While some residents in the areas confirmed that the special forces were withdrawn, with the deployment of the military to the two local government areas, Force Headquarters and Benue State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said there was no such withdrawal.
Similarly, Security Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom said the state government was not aware of any such withdrawal.
But a resident of the local government area who didn’t want his name in print, said: “The police started withdrawing its special forces from the two local governments areas when the soldiers of Exercise Ayem A’ Kpatuma started arriving.
“The last batches were withdrawn last Monday. So what we now have on ground are the normal police personnel but as for the special forces, they have all been withdrawn.”
Also, another resident of Guma Local Government Area said the special forces had been withdrawn from the area.
The resident, who preferred anonymity, said he noticed that the special forces personnel were no longer seen in the area, especially after soldiers had been deployed, stressing that the claim by the police authorities that they were still on ground was untrue.
When contacted, Security Adviser to the Governor of Benue State, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hemba (retd), said the state government was not aware of the withdraw of the Police Special Forces from the two local government areas..
Hemba said: “I know that the unit is one that moves from place to place depending on the threat. But I don’t think they have been withdrawn because there is no reason for that.”
Reacting to reports of the withdrawal, Force Public Relations Officer, Moshood Jimoh, said it was fake news. According to him, the special forces respond to distress calls and after that, they continue with their assigned duties.
‘’When they do, they still leave some handful of their men on ground. In the case of Benue, they are still there doing their job,” he said.
Also reacting to the development, Benue State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, told Vanguard that news of the withdrawal was ‘’irresponsible journalism and the medium that reported it was ‘’talking rubbish.”
Group urges military to probe alleged rights abuses
Meanwhile, Global Human Rights Watch has urged the military to commence investigations into alleged human rights abuses by its personnel in the ongoing Exercise Ayem A’Kpatuma in Benue State to bring the culprits to book.
Addressing the media, weekend, in Makurdi, team leader and Executive Director of the human rights and crime monitoring group, Solomon Adodo, cautioned that the military must strive to live above board in the discharge of the onerous assignment to end the killings in Benue and neighbouring states to enjoy the confidence of the people.
Adodo said in view of the alleged cases of human right abuses, the group would complement the efforts of the military by monitoring its activities in the exercise to ensure even handedness in the implementation of the operational objectives of restoring peace to the ravaged communities.
He said: “Our observers will be going into the field to observe and gather data on reported infractions and the general conduct of the military durlng the exercise. Consequently, we expect the cooperation of the Nigerian Army as we go about our duty.
“We, therefore, hope to see a highly professional and well coordinated outing by the military to guarantee the safety of all members of the communities where the exercise is to take place.”
An online medium had reported that the special forces were withdrawn on February 14, following orders from the Inspector General of Police, Ibahim, Idris.
It reported that their withdrawal came two days after three security agents, comprising a policeman and two Civil Defence officers, were confirmed killed and two others declared missing in suspected herdsmen attacks across the two local government areas.