actively in the reconciliation between the Tiv and Fulani herdsmen in the state.”
Following the complaint of the Governor, Nigeria’s military on Aril 6th denied knowledge of the attack at Keana. According to the NigerianPilot, Director of Defense Information, Major General Chris Olukolade said: “At the moment, we cannot say we know anything about what happened, until the matter is fully investigated and the true picture of what actually happened is gotten…
Let’s be sure of the narration of the people who are recounting what happened, the matter will be thoroughly investigated by the military, I can assure you that. The point, however, is that, the incident is certainly not in line with the pattern of our operations, it s not in consonance with our modus operandi. But we will investigate it, know what happened and how come.
At the moment we certainly cannot say we know anything about it unless it qualifies as a gathering of an armed gang. But those on ground should be able to give us an insight.”
It is understood that this troubling incident is being investigated. Errors and extra-judicial accidents do occur, however not every extra-judicial incident is an accident and if indeed this was a careless act of the military, the additional issue of the military either denying it or actually not knowing that certain units drafted to the zone made such a deadly blunder, further complicates the crises and necessitates a most austere and punctilious investigation and review of the nation’s security apparatus.
The reports as appreciated from this thread exposes possible ‘intent’ to expel Fulani settlers. Without criticizing or diminishing the needs of community restructuring and re-settlements; it is pertinent that the nation’s security agents are not pulled into any existing wars by either side. It should not be possible that persons with ‘invested’ interests in various aspects of a conflict simply invite the military as ‘mercenaries,’ possibly by giving false information and the military marches to their orders and exterminates villagers without confirming the validity of the information and working first with the true authorities in the local community.
Again, a recent audio interview on the Hausa channel of the Voice of America, VOA, in which a purported soldier gave account of terrorist conspiring-subterfuge in the military at Borno, raises questions about the possibility of frank and treacherous sabotage within and to all possible levels of the Nigerian defense department. The governor of Adamawa state, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) has made serious allegations of top level involvement in the terror crises plaguing the nation, as high as within the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). It is important for the military to reassert itself and allay the fears of the people. There needs to be total confidence and trust in the security services. The Nasarawa incident does not really do much good toward this end.
If indeed these military dressed attackers who this time attacked a Fulani village are the same routinely alleged ‘Fulani herdsmen,’ their attack of their own village raises questions on the true identity of the unknown soldiers ‘Fulani herdsmen’ marauders who have been implicated in recent attacks across the country. Would herdsmen attack their own village? How many groups are operating in broad day light with convoys and dressed in military camouflage, killing all in sight and burning down the towns, across north Nigeria? The Keana attack occurred at 8.30 in the morning in the full light of day.
It is also peculiar that the military uniform wearing, shoot all in sight and burn all in broad day light, sometimes with the aid of choppers, strategy of the frequently accused Fulani marauders, matches perfectly with the same equipment, attire and strategy of the so-called Boko Haram terrorists in the north east.
There are indeed several questions to be asked and much to be one to secure the communities with the military being agents of positive stabilization.
As was complained by the governor of Nasarawa state, if indeed this was a military error, it occurred due to a lack of communication with the locals. Governor Al Makura said: “the military operation could have been better coordinated if they had liaised with the community before carrying out the attack.”
As Nigeria’s national security services become more engaged in several regional battles running concurrently in multiple locations, the risk of errors from soldiers drafted not knowing friend from foe becomes exaggerated.
A regional structure that establishes local control of security apparatus’ is one essential method of providing security without inflaming or complicating local situations. The Civilian JTF operating in Borno have been a quintessential part of the success in the war against Boko Haram; however these youth who use sticks and batons risk their lives unduly without being able to exert the full potential of locals—if properly armed—in solving their regional terror crises.
Now, more than ever, as more sophisticated weapons flow freely into the country—especially leading up to the 2015 intended elections—and as the government fails to portray the wherewithal and capacity to contain increasing terror crises in the north and oil bunkering, kidnapping, high-sea piracy and oil pipeline sabotage and pollution in the south, the need for state police is more pressing than ever before.
The responsibility and blame for securing environs must move from Abuja to the state governments and regional governors if such are established. The Abuja central government and Abuja centered ONSA does not seem capable of holding.
With the current spate of unabating, deadly genocidal events, with losses of livelihood and millions in property damage across Nigeria, there is a call for the entire nation to be declared under a state of emergency. There is also the urgent need for restraint from all affected citizens and communities and for all to support of the nation’s men in uniform.