The Nigerian army has denied that its troops attacked and destroyed houses in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue state.
The military organisation, through Major Olabisi Olalekan Ayeni, the assistant director of army public relations, 707 Special Forces brigade, explained how its men even tried to save the situation despite the fact that the gunmen killed a member of its troops.
“The attention of the Headquarters 707 Special Forces (SF) brigade, Makurdi, has been drawn to media reports alleging that soldiers have invaded communities and burnt down houses in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area (LGA), of Benue state.
“This is not true, as none of our troops was involved in any unlawful act of invading any community. Therefore such stories should be dismissed as false and untrue.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there was an incidence of reported armed robbery at Agirigi community in Katsina-Ala LGA of Benue state on Monday 18th December 2017, where a discharged soldier travelling from Lagos to Katsina-Ala ran into unidentified suspected gunmen that fired at his vehicle and killed him.
“Troops on Joint Task Force Operations Zyenda immediately moved to the scene of the incident. Unfortunately, the assailants absconded before the troops’ arrival,” the statement said.
It said the body was recovered and moved to Markurdi, the state capital and that patrols were also immediately intensified in the area of the incident with a view to arresting the suspects, ensuring normalcy, restoration of law and order and to also giving confidence to the locals to pursue their daily activities without fear.
However, the statement said in the early hours of December 18, 2017, there was an intelligence report that some people dressed in military uniforms were burning houses in the general area of the incident.
It stated that by the time the troops arrived, nobody was seen in the area, but it was suspected that the same armed men returned to attack the community probably assuming the locals gave the security agencies information on their location.
“Unfortunately, there have been allegations from various sources of media that Nigerian army troops were involved in this terrible act.
“This allegation is baseless and most unfounded as our soldiers have been conducting themselves professionally in line with established rules of engagement and code of conduct for troops.
“Therefore, we wish to reiterate that this assertion is completely untrue and targeted at tarnishing the image of the Nigerian army amongst the citizens who have over the years developed strong confidence and trust in the Nigerian army.
“We wish to state that it was not the troops of the Nigerian army that were involved in the alleged arson; such uncivilized act is against the ethics of the Nigerian army.
“It is our constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and properties of the civil populace and ensure peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians. Our troops are trained to ensure this without fear or favour.
“We therefore wish to assure the locals of Agirigi community and Benue state in general that Nigerian Army troops are on ground to protect them, their lives and properties.
“They should therefore have trust and confidence in the Nigerian army,” the statement added.