Members of the Borno state COVID-19 committee which includes two commissioners, were on Saturday June 13 allegedly assaulted by soldiers attached to the 7 division of the Nigerian Army.
The incident occurred after vehicles conveying the soldiers and some civilians were stopped by the team enforcing the inter-state travel ban in Auno.
Kakashehu Lawal, Borno commissioner for justice who was at the scene with his health counterpart Salisu Kawaya-Buram, said the soldiers who claimed they were on a mission to repel Boko Haram attack at Gubio forced their way into Borno from a neighbouring state, pulling down the barricade and allowing travellers who were not on essential duty to enter the state.
Lawal also said the soldiers pointed guns at them even after they introduced themselves and also deliberately rammed into a Rapid Response Squad (RRS) van which was used to block the road to prevent illegal entry. He further revealed that four persons inside the van sustained injuries. The driver of the RRS truck died hours later at the Borno Specialist Hospital.
The soldiers also knocked down some commercial tricycles (Keke Napep). Three women, including a pregnant woman and a baby, sustained fractures.
“After hitting the vehicle, the soldiers pointed their guns at us and began assaulting us.
“One of the soldiers looked at me and said: ‘To hell with Democracy, Useless Democracy’. Others raised their guns at us, while one of them removed the cap of a policeman attached to the team.
“A cameraman attached to the team from the deputy governor’s office was also attacked and beaten while his camera was seized by the soldiers.
“As Nigerians, the mission and vision of the Buhari led administration and also the Chief of Army Staff, is to save the lives and property of the people.
“So we cannot just allow a chunk of military men to cause any form of harassment when people are there on their official responsibility.”
Kawara-Buyam on his own part said the soldiers allowed travellers who were not screened to enter the state which has recorded over 400 Coronavirus cases from travellers who came in illegally.
The health commissioner told newsmen;
“Yesterday alone, more than 40 persons who travelled into the state were COVID-19 positive.
“We have just received a report from the hospital that the injured driver had passed away.
“This is very sad that all this happened because some soldiers chose to break the law. We are doing our best to stem down the spread of the pandemic, that’s why we are enforcing the ban on interstate travel.
“The cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and most of the new cases are from the travel violators whose blood sample we took while they are in the quarantine facility.
Garrison commander of 7 division, Sunday Igbinomwanhia apologised for the action of the soldiers and also revealed that the perpetrators have been identified and would face disciplinary action.
Igbinomwanhia said; “This is highly condemnable and should not be allowed to repeat itself again.
“We have conferred with the garrison commander and made it clear to him that we won’t allow any soldier to undermine our authority and the orders of Mr President. Hence we will pursue the case to its logical conclusion until we see that those soldiers face disciplinary action.
“However, we as a committee, and government, appreciate the sacrifices of the Nigerian military and we will do everything to support them, but we will not tolerate discipline in our state.”
(c) June 2020