Witnesses testify to Army, Jukun, Fulani displacement of Tiv people
The Presidential Investigative Panel on Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement, inaugurated on August 11, 2017 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, began sitting in Abuja yesterday.
The panel opened proceedings with two witnesses from Moon Valley Community in Kwande local council of Benue State in its sitting at Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Maitama High Court, which will hold from September 11-15, 2017.
The seven-man panel, led by Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill of the Appeal Court, will in its five-day sitting for the North-Central Zone, investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws under the 1999 Constitution.
It will also investigate alleged violations under the Geneva Convention Act, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.
Amnesty International had alleged that the military infringed on human rights and called on the Nigerian government to investigate nine senior military officials for potential individual and command responsibility.
These included evidences of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.Osinbajo had during the panel’s inauguration in August, said the allegations leveled against the armed forces and other security agencies should not go unaddressed to safeguard Nigeria’s good image.
The predominantly Tiv community had had a long history of communal clashes with its neighboring Kashinbilla Community inhabited by the Jukun tribe over land border issues as far back as 1998. Both communities share boundary between Benue and Taraba states.
The first witness- Jacob Kwaghkper, said he was the representative of the victims of Moon Valley Community.They had petitioned the Chief Of Army Staff (COAS), the House of Representatives and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in May 2013 over alleged human rights violations by the Nigerian Army, specifically its 93 Battalion in Takum, Taraba State.
He told the panel that the 93 Battalion had a unit at Kashinbilla Community that bounded Moon Valley Community in Benue, adding that the 93 Battalion positioned the unit there as a result of the constant clashes between the communities.
While being led in examination by counsel, Mike Utsaha, he told the panel that the Nigerian Army, which was expected to act as a mediator in the skirmishes, regularly took sides with the Jukun.
“On February 3, 2014 the Nigerian Army 93 Battalion in Takum in Taraba State attacked the Moon Valley Community and drove us out of our ancestral home. As we appear before you, indigenes of Moon have been displaced in Tiv land.
The second witness, Abo Utah, told the panel that he was beaten and dragged on the ground by the military troops when he asked questions about where they had taken his younger sister and his brother’s wife.
He added that he was taken in a vehicle with others to the military base in Takum, put in a guard room and was released on bail after being charged to a Magistrate Court in Takum for ‘making trouble’ at Moon Valley.