The army authorities have denied the widespread speculations that soldiers posted to Agatu Local Council of Benue State have killed eight indigenes of the area and set several communities ablaze in retaliation for the killing of one of their men.
Briefing journalists yesterday in Makurdi, the state capital, the Commander, 707 Special Forces Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Clement Apeere, said the army personnel drafted to the area did not act outside their rules of engagement.
Apeere said even as the militia youths in Agatu killed a soldier, injured two others and carted away their arms, the troop that was drafted to the area only conducted a cordon and search operation to apprehend those that committed the act and recover the soldier’s rifle and ammunition that were carted away.
While condemning the killing, Apeere vowed that the military would not rest on its oars until it arrests all those connected with the heinous crime; and would go further to ensure that the Brigade does not relent on its efforts to protect the law-abiding citizens of the state from internal and external aggression.
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom has given the Agatu people 72 hours to produce those that are connected to the killing of one of the soldiers deployed in the area to keep peace.
Ortom, who gave the ultimatum yesterday while lamenting the unfortunate incident and the various weapons recovered from the militia group, further extended the people and state government’s sympathy to the chief of army staff and the commander of 72 Special Forces Battalion over the loss of the soldier.
He said his government would do everything possible within the law to ensure that those involved are sanctioned and maintained that the killing of a soldier and injuring of two others was not what his administration wanted.
Ortom stated that the period of mischief and recklessness ended with the carrot approach of his amnesty programme and noted that with the stick approach of the programme, anyone who has illegal weapons should surrender them or have them recovered by force.
The governor, who appreciated the Nigerian Army and the commander of the battalion for the efforts made towards restoring peace in the area, said that if Agatu youths had surrendered their weapons during the period of the carrot approach of the amnesty programme, the incident that took place would have been avoided.
The Special Adviser on Security, Col. Edwin Jando, who displayed the weapons recovered from a militia group, had told the governor that luck ran out of the youths when they encountered the soldiers as they left a place they celebrated the anniversary of the killing of one of them.