By Temitope Owotoki
Men of the Nigerian Army’s ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’, OPWS, based in Benue and members of the Benue State branch of the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) have engaged themselves in a gun battle late Wednesday.
The encounter left two herders dead, whom MACBAN leadership in the state allegedly said were killed and burnt by soldiers at the Adeke area of Makurdi town after the gun battle.
Haruna Ibi, the state Chairman of MACBAN, claimed that the bodies of the victims had been recovered from the scene of the incident.
“We have already prepared the remains of the deceased for burial after we alerted the Police of the development,” he said.
However, Flight Lieutenant, Abubakar Mohammed, leader of the joint military patrol team of ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’, OPWS, whose team patrolled the Adeke surrounding area where the incident supposedly happened, acknowledged the exchange of gun battle with the herders in the area but denied knowledge of the killing or burning of corpses.
“I led my team on patrol of the area today (Wednesday) and in the course of our routine patrol, we came across herders with over 500 cattle and as soon as they sighted us, they opened fire on us. So my troops defended themselves after which we withdrew from the axis,” he said.
Major General, Adeyemi Yekini, the Force Commander of OPWS, who collaborated this account, lamented that his men had repeatedly encountered herdsmen in the state who usually opened fire on the troops.
General Yekini said, “this is the kind of encounter we face everyday whereby herders open fire on our troops. When they (herders) kill us, nobody sympathises with us and nobody cares to hear our side of the story,” he said,
Commenting on the incident, the Ardo of Otukpo, Risku Mohammed explained that the deceased were members of his branch stressing that they were with their cattle at about 12noon when they ran into the soldiers.