As the controversy surrounding the missing Maj Gen Alkali (retired) rages, ACHOR ABIMAJE (Jos) in this piece presents the intrigues behind the search by the military and the violation of the fundamental human rights of the people of the community
Recently over 500 women protested in Dura Du community of Jos South local government area of Plateau State to protect their ancestral pond from being desecrated by an invading soldiers in that name of searching for a missing Army general.
The women’s action which later turned violent was predicated on their belief that any attempt by the soldiers to disturb the peace of the pond could spell doom for the community.
On Monday September 3 2018, Nigerians woke up to the unheard of news that a retired Major General in the Nigerian Army, Major General Mohammed Alkali (Rtd), was missing. The news was not only shocking, but sent jitters down the spines of many. The reason? If a major General could be missing, possibly kidnapped, what is the fate of the ordinary Nigerian? Another dent on the security situation in Nigeria.
So it was when military investigations pointed to the possibility of the missing general being killed and dumped in the mystery pond in Dura Du community that the soldiers decided to expand their search operation to the pond.
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation revealed that major General Alkali retired from service as the Chief of Administration, Nigerian Army Headquarters, and few weeks later was declared missing.
It was further learnt that the retired general was said to be travelling from Abuja to Bauchi, and somewhere around Jos his family lost contact with him.
However, some women in the community, dressed in black and some half naked, began a violent protest against the military, leading to series of clashes as the women threw stones at the military personnel while others dared them to shoot and even attempted to wrestle weapons from their hands.
The women said their anger was that the military has put a siege on their community since they suspected that the General was in the pond, and again that their people have been repeatedly killed without the military doing anything to protect them.
But their major reason for protesting the search by the military was their superstitious belief that the pond must not be disturbed in any way because it will lead to calamity for them, including mysterious deaths and other misfortunes.
Mary Yakubu, who spoke on behalf of the women said since the days of their forefathers no one has tampered with the water and that it was a taboo to tamper with the water because their husbands and children will die mysteriously.
She said they haven’t known peace since the military suspected that their General was thrown into the pond with his car, saying that they have been harassed, threatened and even shot at.
Reacting, on the search and rescue, officer in charge of the operation, Brigadier General, Ibrahim Mohammed, said they had it on credible intelligence that General Alkali got missing in that area and that the army headquarters had mandated and directed them to carry out a search and rescue operation.
Brigadier Mohammed said no amount of protest by the women or any superstitious belief about the pond will stop them from the operation, saying that they had earlier informed the community of the operation before commencing.
“In an effort to search for the missing Major General, Idris Alkali, a lot of things were done, and all the hospitals in Jos were toured and checked,” the Army officer said.
“Besides, we have checked all the accident vehicles places. Based on credible intelligence, we now had to come to this community in the last one week. We are trying to find three things. One is General Alkali who is declared missing. We are here also looking for his vehicle which is a black Corolla vehicle and we want to find out if he is alive or not.
“Again, we have credible information that some vehicles were actually pushed into this pond. We have been here for the last three days trying to see if we can salvage anything from the pond. The pond is a mining site and is deep. You can see that we have a crane, and we have used all kinds of methods and as the last resort, we have decided that we are going to evacuate the water from the pond to see what is underneath.
“Early this morning, I came here and actually saw a group of women numbering over 500 all dressed in black and they insisted that we are not going to evacuate the water and we asked them why and they said this is the water they use to drink.
“I am aware that there are other water points numbering more than 30 of this type that are much cleaner than this one in this environment. But surprisingly, the women began throwing stones at my troops.
“There was even an instance where one of the ladies was confident enough to try to wrestle a weapon from a soldier. And what these women are saying is that we will not evacuate this water. But we have told them that it is an order which we must obey.”
He said soldiers have been stationed there and would try to provide protection to the community and other communities in the state, adding that the protesting women were being instigated from some quarters.
Addressing newsmen, shortly after recovering Maj. General Alkali’s vehicle, a black Toyota Corolla car and some of his belonging and two others, Maj Gen Johnson Agundu, the STF commander said the joint operation would pull out the remaining vehicles in the pond one after the other.
The commander said the possibility of finding other things in the pond could not be ruled out adding that, “there are probabilities that there are things under the water.
“The army under the directive of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, is determined to uncover the mysteries in the pond and we would carry out the assignment effectively.
“There are no rumours, the local divers have informed us that there are other cars in the pond, and we would pull them all out.”
Speaking also, Major General Benson Akinruluyo said though the army experienced technical challenges in the course of the operation, they had persevered and eventually made progress.
Akinruluyo called on the communities around the pond not to entertain fear of a military onslaught, saying the military would carry out its job professionally and according to international best practices.
He however urged them to cooperate with security agencies and give the necessary information so that the perpetrators of the criminal act would be brought to justice.
Apart from recovering of vehicles from the pond, it was alleged that on Thursday morning 19 dead bodies has been recovered from the pond, our correspondent reliable gathered.
The fear the people of the community came to limelight on Wednesday as report said unconfirmed number of people were arrested by military personnel and taken to the Maxwell Kobe Cantonment, Rukuba Barrack, Jos, Plateau State.
Local sources say dozens of military personnel stormed the remote community at daybreak, arresting anyone in sight including women and children.
The soldiers forced their subjects to surrender and board a military truck wherein they were stripped naked and taken to detention, it was learnt.
Confirming the arrests, deputy director, Army Public Relations, 3 Armoured Division, Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, said the army is on a mission to find the missing Major General Idris Alkali (rtd) whose vehicle was recovered from a pond near the community after days of search by the army authorities.
“The general area of Dura-Du district in Jos South local government area of Plateau State has been cordon off,” the army spokesperson said in a text message.
“The aim is to search for the missing Major General Idris Alkali (rtd) dead or alive.”
The arrest has created palpable fear in and around the community of a possible massacre as once witnessed in Zaki Biam, Benue State and Odi in Rivers State.
The army authorities had however said last week that it was not considering any such actions.
Similarly Kaneng Rwang Pam, a mainstream and citizen journalist said there’s a worrisome military-on-civilian harassment situation along the Dwei-Latiya axis.
She confirmed that her a nine-month pregnant step sister, Noroh, was picked up along with dozens of residents and taken to an unknown destination by military personnel.
“The pickup of Noroh who’s Expected Date of Delivery was last week, is a violation of the pillars of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 which insists on the protection of women in conflict situations,” Kaneng Rwang Pam said.
She lamented the hurling of a heavily pregnant woman into a military van as a suspect in a murder case purely based on allegation is very unfortunate and should be condemned by any peace loving citizens of this country.
It was also confirmed that another car with plate number, Bauchi-AG 645 TRR has been recovered from the mining pond in Dura Du community of Jos South local government council by the military making it the third car found in the pond.
According to Rachel Noah, media officer, Stefanos Foundation, a non- governmental organisation in a statement made available to newsmen in Jos said as a result, the soldiers blocked people around Buken Academy in Doi, telling people to switch off their phones.
The statement further said in Latya, residents of the community said their area has been cordoned off adding that they have been restricted to their homes as the soldiers are making street arrests and moving from house to house in search of males, any man found was taken out and flogged by the soldiers.
Another report says Berom men and teenage boys in Lapwongit, in Dura are also being stripped naked and flogged by the military in the name of trying to find those that killed the late General.
The statement alleged that soldiers have been ordered to level the community for the alleged killing of the retired general.
“This has become of great concern as the military seem to put so much energy in apprehending a whole community for crime they might be innocent of while killings in many communities are still going on with no single arrest,” the statement said.
“Just yesterday, Tanjol in Jos, Riyom LGA came under heavy attack, leading to the death of over 13 persons and many injured. One would wonder why the security would not respond to such situation, rather, focus on punishing a whole community on a crime they may know nothing about.”
Meanwhile, the Plateau Peace and Justice Forum has called for restraint and to allow the law to take its course.
According to Jonah Bot Pam, President of the forum while addressing newsmen in Jos said, they have been following with keen interest the search for Major General Idris Alkali (retired) since he was first declared missing under baffling circumstances.
He said in the course of this distressing search, the forum has noted the efforts of the Nigerian Army and the commitment of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who has not relented in the commitment to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of General Alkali.
The forum further noted that it is in this regard that they note the numerous contradictions by one Idris Ahmed of Citizens United for Peace and Security (CUPS) sowing seeds of discord on his Facebook page in his attempt to instigate a crisis between the Nigerian Army and the people of Plateau State.
Pam pointed out that the alarm they are raising about this individual is not unfounded adding that the forum is beginning to see what they fear in the comments reacting to Idris Ahmed’s Facebook posts noting that the comments clearly showed that he is continuing with his objective of instigating the people against the Army and the Army against the people while things have further taken a bad turn with the Berom ethnic nationality in Plateau State becoming the target of hate speech.
According to them, Ahmed should allow the Nigerian Army to do its job without instigating strife and unnecessary apprehensions in the land.
“The full investigation that has been commissioned should be allowed to run its course undistracted,” the forum said. “We support the investigation and the Army’s quest to unravel the truth. The Army began its investigation long before Idris Ahmed’s contradictions and peddling of falsehood began.”
The forum then called on citizens of Plateau State, home and abroad, to be wary of those that are instigating them to violence adding that this is a time to allow the relevant agencies do their work.
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