Rt.General Onoja apologises over soldier’s killing in Benue

Aloysius Umalo, Makurdi

Former Military Administrator of Plateau State, Retired General Lawrence Onoja has apologised to the Nigerian Army over the killing of a Soldier by Agatu Youths in Benue State North Central Nigeria.

The General tendered the apology during a stakeholders meeting of Benue State indigenes in Makurdi, the state Capital.

Angry youths had killed a soldier and wounded two others in Oleigada Ikolo community of Agatu Local Government Area in Benue State during a fight involving soldiers on peace keeping mission in the area.

John Ikulono, a native of Agatu told Voice of Nigeria that the incident happened when soldiers at the Oweto Bridge, a boundary between Nasarawa and Benue state stormed a neighbouring village to inquire the cause of strange gunshots.

The eyewitness account says “when the soldiers got to the village, a burial ceremony was taking place and gunshots are usually part of our funeral rites.”

He explained that a charged atmosphere enveloped the entire community when the soldiers made attempt to stop the shooting leading to sporadic gun shots that killed at least one soldier while two others were left with critical injuries.

On Monday, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, confirmed the attack during a stakeholders meeting insisting that the perpetrators must be brought to book.

Governor Ortom said “at a time we are making peace efforts in the troubled communities of Agatu, some of their youths have gone ahead to attack and kill a soldier and wounded two others. They also snatched their rifles.

Governor Ortom however said the rifles were recovered through the efforts of the commandant 72 Battalion Special Forces, even as he tasked the elders and stakeholders of the community to ensure the arrest of the youths responsible for the attacks.

“Thank God that some of the elders and stakeholders from Agatu are here with us. I know that it is not in your own interest that these youths are taking laws into their hands. Please, help us and help yourselves by getting those behind the attack, they are bad elements in our society,”
Ortom said.

General Onoja speaking at the stakeholders meeting on behalf of Agatu elders tendered an apology to the governor and the Chief of Army Staff over the incident.

“Let me apologise on behalf of the people of Agatu and to condemn in strong terms the unprovoked attacks on the military”. But I must also appeal to the Army to resist the temptation to return to Agatu land for any reprisal mission,” General Onoja pleaded.

Already, about four villages have been searched by the Army and several arrests made in search of the killers and the whereabouts of the military rifles.