From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has condemned the killing of 12 soldiers allegedly by bandits early this month in Koshinsha local government area of Benue State.
However, ACF said the reaction of the Army was too crude by killing innocent villagers in reaction, adding that it amounted to “killing a fly with sledge hammer”.
The Forum however, called for restraint on both sides in the crisis so that more innocent blood will not be shed.
The soldiers have since been buried.
This was contained in a statement signed on Sunday by the ACF national chairman, Chief Audu Ogbe.
“We at the ACF do not subscribe to such lawlessness and and barbarism. We condemn the actions of the bandits without reservations. There was no need killing members of the Nigerian army who were merely on a mission to keep the peace.
As dastardly as the actions of the bandits is, we find the reaction of the Army out of proportion.
“A petition signed by Gabriel Suswam who represents the area in the Senate to the Army Headquarters says the army is on a revenge mission in which villagers whose home are far away from the troubled area in Konshisha Local Government are being bombed with helicopter gunboats.
“We believe that as wrong and criminal as the actions of the bandits are, the army should not use a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
“We call on the security agents and community leaders and the state government to fish out the criminals and punish them.
“Punishing poor, innocent people who have nothing to do with the killings of soldiers in Konshisha is unfair and not the best way to go. The ACF calls for restraint on both sides in this crisis so that more innocent blood is not shed”. The statement said.
ACF members recalled how they got the news of the killings, “We were attending the National Working Committee (NWC)and National Executive Council (NEC) meetings of the Arewa Consultative Forum in Kaduna when news started trickling in of another round of bloodshed in Benue.
“We hesitated to issue a statement, hoping to get full details before going into it.
“For now we have been informed by Army headquarters that soldiers on stabilising operations in the state code named operation Whirl Stroke were ambushed.
“Ten of the soldiers and one officer had their weapons seized, were brutally murdered and their bodies set ablaze by the bandits who mounted the ambush”. The statement added.