Army, Police versus civilian clashes

NIGERIANS should be worried at the escalating number of armed confrontations between the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force on the one hand, and non-state actors on the other. On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, there were reports of a massive military attack on Konshisha, a remote village in northern Benue State.

The Nigerian Army had reportedly drafted full force on three communities in the area, killing undisclosed number of people, burning down hundreds of houses and displacing thousands.

This was reportedly a barefaced retaliatory attack on the people of the area after 10 soldiers were killed in what the Nigerian Army described as “an unprovoked attack” by yet-to-be-identified gunmen.

The troops were reported to be on “a peace mission” in the area which is a theatre of frequent conflicts between Tivs and Jukuns as well as armed herdsmen who attack farming communities to take over their lands.

Also, on Friday, April 8, 2021, men of the Aba Area Command of the Nigeria Police reportedly went on a general rampage, attacking members of the public, destroying cars and tricycles apparently in retaliation for the beating of their colleague by some unidentified persons.

Soldiers of the Nigerian Army have been known to take the law into their hands and militarily invade any area where they lose personnel to armed attacks.

We saw this in Odi and Zaki Biam during the Olusegun Obasanjo era and recently in the air strikes on targets in Orlu, Imo State and Ntak Ikot Akpan village in Essien Udim LGA, Akwa Ibom State.

The Police, which have recently come under attacks by hoodlums and the so-called “unknown gunmen”, appear to have also embraced the same act of impunity towards the civilian population.

Armed state actors are increasingly responding to hostility of the public with extra-constitutional, revanchist measures. This is sad and unacceptable.  We insist that the law, not jungle justice, be followed in dealing with all criminality.  Aggression against our uniformed personnel must be thoroughly investigated and culprits brought to book. Jungle justice that targets innocent civilians is barbaric. Enemies of a community might resort to deliberately ambushing soldiers as a strategy to draw military destruction to them.

The major source of public hostility to the armed forces and police is rooted in the growing perception that apart from their extortionate and oppressive posture, they are now being deployed to either condone or even facilitate the settlement of armed herdsmen in indigenous people’s forests and farmlands.

The Federal Government must make greater efforts to debunk this perception by protecting people’s lives and property. These conflicts might develop into full-blown anarchy unless the armed forces and police fully resume their constitutional duties of protecting the people rather than being seen as the agents of their oppression or occupation.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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