Troops of 93 battalion of the Nigerian army stationed in Takum, Taraba, have arrested nine alleged members of an armed militia known as civilian JTF in Arufu, a boundary town between Taraba and Benue.
A top military source who confirmed the development said at the time of arrest, five of them were armed with AK-45 rifles fully loaded. The source said shortly after their arrest, a reinforcement of CJTF came to prevent troops from transporting the suspects to the battalion headquarters.
“During the preliminary investigation the arrested CJTF claimed that the weapons were issued to them by Benue state government through one Alhaji Aliyu Tashaku,” the source said.
The military source also said the suspects also confirmed that they were 60 in number in their own camp located at Gbeyi, Benue state. He said the suspects claimed they were being paid a monthly stipend of N15, 000 by the state government.
According to him, they also alleged the state is owing them close to five months’ salary. “They further revealed that they were trained by selected ex-service men assembled from all over Benue State,” the source added.
However, in its reaction, the state government denied the claim.
“We wish to state categorically that the Benue state government under governor Samuel Ortom has not recruited any militia group and armed them since the governor assumed office,” Terver Akase, the chief press secretary to governor Samuel Ortom, said on Tuesday in Makurdi.
Akase said the governor was widely recognised for his disarmament policy which led to the recovery of about 700 arms and ammunition with over 800 youths laying down their weapons to embrace the programme across the State.
He said following the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in the state last year, the government set up Livestock Guards to help in implementation of the law.
“The Livestock Guards are not armed personnel. Their job is to ensure compliance with the regulation of ranches establishment and prohibition of open grazing of animals in the state,” he said.