The House of Representatives has resolved to invite the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor and Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Farouk Yahaya, over alleged assault on a member, Kpam Sokpo, by soldiers from the 401 Special Forces Brigade in Gboko, Benue State on March 18, 2023.
The House condemned the assault on Old Barn Hotel, Gboko, and its guests, including Sokpo, by men of the Nigerian Army.
Another member of the House from Benue, Mark Gbillah, moved a motion to call for an investigation of the attack at the plenary on Wednesday.
Adopting the motion unanimously, the lawmakers urged Irabor and Yahaya to commence “a comprehensive investigation of the incident, ensuring evidence is obtained from civilian witnesses, with the view to identifying the soldiers that were responsible for this mayhem.”
The House also resolved to “invite the Chiefs of Defense and Army Staff to appear before the House to (a) explain the circumstances behind the unprovoked attack and why these military officers did not carry proper identification or inform the civilians about their mission;
“(b) Explain the military’s rules of engagement during election monitoring and other engagements with the civilian population, especially considering the extrajudicial killing of two young men in Gboko by the same 401 Special Forces Brigade on 18th March 2023, for alleged ballot snatching;
“(c) Brief the House about actions currently taken by military authorities to investigate the unprovoked assault on residents of Gboko, including Hon. Kpam Jimin Sokpo, and the shooting to death of two persons in Gboko on 18 March, 2023.”
Furthermore, the lawmakers mandated the House Committee on Army to ensure compliance with the resolutions and report back within two weeks.
Moving the motion titled ‘Need to Investigate the Assault on Residents of Gboko and Guests of Old Barn Hotel, Gboko by Men of the 401 Special Forces Brigade of the Nigerian Army,’ Gbillah cited Section 217(2) (a)-(d) of the 1999 Constitution as prescribing the primary duties of the Nigerian Army.
According to him, it is to defend Nigeria from external aggression, maintain its territorial integrity, suppress insurrection and aid civil authorities to restore order subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
The lawmaker also noted that the operational use of the Armed Forces in Nigeria is for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order, in accordance with Section 8(3) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Gbillah said, “The House is concerned about the worsening spate of military and police brutality, extrajudicial killings by security operatives on civilians and unarmed Nigerians.
“The House is worried about the unfortunate incident of Saturday, 18 March 2023, at Old Barn Hotel, Gboko, in Benue State, where at about 2:30 am, men of the 401 Division of the Nigerian Army viciously assaulted and brutalised several persons and guests.
“The House is also concerned that these military men, numbering over 20, stormed the hotel in Nigerian Army trucks and dressed in military uniforms but without any identifiers such as nametags or any form of personal identity or ranks;
“The House is disturbed that the military men ordered all persons within view to move, gather in groups, and squat on the ground without explanation for such cruel and inhuman treatment.
“The House is also worried that in the course of obeying the Army officers’ commands, one of the soldiers accosted the Honourable and slapped him.”
Gbillah said despite introducing himself as a serving member of the House, “the soldier rather poured more invectives on the Honourable and ordered his subordinates to slap him and in an attempt to defend himself from the unprovoked assault.”
The lawmaker further alleged that about 20 soldiers pounced on Sokpo and others “with guns and brutally assaulted them, this resulted in serious injuries on his head, face, shoulders, chest, back, both arms and legs.”
He added, “The House is further disturbed that this same team of soldiers were allegedly responsible for the extrajudicial killings of at least two persons in Gboko in two separate instances on the same day.”
Gbillah stressed the need for the House to re-enforce its statutory role of ensuring the security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government.