The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has asked the Nigerian Government, Army and security agencies to stop the fresh bout of killings in parts of Benue State.
The ACF on Sunday added that the security agencies, community leaders and the state government must fish out the criminals involved in the killings, including of the 12 soldiers last week, and punish them.
The ACF in a release signed by its National Chairman, Audu Ogbe, told the Nigerian Army that punishing “poor, innocent people who have nothing to do with the killing of soldiers in Konshisha is unfair and not the best way to go.”
The forum said, “We were attending the National Working Committee and National Executive Council meetings of the ACF in Kaduna when news started trickling in of another round of bloodshed in Benue.
“We hesitated to issue a statement, hoping to get full details before going into it. For now we have been informed by army headquarters that soldiers on stabilising operations in the state code-named operation Whirl Stroke were ambushed. Ten of the soldiers and one officer who had their weapons seized, were brutally murdered and their bodies set ablaze by the bandits who mounted the ambush.
“We at the ACF do not subscribe to such lawlessness and barbarism. We condemn the actions of the bandits without reservations. There was no need killing members of the Nigerian army who were merely on a mission to keep the peace.
“As dastardly as the actions of the bandits is, we find the reaction of the army out of proportion. A petition, signed by Gabriel Suswam who represents the area in the Senate to the army headquarters, says the army is on a revenge mission in which villagers whose home are far away from the troubled area in Konshisha Local Government Area are being bombed with helicopter gunboats.
“We believe that as wrong and criminal as the actions of the bandits are, the army should not use a sledgehammer to kill a fly. We call on the security agents and community leaders and the state government to fish out the criminals and punish them. Punishing poor, innocent people who have nothing to do with the killing of soldiers in Konshisha is unfair and not the best way to go.
“The ACF calls for restraint on both sides in this crisis so that more innocent blood will not be shed.”