Men in uniform massacre villagers
By Chief Charles O. Okereke, Nigeria Masterweb
Reports reaching our news desk confirmed the massacre of many men in at least four villages in Benue State on Monday. These villages include Gbeji, Vaase, Anyin and Iorja. Our sources have it that men in army uniforms invaded these villages with about eight Armoured Personnel Carriers, summoned residents for a meeting at the village square. The men that showed up for the meeting were rounded up and executed. There were conflicting reports of the total number of men killed, some sources put it at several dozens, while others put it at over hundred. The massacre was apparently a revenge for the killing of nineteen soldiers in the same area on October 12, this year. The murdered soldiers were sent to quell violence between two rival tribes, the Tivs and Jukuns. The Monday massacre came the same day the fallen soldiers were given a state burial with full military honours.
The villages are reported deserted. Refugees are reportedly streaming out of the affected areas to Makurdi. They bring with them tales of horror, vandalism, and the rule of jungle justice. Summary executions, looting, shooting/burning of victims and homes, are reportedly the order of the day. It has not been confirmed yet if the men in uniform are legitimate soldiers on official duty, or a mutinous contingent. The government is yet to make an official report on the incident.
It would be recalled that it was the 1966 pogrom against people of the eastern region, that in principle led to the civil war. Civilians and men in uniform massacred and purged easterners from the north. In the turbulence that followed, the east on May 30, 1967, seceded as an independent state of Biafra, under the leadership of Col. Ojukwu . Ojukwu later during the course of the war rose to the rank of General. The federal government of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon(Gowon later became a General during the war) declared war on Biafra, shortly after her declaration of independence. In the civil war that followed, at least one million people died. The war ended in 1970 with the defeat of Biafra.
There were several cases of soldiers massacring civilians during and immediately after the war. The most prominent of them occurred in Asaba, Owerri and Ameke-Item. Testifying at the just concluded Oputa panel, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Two Division of the Army during the civil war, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Haruna said he had no regret for the massacre in which Igbo men were killed by his troops. He was quoted with this statement, "As the commanding officer and leader of the troops that massacred 500 men in Asaba, I have no apology for those massacred in Asaba, Owerri and Ameke-Item. I acted as a soldier maintaining the peace and unity of Nigeria."
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