The media is awash with conflicting reports of this unfortunate clash, and it will be mischievous to understand what led to the face-off beyond speculations and propaganda from both parties.
The question some have asked is, why were soldiers killed this way by civilians? Attempting to answer this reveals the institutional lapses that defines this republic.
The Gbagyi communities of Kpaidna, Legbe-dagma, Bambe, Kopa, Lunku in Bosso Local Government Area of Niger State were involved in clashes with Fulani herdsmen, and there was one about three weeks to their clash with the Army. The herdsmen, according to the communities, came armed and taking advantage of their lack of defence system.
These conflicts resulted in the Gbagyi communities pushed into security-consciousness and ready for anther invasion by the herdsmen. The nature of their weapons is what we are yet to determine, but contrary to those presented as theirs by the Army, some members of the communities claimed they were in possessions of locally made handguns which hang on the walls of every village that consider hunting a means.
So, on August 4, at about 1 am, members of Nigeria Armed Forces, drafted from 31 Artillery Brigade and Airforce Base, Minna, went for an operation to recover weapons from the villages, and this tragically went south.
The alarmed villagers suspected the operation as another invasion of the Fulani whom, from my interviews, they claim were “supported by higher authorities” and “given sophisticated weapons” to suppress them.
According to the Defence Headquarters, 11 soldiers were killed that day. But figure of civilians killed, initially given as 8 by the Army, was not credible. Corpses of civilians killed were taken away in military vans and since then the military forces have embarked on extrajudicial killing sprees.
The dilemma some of us are yet to overcome is defending the status of the military as guardians of the nation and the gravity of extrajudicial killings.
What happened in Niger State is yet another evidence of the dysfunctions of our institutions, this time the military institutions. I doubt, knowing the Nigeria Army for its no-nonsense brutality, anyone in his or her right senses would initiate such aggression against them.
What we are missing in this chaos of narratives are the roles of the State Security Service and the Nigeria Police in these unfortunate losses of the lives of our citizens. These agencies have related their primary responsibilities, which include gathering intelligence on internal security, to the Army.
There are many questions to be answered and I hope the judicial commission of inquiry to be tasked with investigating this avoidable clash will go down the roots to show us how we planted this seed of chaos that now consume us.
As we await this reports over which we know nothing will happen, can someone intervene in the extrajudicial killings by the military? I understand that some people don’t know the meaning of “extrajudicial”, which makes them form a perception that advocating that means taking side with the fleeing communities.
It seems the security forces aren’t listening to the Deputy Governor in the absence of his principal, and this is disturbing!