26th September, 2018
The Chief of Defence Staff
PETITION AGAINST THE UNGUIDED STATEMENTS AND THREATS TO LIFE BY MAJOR GENERAL AUGUSTINE AGUNDU, THE COMMANDER, SPECIAL TASK FORCE (STF), OPERATION SAFE HAVEN (OPSH) JOS, PLATEAU STATE.
We the registered Berom Organizations; Berom Educational and Cultural Organization (BECO Berom Women Development Association (BEWDA), and the Berom Youth Moulders Association (BYM), hereby forward to you in very strong terms a petition against the unguided statements and threats to life made by Major General Augustine Agundu who, is the new Commander of the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven in Jos.
The said Commander, Major General Augustine Agundu reported to duty sometimes in July 2018, replacing Major General Anthony Atolagbe. The general events of June 22nd to 24th 2018 are still very fresh in our minds to be recounted. The massacre of over 240 hapless, peaceful, active and productive sons, daughters, men, women and the aged of our community and indeed other indigenous communities is still wrecking our hearts with pain and trepidation. Over 40,000 of our people (and indeed other ethnic groups) are still in the IDP camps scattered all over locations in the Plateau North and Central Senatorial Districts.
As you are indeed all aware what started in 2001 during the Jos crises, soon spread to other parts of Plateau State with devastating consequences. And although the crises had ebbed in many parts of the State. In the Northern Senatorial zone of Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bassa and Jos South LGAs, the spade of wanton killings, cattle rustling, destruction of food crops, farms and other properties has intensified since the last year 2017. In fact, these are ongoing as we write this petition.
The massacre of June 2018 had necessitated the coming of the Vice President and also the President of the Federal Republic to condole with the Berom and indeed the whole State. As we write, no perpetrators of these heinous acts has been convicted and prosecuted. This background is necessary to provide a clearer picture of what has happened in recent weeks and days. The gloomy and dark clouds of conspiracy and plans to exterminate the Beroms and other ethnics from their ancestral and God given lands are still loomy heavy even with the presence of STF and OPSH for over a decade.
Let us narrate the unguided statements and threats made by the Commander of the STF OPSH; Major General Augustine Agundu.
Precisely on the 19th September 2018, the Ag. District Head of Du obliged the Commander’s request for a meeting at the STF OPSH Headquarters. The Traditional Ruler attended the meeting with eight other community leaders under his jurisdiction. The Commander during the meeting commanded the District Head to produce within 24 hours the killers of one Army General purported to have been killed within his jurisdiction (Du District Community).
The Ag. District Head’s attempts to respond to the matching order but was vehemently rebuffed by the Commander. He went further to say that failure to bring the killers, the Ag. District Head would be arrested and wasted away to replace the missing Army General. He then categorically labelled the Berom Traditional Institutions and the Religious Leaders as Terrorists on the Plateau, responsible for the killings that have been going on for the past 18 years. He further threatened worse consequences for the Berom in the event that the killers of the General were not brought forward.
The Commander then left the meeting angrily as he walked out. The Du Community had since written a report to the State Commissioner of Police on these statements and threats.
Few days after the said meeting, the OPSH had mobilised its men and equipment to drain a pond at Dura village of Du District on the allegations that the alleged missing General’s body and vehicle were dumped inside. The Army have driven all the residents of the Dura Community away from their homes account of its harassment, intimidation and continued further threats.
We take serious exceptions to the allegations of killing an Army General (Major General MI Alkali RTD). We do not know of the circumstances of his disappearance or purported death. As other people, we have read in the media, various theories alluded to his disappearance. Even the Army in a press statement by one Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu gave various narrations. Other media commentators, for example one Dr. Idris Ahmed of CUPS has blamed the Army for the disappearance of the General in question.
We are very concerned on the threats to life of our Ag. District Head of Du, on alleged crimes he knows nothing about.
The blame on, and labelling of the Berom Traditional Institutions and Religious Leaders as terrorists and killers is totally refuted. Government Commissions of Inquiries and Investigation Panels Reports on the crises in Plateau State and specifically Jos and environs are evidently clear on the causes and perpetrators of this violent conflicts. The Berom live in their ancestral lands and are victims of deliberate and systematic pogrom to displace them.
The OPSH has shown not to be neutral, objective and professional in handling the conflicts and killings so wantonly visited on the Berom. We have had cause to complain in the past and offered concrete evidences of the Army’s biases and unprofessional conduct. This has been reaffirmed by the unguided statements and threats of Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu, Commander of the STF OPSH, Jos.
On Sunday, 26th August 2018, people in Army uniforms went to Lopamdyet community in Du District around 5pm, mingled among the unsuspecting members of the community only to return around 8pm to open gunfire on the helpless citizens killing 15 people and wounding 11 others whom are currently receiving treatment for various degrees of injuries in Hospitals at the expenses of family members and community support. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of this dastardly and wicked attacks have not been found by the security agencies, even where there exist an Army check point a few kilometres from the location.
Berom-land, hosting the state capital and the headquarters of few Local Government Areas has become a truly cosmopolitan area, with people from other parts of the country living within it. The killings have not spared other ethnic groups and reactions are spontaneous involving all communities. We have strongly condemned the blockage of roads, killings of innocent people by rampaging youths when the Berom and others are wantonly killed as revenge. This is on record.
We have cooperated and still cooperate with government and NGOs working hard to find amicable resolutions of the conflicts and violence being perpetrated on us as a community and people.
We have lost confidence in the Commander of the STF OPSH, Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu’s capacity to be fair, neutral and level headed and to ensure justice to our people and therefore demands that he be replaced immediately.
The STF OPSH Commander, Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu should be held responsible if any untoward actions done in our community, the Ag. District Head of Du, or any member of the community.
We cannot accept any responsibility for any findings as outcomes of the OPSH activities in draining a pond at Dura since our people were not represented in the exercise but were rather subjected to intense harassment and intimidation to the extent of forcing them to abandon their homes.
We demand justice for members of our communities killed in the various acts of wanton pogrom including Lopamdyet community in Du District.
We demand that the government should be responsible for the hospital bills of all injured persons and to fully rehabilitate them.
Our people demand their constitutional rights for protection of their fundamental human rights and for security.
The human rights provisions of the constitution come to play under the rules of internal conflicts by prohibiting unnecessary suffering and enforcing humane treatment in all military objectives. This promotes the equality of all citizens and enforces the dignity of all and sundry. Kidnaping, genocide, sexual violence, enslavement, collective punishment and forced mass movement of civilians are prohibited under rule 56 of the recently revised Nigerian Army rules of engagement.
It further provides rules that will protect our Dams and Electrical Generating stations during conflicts thereby protecting economic rights (Rule 88), the rules also provides for the protection of cultural property thereby protecting cultural rights (Rule 87) including environmental rights (Rule 89).
The Rules of Engagement for peace building operations (Rules 91 – 100) are very impressive as they regulate the ethics and good conduct of members of the Nigerian military and in the same vein promote the image and reputation of the Nigerian Army as they engage outside the country on special operations like in UN peace keeping missions and ECOMOG and other peace keeping operations. These rules and regulations have to be adhered even in internal peace keeping operations.
We make bold to say that the unprofessional conduct of Major General Augustine Agundu, the STF OPSH Commander in Plateau State and the present military action in Dura Du defies all of these rules of the Nigerian military engagement and must be halted immediately.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters.
Da Davou Choji Davou , Ngwo Florence B. Jambol, Rws Choji C. Dalyop
Gen. Secretary, BECO. President, BEWDA. President, BYM
The President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Commander, Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven (OPHS), Plateau State.
The Commissioner of Police, Plateau State.
The Director State Services, Plateau State.
The Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission.
The Gbong Gwom Jos, Chairman Plateau State Council of Chiefs and Emirs.
The President, Plateau Initiative for the Development and Advancement of the Natives(PIDAN).
Human Rights Watch