By Johnson Eyiangho
Troops of 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army stationed in Takum, Taraba, have arrested nine members of alleged sponsored armed militia known as Civilian JTF at Arufu, a boundary town between Taraba and Benue.
A top military source in Abuja, who confirmed the story to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that at the time of arrest, five of them were armed with AK-45 rifles fully loaded.
The source said that shortly after their apprehension, a reinforcement of CJTF came to prevent troops from transporting the suspects to the Battalion Headquarters.
“However, when the soldiers stood their ground the armed militia’s reinforcement withdrew.
“During the preliminary investigation the arrested CJTF claimed that the weapons were issued to them by Benue State government through one Alhaji Aliyu Tashaku.
“The suspects also confirmed that they were 60 in number in their own camp located at Gbeyi, Benue State.
“However, further investigation revealed that they were more than 1,000 at the camp, while over 700 of them bear arms,” the source said.
He said that the suspects claimed they were being paid a monthly stipend of N15,000 by the state government.
According to him, they also alleged the state is owing them close to five months salary.
“They further revealed that they were trained by selected ex-service men assembled from all over Benue State,” the source added.
However, in its reaction the state government denied the claim
“We wish to state categorically that the Benue State Government under Governor Samuel Ortom has not recruited any militia group and armed them since the Governor assumed office,” Mr Terver Akase the Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Samuel Ortom said on Tuesday in Makurdi.
Akase said in a statement that the governor was widely recognised for his disarmament policy which brought the amnesty programme leading to the recovery of about 700 arms and ammunition with over 800 youths laying down their weapons to embrace the programme across the State.
“It is also on record that the present administration inherited the State Civilian Joint Task Force from the previous government but later proscribed it. ‘’
He said following the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in the state last year, the government set up Livestock Guards to help in implementation of the law.
“The Livestock Guards are not armed personnel. Their job is to ensure compliance with the regulation of ranches establishment and prohibition of open grazing of animals in the State.
“The Benue State Government believes in the use of conventional security agencies to protect the people.
“Even in the face of renewed killing of innocent people by herdsmen in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas, Governor Ortom did not let the people resort to self-help.
“The Governor acted swiftly to get the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the deployment of more troops to troubled parts of the State,” Akase said.