By Tom Okpe
The House of Representatives has summoned the Chief of Defence Staff, (CDS) Lucky Irabor and the Chief of Army Staff, (COAS) Farouk Yahaya to appear before it over assault on a member of the House of Representatives, Kpam Sokpo in Benue State.
The House said men of 401 Special Forces Brigade of the Nigeria Army forcefully attacked residents of Gboko and guests of Old Barn Hotel.
Irabor and Yahaya are to explain the circumstances behind the unprovoked attack and why these military officers did not carry proper identification or inform the civilians about their mission.
They are to tell the House, military’s rules of engagement during election monitoring and other engagements with the civilian population, especially considering the extrajudicial killing of two young men in Gboko by the same 401 Special Forces Brigade on March 18, 2023 for alleged ballot snatching.
The military chiefs are to further brief the House about actions currently taken by military authorities to investigate the unprovoked assault on residents of Gboko, including Sokpo, member representing Buruku Federal Constituency of Benue State and the shooting to death of two persons in Gboko, on the same day.
The House equally urged the Chiefs of Defence, and Army, to commence a comprehensive investigation of the incident, ensuring that evidence obtained from civilian witnesses, with view to identifying the soldiers that were responsible for this mayhem.
These resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Mark Gbillah, Labour Party, Benue at plenary on Wednesday.
Moving the motion, the lawmaker noted that the operational use of the Armed Forces in Nigeria is for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order in accordance with Section 8 (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap.
A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The lawmaker expressed concern over worsening spate of military and police brutality, extra-judicial killings by security operatives on civilians and unarmed Nigerians.
He further expressed worry over the unfortunate incidence of Saturday, March 18, 2023 at Old Barn Hotel, Gboko in Benue State, where at about 2:30 am, men of the 401 Division of the Nigerian Army viciously assaulted and brutalized several persons and guests.
The House is concerned that these military men, numbering over 20 stormed the hotel in Nigerian Army trucks and dressed in military uniforms but without identifiers such as nametags, any form of personal identity or ranks.
“Disturbed that the military men ordered all persons within view to move, gather in groups and squat on the ground without explanation.
“Also worried that in the course of obeying the Army Officers’ commands, one of the soldiers accosted the House member and slapped him.
“Also disturbed that despite introducing himself as a serving member of the House of Representatives, the soldier rather poured more invectives on the member and ordered his subordinates to slap him and in an attempt to defend himself from the unprovoked assault, about 20 soldiers pounced on him and others with guns and brutally, assaulted them.
“This resulted to serious injuries on his head, face, shoulders, chest, back, both arms, and legs,” Gbillah recounted.
The lawmaker said the same team of soldiers were allegedly responsible for the extrajudicial killings of at least two persons in Gboko in two separate instances on the same day.
He said the House is disturbed that since the attack, several media outlets particularly, Leadership Sunday, The Sunday Sun, Daily Trust and Vanguard Newspapers of Sunday, 19th March 2023 were awash with defamatory reports and images falsely linking the assault on Rep Sokpo to Electoral violence.
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“Desirous of the need to re-enforce its statutory role of ensuring the security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government.”
Adopting the motion, the acting speaker, Idris Wase condemned the assault on Old Barn Hotel, Gboko and its guests by men of the Nigerian Army, mandating the Committee on Army to ensure compliance with the prayers and report to the House within two weeks.
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