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Reps summon military chiefs over assault on Benue lawmaker, residents, killings

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The House of Representatives has summoned Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff and Farouk Yahaya, the Chief of Army Staff to appear before it over the assault on its member, Kpam Sokpo, residents of Gboko and guests of Old Barn Hotel, Gboko by Men of the 401 Special Forces Brigade of the Nigerian Army.

Irabor and Yahaya are to particularly 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 also tell the House the 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 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 also urged the Chiefs of Defence and Army Staff to begin a comprehensive investigation of the incident (ensuring evidence is obtained from civilian witnesses) with the view to identifying the soldiers that were responsible for this mayhem.

These resolutions were sequel the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Mark Gbillah (Labour Party, Benue) at plenary on Wednesday.

Moving the motion, Gbillah said 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 the worsening spate of military and police brutality, extra-judicial killings by security operatives on civilians and unarmed Nigerians.

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He pointed out the unfortunate incidence of Saturday, March 18, 2023 at Old Barn Hotel, Gboko in Benue State, where at about2:30 am, men of the 401 Division of the Nigerian Army viciously assaulted and brutalised several persons and guests.

“Also concerned that these military men, numbering over 20 stormed the hotel in Nigerian Army trucks and dressed in military uniforms but without any 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 such cruel and inhuman treatment.

“Also worried that in the course of obeying the Army Officers’ commands, one of the soldiers accosted the Honourable 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 Honourable 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 in serious injuries on his head, face, shoulders, chest, back, both arms, and legs,” Gbillah recounted.

According to him, 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 Hon. Sokpo to Electoral violence.

“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.”

In adopting the motion, the House condemned the assault on Old Barn Hotel, Gboko and its guests by men of the Nigerian Army and mandated the Committee on Army to ensure compliance with the prayers and report to the House within two weeks.