By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

The Defence Headquarters has denied alleged rape claims against its Troops fighting bandits in Taraba State.

Leaders of Tiv people in Taraba State, under the aegis of “Tiv Cultural and social Association (TCSA)” accused Nigerian military personnel deployed in Taraba State of raping their wives and daughters, and also destroying their properties in the name of manhunt for bandits in Southern Taraba.

President General of the Association, Chief Goodman Dahida, in an online video/publication, accused the military of raiding Tse Juku and Akinde villages in Donga Local Government Area of the State on the 29th of June 2020 and allegedly killing a family of four during the raid.

Mr Dahida also alleged that the soldiers also “shot and wounded several others, and instead of apologizing for their action of killing a helpless poor family, the military High Command in Abuja addressed a press conference and hailed their men of killing bandits in Taraba State”.

But the military in a statement issued yesterday by Major General John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters, debunked the claims.

The military said that “troops indeed conducted a dawn raid at Rafin Kada in Wukari LGA and Yojaa in Donga LGA of Taraba State on 29 June 2020. For clarification, this dawn raid was on a confirmed bandits’ hideout based on actionable human and technical intelligence on their activities in the general area. This intelligence was gleaned from both military intelligence sources in the field, as well as credible local sources in those same communities, who affirmed the activities of the bandits as it were.

“What Mr Dahida should understand is that troops do not just embark on operations for the mere fun of it, especially when lives are at stake. Before operations are conducted, the Military Intelligence Fusion Cell gathers and effectively processes this pool of information, before emerging with actionable intelligence. This, as such ensures that troops operate with utmost accuracy of information, and consequently know where to go and what to do.

“Again, during the actual operation, the troops came in contact with suspected Tiv militias at Tse Juku village. The armed militias opened fire on sighting the troops who responded with superior firepower thereby neutralizing 4 of them in the process while unconfirmed number escaped with gunshot wounds. Troops also recovered 2 locally made rifles, 55 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 117 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 3 mobile phones, 3 AK 47 magazines, 2 motorcycles, one military shirt uniform, one Peace Corps ID Card belonging to one Mr Anyor Fidelis and some charms.”

DHQ in the statement wondered why TCSA failed to note or acknowledge the fact that the same troops deployed in Taraba State have to a large extent fostered peace in the state, particularly protecting mostly Tiv farmers against marauding armed herdsmen.

“It is therefore an act of mischief and deliberate attempt to discredit the concerted efforts of Nigerian troops in the theatre, as well as tarnish the image of the Nigerian Military.

“Also disheartening is the allegation that troops are “colluding with Jukun militias to exterminate Tiv people”. Clearly, the TCSA’s claim is incredible to say the least, as it makes no sense that the military which has devoted so much resources in terms of manpower and equipment to protect the good people of Taraba State, would at the same time want to “exterminate” these same people.

“As it is, amongst troops operating in Taraba State, are men and women from all ethinic groups in the country, Tiv and Jukun inclusive, who sacrifice their lives , undertaking hazardous and dangerous missions mostly at night, so that the good people of Taraba State can go about their daily activities without fear of intimidation.”

The statement added that “in line with global best practices, the Military High Command will investigate these claims with a view to unraveling the true state of affairs. The TCSA, meanwhile, are enjoined to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims in the public domain.”

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