By Victor Akaa, Abuja.
The Defence Headquarters has insisted that only buildings meant to be bandits’ hideout were destroyed by its troops but not legitimate business owners supposed properties belonging to one Mr. Paul Gaza as being peddled in the news.
Maj. Gen. John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations disclosed this in a statement made available to Enugu Reporters on Sunday.
Enenche noted that the troops acting on credible intelligence had destroyed only targeted structures belonging to a criminal kingpin, one Mr. Terwase Agwaza alias Gana and not Mr. Paul Gaza as being falsely speculated.
Mr. Gaza while in an online news media publication accused the Nigerian Army of invading his house at about 3:00am, burned down his private school, stealing the sum of N1,237,000 and three motorcycles during a mafian-style invasion in Peva, a town in the Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State.
“At about 3am on Friday, July 17, soldiers arrived at his house in three Toyota Hilux vans and asked to see him.
“But upon being told by Gaza’s salespersons he was on a trip, the military officers went berserk and started to destroy everything in his house.
“The soldiers beat them (salespersons) up mercilessly, destroyed my personal belongings, and packed my documents and other valuables.
“In the process of searching my house, they took the sum of N1,237,000 which we made from sales from Monday, July 13 to Thursday, July 16.
“They also made away with three motorcycles – two black Haojue and a Bajaj (Boxer). They broke all the casement windows of my house and smashed the windscreen of my 504 commercial wagon and one 504 saloon car. Three of my boys, who were around, were all arrested.” He claimed.
Mr. Gaza further denied having any ties with bandits, claiming
“I am a popular person in that community. Everybody can attest to my character.”
He therefore in the article, challenged the Nigerian Army to prove him wrong with a clear evidence that he was a criminal or bandit.
But while responding to the accusations, the DHQ said, though its attention has been drawn to the alleged publication, but it has refuted the claims maintaining that, the military operations are always and only conducted sequel to credible and actionable intelligence from both technical and human sources and are carefully carried out to avoid such mistakes.
And wondered why the troops would target legitimate businesses or business owners as speculated.
The statement says..
“Following credible intelligence on the possible hideout of wanted Benue militia leader Terwase Akwaza aka “Gana” around the general area of Tse-Audu village in Akate council ward of Donga Local Government of Taraba State, troops of Operation Whirl Stroke drawn from Sector 2 at Gbise and Zaki Biam in Benue in conjunction with troops of sector 4 deployed at Kofa Ahmadu, Kasuwan Haske, Kashiimbala and Akate in Taraba state at about 0300 hrs on 18 July 2020 conducted a dawn raid at an identified hideout in Tse-Audu village.
“However, the hideout was deserted as the bandits fled before troops’ arrival.
“Troops combed the hideout and recovered one locally made rifle, 2 camouflage uniforms, one dog-tag and some substances suspected to be Indian hemp as well as charms.
The hideout was then destroyed.
“Troops proceeded to Chachanji village where a school, shop and building belonging to same militia leader “Gana” were identified and searched.
“The search yielded rewards as troops discovered one locally made mortar tube, one locally made rifle and 13 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition.
“The buildings were subsequently destroyed to deny Gana and his cohorts the use of the facilities to advance their criminal activities.” he stated.
Enenche said, he would have preferred the “Taraba-based entrepreneur” Mr. Paul Gaza to have laid his accusation to the relevant security agencies but not resorting to cheap media publicity.
“After all, one wonders why Mr. Gaza has refused to make himself available to military authorities or report to Nigerian Police, since the incident on the 18th of July this year, despite his strong claims of innocence in this matter.”
While wishing not to join issues with the online media as well as the accuser, the DHQ however said it was pertinent to state the facts of the matter and puncture this misinformation and outright falsehood being peddled by this so-called “businessman.”
“Furthermore, the Defence Headquarters enjoins journalists in particular and media outfits in general to engage in responsible journalism by being objective and fair in observance of the ethics of the profession.
“Publishing such a story without getting the military’s side of events indicates a lack of professionalism and objectivity on the part of the medium”. It stated.