By Braxton Ilobah
The Middle Belt Journalists Forum (MBJF) has condemned the recent attack on some communities in Benue State by soldiers purportedly in retaliation to the killing of their colleagues.
According to a statement on Monday by the President of the Forum, Jonathan Ipaa and National Secretary, Mrs. Oikeke Igado Kure; a team of Journalists who undertook a tour of Adoka, Agidi, Agune, Awajir, Bonta, Gbinde, Guleya, Gungul and Ullam in Konshisha and Gwer East Local Government Areas of Benue State reported that these communities have been reduced to inhuman status by the Army High Command in their search for the killers of the soldiers.
“We all agree that it is wrong to attack and kill soldiers in the line of duty. However, the same sanctity must always be accorded to civilian lives, whose tax is spent on the training, retraining, salaries and equipment of these soldiers.”
“The Middle Belt Journalists Forum, therefore, condemns the rolling out of disproportionate military arsenal, tank, mortar, artillery and air fire against unarmed citizens, and the subsequent bombardment, levelling, burning, killing and displacement of the helpless and hapless civilian population in Adoka, Agidi, Agune, Awajir, Bonta, Gbinde, Guleya, Gungul and Ullam in Konshisha and Gwer East Local Governments under whatever guise.”
“We agree that any criminal should be punished but Collective Punishment and Disproportionate Use of Force by any standard are crimes anywhere in the world, irrespective of who is involved and who is the victim.”
“The military has carried out this brutal acts against our communities for the offence of their alleged members thus undermining that collective punishment is a war crime.”
The Forum said “we will continue to condemn the uncivilized practice of the Military to level down communities in revenge for the killing of their personnel.”
“In the case of this Benue communities, the military actions have grossly undermined the consitutional role of the DSS, DIA, SCID who are trained to do discreet investigation to unravel whatever crime committed and effect arrest and prosecute perpetrators accordingly.”
“We must not allow subverting the rule of law in trying to get justice, return us to a “might is right” primitive and brutish state and abdicate due process to jungle justice.”
“We will hold the military responsible for the burning, maiming and destruction of lives and properties including placed of worship, business premises, residential houses, vehicles and massive foodstuff.”
The journalists have therefore, called on the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the of Chief of Army Staff to, as a matter of urgency, constitute a high powered Panel/Board of Inquiry to Investigate.
‘We also call on the Federal and State Governments to make the necessary arrangements to avoid the humanitarian disaster that is looming as a result of the unnecessary displacement of the teeming population of women, children and the aged, and the massive destruction of foodstuff by the Army for the purpose of starving this vulnerable population.”
“The MBJF commiserates with the affected communities on this unfortunate calamity the Nigerian Army has once again foisted on them.”