Benue state communities have narrated before a Presidential panel of inquiry alleged human rights violation by the Nigerian military.
The Presidential panel of inquiry on alleged human rights violation by the Nigerian Military commenced sitting on Monday with gory tales from the Moon Valley Communities in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State how soldiers aided herdsmen to kill residents of Benue state.
According to Tribune, the victims narrated how the entire population of about 30,000 people was allegedly sacked by the military.
Represented by their counsel, Mike Utsaha, the community told the panel that while 28 people were killed in the attack, a total of 91 compound and properties were destroyed.
The Community submitted that the attack was carried out by the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Takum, Taraba State.
The report is contained in an 18- page memorandum submitted to the panel. The communities narrated how they have been killed and displaced by the combined team of Soldiers of the Nigerian Army from the 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State and herdsmen on their ancestral lands.
Testifying before the panel, the First Petitioners Witness (PW1), Jacob Kwaghkper, a retired Deputy Director with the National Commission for Colleges of Education stated that since 2015 up to June 2017, the five communities that made up of the Moon Valley have been subjected to intense, sustained and co-ordinate attacks on them by soldiers from the 93 Battalion and herdsmen leading to the death of 28 people.
He told the panel that the herdsmen with the active support of the Soldiers of the Nigerian Army, from the 93 Battalion Takum, are in effective occupation of the ancestral lands of the five communities.
“The Soldiers are even providing security for the herdsmen who are occupying the ancestral lands of the communities. The displaced people of the communities who escaped from the series of sustained attacks have become refuges in Cameroon and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) taking shelter in various places in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, under the watchful eyes of both the federal and state government without any format of assistance,” the witness lamented
Another witness, Agbo Utah, narrated how his compound was burnt down by herdsmen with the support of Soldiers.
He further narrated how he was beaten, arrested and detained for a week with other elderly men from the communities by Soldiers who came and disrupted the Local Government election in 1998. The displaced communities are asking the panel for the immediate restoration of their ancestral lands with adequate compensation.
They want all places of worships, schools and markets burnt/ destroyed as a result of the brutal attacks by Soldiers of the 93 Battalion, Nigerian Army, Takum, Tarawa State, and Fulani herdsmen be rebuilt on their original sites.
Earlier in his address at the commencement of public sitting, Chairman of the panel, Justice Georgewill said the panel was a unique opportunity for all those who have genuine and verifiable cases of alleged human rights abuses by the Armed Forces in the course of managing and containing local conflicts and insurgencies to submit their memorandum.
He disclosed that his panel will hold public hearings in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country on selected dates and centers.
Other members of the panel are; Major-General Patrick Akem; Mr Wale Fapohunda; Mrs Hauwa Ibrahim; Mr Jibrin Ibrahim;Mr. Abba Ambudashi Ibrahim;Mrs. Ifeoma Nwakama; and Dr Fatima Alkali who is counsel to the Panel.
The panel was inaugurated by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to review extant rules of engagement applicable to the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto.