The Nigeria Army in Takum, Taraba State says it has arrested nine members of a Civilian Joint Task Force over alleged possession of five AK 47 rifles.
The Spokesperson of the 13 Brigade, Captain Kayode Owolabi, disclosed this in a statement issued on Wednesday in Calabar, Cross River State.
According to Owolabi, the suspects were arrested by troops of 93 Battalion deployed to Arufu, a border town between Taraba and Benue States.
He said: “Troops from the 93 Battalion on Monday January 8 disarmed and arrested nine members of an armed militia known as civilian JTF in Taraba with five AK 47 rifles.
“Before their arrest, reinforcement of Civilian JTF came to prevent the troops from arresting and transporting the suspects to 93 Battalion Headquarters.
“During preliminary investigation, the suspects claimed that the weapons were issued to them by the Benue State Government. They also confirmed that they were 60 in number in their camp located in Pegie.
“Additionally, they revealed that the Benue State Government pay them the sum of N60,000 monthly. They further revealed that they were trained by ex-service men and they were brought together from all the localities in Benue State.”
Owolabi said the suspects were now helping the Army in its investigation before they would be handed over to the police for prosecution.
He said that the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Ismaila Isa, had warned that no criminal under any guise would be spared.
He thanked the public for providing timely and useful information that led to the arrest of the suspects, assuring that the Nigerian Army would continue to collaborate with other security agencies to ensure a peaceful and secure society.
However, in its reaction, the Benue State Government denied the claim.
“We wish to state categorically that the Benue State Government under Governor Samuel Ortom has not recruited any militia group and armed them since the Governor assumed office,’’ Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, said on Tuesday in Makurdi.
Akase said in a statement that the governor was widely recognised for his disarmament policy which brought the amnesty programme leading to the recovery of about 700 arms and ammunition with over 800 youths laying down their weapons to embrace the programme across the State.
He said: “It is also on record that the present administration inherited the State Civilian Joint Task Force from the previous government but later proscribed it.”
He said following the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in the state last year, the government set up Livestock Guards to help in implementation of the law.
Akase said: “The Livestock Guards are not armed personnel. Their job is to ensure compliance with the regulation of ranches establishment and prohibition of open grazing of animals in the State.
“The Benue State Government believes in the use of conventional security agencies to protect the people. Even in the face of renewed killing of innocent people by herdsmen in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas, Governor Ortom did not let the people resort to self-help. The Governor acted swiftly to get the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the deployment of more troops to troubled parts of the State.”