Gyang Bere, Jos
For 63-year-old widow, Hannatu Izang, life is no longer sweet. Her present low moment took over her after her son, Benjamin, was allegedly tortured to death by the operatives of the Special Task Force (STF).
The death is painful, but the narrative of how he died at the age of 31 is even more grievous. He had a quarrel with a girl who hawks egg in the neighbourhood, a fight, which came about after he cracked an egg worth N50 belonging to the girl.
Offended by the quarrel, the egg hawker sought the help of her friend, who was among the members of the task force on peacekeeping mission in Angwan Rukuba, Jos North Local Government in Plateau State.
Following their disagreement, the girl reported the matter to her friend working at a nearby checkpoint who promptly intervened. It was alleged that the military officer invited the late Benjamin through a phone call to report to the checkpoint on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. However, Benjamin did not report at the appointed time as instructed.
The officer waited for some hours in vain and decided to go to the residence of Benjamin with their van to fetch him at about 3pm on that fateful day. They got him and took him to the said checkpoint where they allegedly gave him the beating of his life.
It was alleged that the officers pulled off Benjamin’s warm clothes and poured cool water on him, despite the cold temperature. Eyewitnesses told Daily Sun that the officers did not stop at that. They equally subjected him to other forms of punishments before he finally collapsed.
His elder brother, James Izang, alleged that at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), it was confirmed that the deceased sustained fractures before he passed away. The particulars of the officer or officers allegedly behind the dastardly act are still not clear. It is generally believed that they are currently on the run, following the death of Benjamin
Since the incident happened, the mother of the deceased, Hannatu, has not been herself. She preferred to have died in place of her promising young son. Now, she is crying for justice. She said even in death, justice must come the way of her son:
“It was like a film, not a film that I had watch. It could better be described as a dream. I don’t believe that my son is dead!”
“It was on Tuesday, February 4, 2020, when I was getting ready for evening service, at about 4. I was about to take my bath when I received a phone call from my neighbour.
“I left what I was doing and ran to the scene, only for me to meet a lot of people there, including the woman who had called on phone to inform me that my son was being tortured by the army.
“I made effort to see.my son immediately I arrived, but I was told that a good Samaritan had intervened and had taken him home. I did not talk to the soldiers because they looked very unfriendly and people said I should not talk to them. I ignored them and went back home.
“When I came home, I met my son crying with excruciating pain, holding his legs. Before we got home, his brother had put water on fire to treat the legs, which the army had totally disfigured.
“The person who was dressing the bone finished later and left. Benjamin was left sitting on a chair. It was soon after that I noticed that he was not making any move. I called the attention of his brother to check him up. He did and replied in Hausa language that he didn’t think he was alive. When I touched him, his body was already cold.
“All these happened within the first two hours of his released by the soldiers. What I want now is justice. I want the government to arrest his killer and make him to face the full wrath of the law.”
Benjamin’s elder brother, James, corroborated the report of their mother. He called on the military authorities to step into the matter and do something about the STF in their community as they had killed and maimed innocent citizens at the slightest point of provocation:
“We are going to court. We have done autopsy at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) and we have the report. We must pursue justice for our late brother. We will do this to stop a repeat of such ungodly activities in the future.
“The person who killed my brother will certainly pay for it. What pains us is that no member of our family was aware of what was happening until the soldiers inflicted multiple fractures on him.”
The organizing secretary, Afizere Youth Movement, Amos Ajik, said: “In the first place, what business does the army have in settling civil matters? Who had tried our brother to confirm his guilt? What did he do to deserve such treatment? What happened to our human rights as law-abiding citizens of Nigeria?
“The excesses of these STF officers must be challenged. We have heard and seen many more brutal attacks by these officers.
“One Dakop from neighbouring Jude area of Fudawa community was just discharged from hospital after being manhandled by these officers. There have been instances where they pursue people right into their homes and brutalise or even open fire on them.”
Sympathizers gathered on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, at the JUTH before the corpse was moved for interment.
Chairman, Afizere Elders Council, Mr Ishaya Banyam, said Benjamin was a volunteer private teacher to many families and homes: “We looked at him as an asset, but now the army has taken him away from us.”
Commander of the Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Major General Agustine Agundu, however, denied his men were responsible for the death of Benjamin. He said it was unfortunate that life was involve:
“All we know is that he left while my men were trying to settle the altercation between him and one particular lady that was selling at the beer parlour and who is presently at large. It is quite unfortunate, but it has nothing to do with any of my men.”