Civilian Guards Disarmed by Soldiers as Terrorists Retreat in Plain Sight
Mangu—A Monday morning shooting of unarmed protesters by soldiers of the Nigerian military near Jos city has sparked outrage and renewed allegations of human-rights violations in Africa’s most populous country.
Witnesses say three people including a pregnant protest leader were killed in a violent reaction to a peaceful protest by soldiers on 7 August that has enraged officials and rights activists. The protesters who included displaced victims of prior attacks in the region, had gathered at the military operating base in Mangu, 42 miles from Jos to express displeasure over a late evening attack the previous night that killed four residents close to a forward operating base.
Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is advocating for intervention in neighboring Niger Republic, in an effort to restore rule of law, yet the Tinubu-controlled army has murdered nonviolent protestors, according to Kyl Abts, executive director of The International Committee on Nigeria.
“The killing of three innocent citizens by Nigerian military in Mangu town in Plateau State, is a violation of human rights and military brutality,” Abts wrote to TruthNigeria.
“Eyewitnesses describe first-hand how the security forces, observing a peaceful protest, decided to shoot into the crowd, killing three. Anywhere else in the world this event would be front page news, and there would be an instant investigation, starting at the highest level,” he wrote, blaming the military for provoking protests against them.
Nigerian authorities have a troubled history of firing on nonviolent demonstrators, as documented by a judiciary panel that confirmed Nigerian army and police killed up to 48 protestors of police brutality in Lagos in October 2020 https://apnews.com/article/africa-police-lagos-nigeria-police-brutality-adc1f613377a9ef7dad5494712a38d13
Nigerian Moms Enraged by Military Negligence
Major Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, launched a special military operation in Mangu on July 22, according to Radio France International. Gen Lagbaja brought a force of 300 soldiers to Mangu, pledging to put an end to the incessant bloody attacks on dozens of majority Christian villages that have claimed the lives of 350 citizens since May 16. At least 80,000 residents are currently sheltering at Internally Displaced Persons Camps according to local officials. As many as 18,000 IDP’s are living in the area of a primary school in Mangu.
Yet, it took two hours for soldiers from the newly formed task force called “Operation Hakorin Damisa” to arrive at the scene of the attack in Nchiya village, which is just 1 mile away according to town leaders and lawmakers speaking to Truth Nigeria.
The attack in Nchiya on Sunday night, August 6, started at 11pm local time when residents were asleep, said a community leader in the town, Julius Jonah.
Dozens of terrorists armed with assault rifles launched sporadic gun attack on residents as they waded toward the town through the surrounding corn farms, said Jonah who witnessed the incident.
“It was a skilled attack,” said Jonah to Truth Nigeria in Nchiya. “They crawled through the corn farms and suddenly appeared in the village with sporadic shooting,” Jonah said.
The military authorities in the Plateau State capital are not responding to queries from TruthNigeria.
Soldiers Disarm Civilian Guards, Ignore Fleeing Terrorists
According to Jonah, the attackers fired their guns while moving between houses for a span of two hours. They targeted residents without facing any opposition from the soldiers of “Operation Hakorin Damisa”, who were stationed just 1 mile away, Jonah said.
When a team of 10 soldiers finally arrived at 1 a.m. the next day, four members of the village, including a married couple, lay dead, Jonah reported. However, the soldiers, armed with assault rifles, two anti-aircraft guns and an armored vehicle, elected not to pursue the terrorists who were still firing their weapons as they made their way into the nearby mountains, according to Jonah. Instead, the soldiers disarmed local civilian guards who had attempted to fight back using hand-crafted pipe guns and hunting rifles, enabling women and children escape, he said.
“Even those with sticks and machetes were disarmed while the terrorists who killed our people were still putting up a show of force without anyone challenging them,” he noted.
Protests Erupt in Mangu
The soldiers arrested two of the civilian guards led by Andy Yawat, a guard leader interviewed by TruthNigeria. “It was when we came [to the military base] to intervene and get our people released, that the women, angered by what had happened also gathered to register their displeasure,” said Yawat to Truth Nigeria.
“The women felt that the killings in Mangu had persisted for long and should have stopped with the coming of the soldiers,” Yawat said.
Truth Nigeria has reported how protests erupted in Mangu at 7 am Monday August 7 following the attack, with thousands of women and youths blocking roads and waving branches as they sang solidarity songs.
The tense situation escalated when the protestors gathered at the entrance of the newly constructed Forward Operating Base in Mangu town, demanding accountability and removal of the military from the area.
Soldiers rain fire on protesters
Ms. Happiness Innocent, a protest leader told Truth Nigeria the soldiers fired their rifles at the peacefully protesting crowd, killing three and injuring several others.
The military fired their anti-aircraft guns in the air as their truck rolled through the crowd of protesters at 11 am local time, crushing the body of an unconscious demonstrator felled by bullets, all witnessed and videotaped as it happened by TruthNigeria.
“We were just crying and singing and then suddenly there came gunshots,” said Ms. Innocent. “They even brought out their armored truck and fired their [anti-aircraft] guns at us,” Innocent said.
“They killed one lady and a man, and critically injured one other woman whom we’re told died at the hospital,” Innocent said.
The demonstrating women were initially subjected to leg kicks and strikes from the soldiers’ gun butts, according to Mangu community leader Yohanna Usman Dada. “They were hitting them with their guns as if they were terrorists,” Dada said, noting that he himself he was pounded by rifle butts of the soldiers when he
attempted to intervene. “I have injuries inflicted on me by the soldiers on my hands and back,” he said.
“Gross human rights violations”
The military assault of the unarmed protesters was a ‘gross’ violation of fundamental human rights, said Ishaya Lalu, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives.
“My people were not wrong to protest,” Lalu told Truth Nigeria. “They have the right to protest,” Lalu said in a telephone interview. “Protest is not a criminal offense. They are right to demand accountability. But to still add to their grief by killing them is the height of injustice,” said Lalu who represents Mangu and Bokkos counties at the House of Representatives.
Despite the outcry, Captain James Oya, the spokesperson for the Nigerian military in Plateau State, took the step of blocking TruthNigeria’s phone lines after receiving a text query regarding the incident. Governor Caleb Mutfwang has yet to release an official statement. However, Musa Ashoms, the Information commissioner, gave a telephone interview to TruthNigeria, criticizing the soldiers’ actions.
“This is condemnable and unacceptable in any civilized society,” Ashoms said.
“If there were no killings, people wouldn’t demonstrate,” said Ashoms, a former reporter who covered violent conflicts in Plateau State. “It is because the killings have continued that the people are rising to speak and it is their fundamental right,” he said, but gave no indication of a possible state action.
Two days prior to the attack in Mangu, two people were killed in the neighboring Barkin Ladi county, close to a military checkpoint. The late evening attack in Nziring village in the Fan district followed an earlier attack on 30 July in Nding village also in Fan, which killed three including two vigilantes before the military arrived.
—Masara Kim is an award winning conflict reporter based in Jos and senior editor of TruthNigeria.com