1. The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to a news article published by a section of the online news media with the above-stated headline. In the said article, one Paul Gaza, a supposed “Taraba-based entrepreneur” accused troops of the Nigerian Army of burning down his secondary 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.
2. According to Mr Gaza, 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”
3. Other claims made by Gaza were that “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 wagons and one 504 saloon car. Three of my boys, who were around, were all arrested.”
4. The supposed victim further emphasized he had no ties with bandits and claimed “I am a popular person in that community. Everybody can attest to my character. I challenge the Nigerian Army to come out with evidence against me that I am a criminal or bandit.”
5. While the Defence Headquarters does not wish to join issues with the online media, it is however pertinent to state the facts of the matter and puncture this misinformation and outright falsehood being peddled by this so-called “businessman.”
6. For the records, 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. Subsequently, 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.
7. For all intents and purposes, it is instructive to note that military operations are always conducted sequel to credible and actionable intelligence from both technical and human sources. As such, troops would never target legitimate businesses or business owners. The military wishes to state that the targeted structures indeed belong to the notorious “Gana” and not Mr Gaza as being falsely peddled. After all, one wonders why Mr Gaza has refused to make himself available to military authorities or report to Nigeria Police, since the incident on the 18th of July this year, despite his strong claims of innocence in this matter.
8. 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.
Defence Media Operations
2 August 2020.