Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Human Right Probe Panel: Victim Says Soldiers Collaborating with Herdsmen To Attack Them.

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Presidential Probe panel set-up by Then Acting President Osinbajo to investigate human Right violations during Armed forces operations in the troubled north eastern part of the country, held its inaugural sitting in Abuja, with Benue inhabitants show-casing how soldiers were collaborating with rampaging herdsmen to attack their habitats

This came as the chairman of the probe panel, Justice Biobele Georgewill, said the proceeding will provide a unique opportunity to those that have genuine and verifiable cases of human rights abuses by the Armed Forces, in the course of managing and containing local conflicts and insurgencies, to submit their memoranda. He said the panel will hold a public hearing in each of the six geo-political zones of the country on selected dates and centre’s.

 It will be recalled that the panel, which was constituted by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, while he was the Acting President, was tasked to, among other things, “review compliance of the forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement, especially in the local conflict and insurgency situations.”

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 File: And elderly woman stands outside her house on May 5, 2016 where nomadic Fulani herdsman attacked the village. Ongoing clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farming communities in Nigeria’s middle belt and southeast states have accounted for the death and displacement of many people. Shortly after Justice Georgewill, Chairman of the seven-man panel, declared the sitting open, inhabitants of Moon Valley settlements in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State took turns to narrate their experience. They narrated how about 30,000 persons were sacked by the military from their abode. Represented by their lawyer, Mr. Mike Utsaha, the community told the panel that while 28 persons were killed in the attack, 91 compounds and property were destroyed.

 According to the community, the attack was carried out by the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Takum, Taraba State. The community, through an 18-page memorandum submitted to the panel, stated how following intense and sustained attacks from 2013 to 2015, they were massacred and displaced from their ancestral land by the combined team of soldiers and herdsmen.

 Witness’ account In his testimony, the first petitioners’ witness, Mr. Jacob Kwaghkper, who is a retired Deputy Director with the National Commission for Colleges of Education, told the panel that from 2015 to June 2017, five communities that make up the Moon Valley were subjected to intense, sustained and coordinated attacks 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 soldiers, were still occupying ancestral lands of the five communities. Lamenting before the panel, Kwaghkper said: “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 refugees 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 form of assistance.

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