Where Buratai got it wrong By Zakari Emmanuel

It is now clear that the Nigerian Army has never really perceived and wished to treat the killings in several parts of the country by militia groups as anything serious. So it was wrong, in the first place, for anyone to have expected its soldiers to take any serious steps to stop the killings. They simply showed no commitment to the task they were assigned and are not even remorseful about all the wrongs they did everywhere they were deployed to.
The latest confirmation of this unserious attitude to the crisis is the army’s so-called investigation conducted into the allegation of military collusion in the crises made by General TY Danjuma (retd). The respected ex-chief of army staff had said during the convocation ceremony of Taraba State University, Jalingo, that the army had not only proved incapable of stopping the killings but was openly colluding with the killer herdsmen to hurt innocent people.
The statement was a huge indictment on the army’s reputation. General Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, admitted that much and that was why Nigerians were happy when he announced soon after that the army would investigate the allegation. At that time, nobody suspected that his motive was to use the so-called investigation panel to absolve the army of wrong doing and throw rubbish at the door-steps of the Taraba State Governor, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku. Now the army has proved to the public how good it could be in making a monumental joke out of a matter of life and death.
The report which the army gleefully celebrated was a one-sided blame document intended to get the public to accept that its men deployed to stop the killings by herdsmen in Taraba and all the other states in the axis of their bloody aggression did a perfect job. Rather the report only singled out the Governor of Taraba state for blame. And his offence, according to the report of the panel, was that he did not cooperate with the soldiers. Whatever that means!
It was obvious from the outset that army never really intended to do any serious probing of the allegations against its men. Otherwise, Buratai should have disqualified himself from being the one to set up the investigation team. The reason is that it is impossible for the panel he personally constituted to indict the army which he presently heads as chief of staff except, of course, if members of the panel are saints. And, we all know that none of them is a saint. An indictment of Buratai’s soldiers is also indirectly an indictment of the chief of army staff.
If the army wants the public to believe that it did a good job in preventing the killings, let it roll out the statistics of arrests of the killer herdsmen it made in those killings fields of Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Adamawa, Plateau and Kogi states or during its so-called Operation Ayem Akpatuma in Benue and Taraba. In a country where over 14,000 lives have been lost to killings in the first four months of 2018, the most provocative thing to do is for the army which was trusted with the responsibility of halting those killings to set up a panel to, by some kind of “arrangee” understanding, absolve the army of any blame whatsoever. In case the army does not know, nobody is deceived by this so verdict of “not guilty” which the report has delivered in its favour. The Nigerian public is more knowledgeable and wiser than the army probably knows.
The lapses in the report of the panel are numerous. Why, for example, did it fail to acknowledge the series of letters that Governor Ishaku wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief of Army Staff, Defence Minister, Inspector-General of Police and Director-General of DSS on the security situation in Taraba state, all of which were ignored. And the governor is the chief security officer of the state. Is this not evidence of collusion on the part of the security agencies? Does this portray the army and other security agencies as sincere in halting the killings which the letters were drawing attention to?
If the intention was not to deceive the public, a serious and dispassionate approach ought to have been adopted in the investigation of Danjuma’s allegations against the army. The involvement of the military in the investigation should have been minimal. It should have been headed by a judicial officer either serving or retired. There was no involvement of an independent body in the assessment of the panel’s findings. That’s where Buratai goofed.
That is also the reason I support Taraba State Government’s condemnation and dismissal of the report as biased and unfair. This exercise must be repeated. The right thing should be done. The army should not constitute the panel.
The new panel should comprise all stakeholders – security agencies, human rights activists and representatives of the states targeted by the herdsmen. The panel should conduct public hearings and nobody who has evidence to offer should be denied the opportunity to do so.
Buratai got it wrong by assuming that whatever verdict his panel returned would be acceptable to the public. This one has been rejected.

Emmanuel writes from Jalingo, Taraba state

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