• Sunday, April 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

How the military killed my innocent uncle in Mangu, leaving Yusuf as amputee – Datom

Chatham-House declaration, forked tongues and our security catastrophe

…Family petitions CDS, claims N1bn damages

…We do not pursue ethnic agenda in Plateau – Defense Headquarters

A family in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State has accused the Nigerian Military of killing its member and inflicting a permanent injury of another.

The family has also cried out that despite efforts to get to the root of the matter, there has not been much success.

Explaining the circumstances that led to the killing of his uncle on the 24th January, 2024, Longs Datom, spokesperson for the family, told BusinessDay that the deceased met his death after a military truck turned its General-Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) that was mounted on a gun truck and fired volleys of mindless bullets against defenceless people.

Narrating the circumstances further, Datom said his uncle, Damden Dafur Datom, before his death in the hands of troops, was a Youth leader.

“On the fateful day, he was at home at Mishkaham Mangu (Angwan Sarki Street) close to the Mishkaham Mwaghavul Palace when they heard gunshots.

“Though scared as they couldn’t understand those responsible for the shooting, they wanted to confirm whether they were terrorists or bandits so that they could escape with their family members. In the midst of it, they saw some soldiers on gun truck. On seeing them, they relaxed and calmed down as they (soldiers) were meant to protect them and their community,” Datom explained in tears.

“When the dust settled, Damden Dafur Datom, a former teacher at Hauwa Memorial Secondary School, Mangu, was killed while I was shot on my right hand and another person escaped from military assault at Angwan Sarki in Mangu Local Government Area. Now, I remain an amputee while Datom has gone and never to be seen again”.

The above is part of the statements from Sunday Yusuf, an Internally displaced person, who had run from his ancestral village in “Murish” after Fulani herdsmen displaced them completely and ran to Mangu town for safety, became a victim of the Nigerian military’s bullets after they allegedly charged through their village in Mangu and left a tale of unforgettable woes.

He said that unfortunately and surprisingly, the military turned their guns against them and started shooting. In the process, Damden was hit on his shoulder and the bullet pierced through to his lower jaw.

“The same bullet hit me on my right hand too and scattered it,” Yusuf explained corroborating Longs’ narratives.

While he was admitted in the hospital and later amputated due to the impact of the wound, Damden’s remains have been deposited at the mortuary in Jos.

It was gathered that the deceased is the breadwinner of the family, and left a wife with three children named, Dyelshak Damden, 6 years old, Peret Damdem, 9 years, and Plangnan Damden, 14 years old and Mrs Tina Damden, wife, while Sunday Yusuf, a farmer, has been amputated and will permanently suffer disability and will no longer go to farm to feed his family.

In a petition to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa dated 31st January, 2024, on behalf of the deceased family and the wounded, by D.A. Dalong Chambers and Associates, which was copied to the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun and the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3rd Division and Commander Operation Safe Haven, Rukuba Barracks, Jos, titled: ‘Extra-Judicial Killing of Late Damden Dafur Datom and Injury of Sunday Yusuf: Unprofessional Conduct by The Military Personnel In Mangu and The Demand for Compensation in the sun of N1,000,000,000 and thorough Investigation of the incident,’ the family called on the high military command to launch a thorough investigation to unmask those behind the killing and ensure justice is served.

In the petition cited by BusinessDay, the solicitor, Dankat Dalong claimed that his client, the late Damden Dafur Datom and his neighbour were shot by volley of bullets from the military who opened fire on them in an unprovoked attack.

Explaining how his client was killed said, he said “Our clients had on the 24th January, 2024 about 9:30am in Angwan Sarki close to the Mishkaham Mwaghavul Palace, Late Mr. Damden Datom and his neighbours where standing in front of their respective houses a day after the security breach in some part of Mangu LGA Plateau State, the men and officers of the Operation Safe Haven Mangu Sector came in a Military van and upon sighting the deceased and his neighbours without any form of provocation opened fire on them.

He averred that there was no justification to have opened fire on armless and defenceless people, who ordinarily deserves better protection from the military not to talk of killing them.

“The deceased, Yusuf and their neighbours were unarmed and defenceless civilians which ordinarily were supposed to be protected by the Military but were instead shot at close range, contrary to the rules of engagement in the Military.

The petitioner drew the attention of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa “to the fact that there were no crises or any form of violence in that area as the houses are close to the Palace of the Mishkaham Mwaghavul where the residence are predominantly Christians and are law abiding citizens but for reasons best known to the Military, carried out the unprofessional act by killing the deceased in cold blood.

“There are eye witnesses who witnessed the ugly incident and are ready to testify any day, anytime. We shall demand for an autopsy on the corpse of the deceased to confirm our allegation and ascertain the cause of death.”

Dalong, in the petition on behalf of the family, is demanding for compensation in the sum of N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) only within 14 days (fourteen) days “to take care of the family of the deceased for the loss of life and amputation of the hand of our client.”

In a telephone interview, Dalong told BusinessDay Sunday that as the ultimatum for the military to reply the letter expired 20th February, 2024, they will proceed for legal battle as the police conclude their investigation and an autopsy test is carried out on the deceased.

On his part, one of the village members, Aware Joseph who said he miraculously escaped being killed from barrages of bullets from the troops’ Machine Gun, told BusinessDay Sunday that “Early on that Wednesday morning, we heard several gun shots and became frightened as we weren’t sure if it was coming from enemy attack or not.

“When we realised it was from the Army, we were curious to find out if there were intelligence reports their actions was based on. As the Youth leader, we were desirous to know so that we can escape with our families.

“In the midst of those contemplations, troops of the Nigerian military with a truck mounted with General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) spread us with bullets.

“We hadn’t the opportunity to ask questions neither were there attacks of any kind the previous day. We started running for our lives. In the process, Mr. Damden Dufur Datom wasn’t lucky enough as a bullet from their GPMG caught him on his left hand while Sunday Yusuf was also hit on his right hand but I escaped unhurt.”

Asked what could have necessitated the military action, he explained that “On Monday, 22nd January, 2024, some Christian youths were attacked near a military checkpoint by some Muslim youths and destroyed their bikes and confiscated others.

“As it happened in front of the military and they did nothing to salvage the situation, we felt there was no need to continue to have the presence of the checkpoint in our area so long they watched the Muslim group wreaked havoc on our properties and houses.

“How such complaint could lead to turning guns on defenceless people and kill our people is difficult to fathom,” Joseph added.

Military engages in peace efforts amidst allegations

In an exclusive interview with Business Day Newspaper, Edward Buba, the Director of Defence Media Operations at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, outlined ongoing efforts to promote peace on the Plateau State.

Buba emphasized that despite allegations, significant steps have been taken to address the situation in Plateau. He highlighted the numerous high-powered delegation visits, including those by top military officials such as the Chief of Army Staff to Jos, as well as stakeholder meetings between the military and Plateau stakeholders. Fact-finding committees have been established, demonstrating a proactive approach to resolving the issues at hand.

“The armed forces have personnel from every nook and cranny of this country and have representatives of all religions, both formal and informal,” Buba stated, refuting claims of religious or ethnic agendas.

“We can never say we will go to a place to perpetrate religious or ethnic agendas. We are a professional force, and we demonstrate it every day through our operations.”

The director, who was not specific about the petition, insisted that efforts to achieve peaceful coexistence in Plateau were ongoing, with a focus on enduring peace for the area. Despite challenges, Buba expressed confidence that ongoing efforts would lead to a resolution and bring about lasting peace.

However, Buba acknowledged the reluctance of some individuals, such as a pastor reportedly unwilling to engage with the military. He reiterated the military’s invitation for dialogue, emphasizing the importance of hearing different perspectives to address concerns effectively.

As the military continues its peace efforts, the interview underscores a commitment to transparency, dialogue, and professionalism in tackling challenges and promoting peace in Plateau State.

How the legal tussle would go as a result of the killing of Damden Dafur Datom and the permanent injury inflicted on Yusuf is waiting to be seen in the months ahead as the two-week ultimatum given by the lawyer expired on the 20th February, 2024.