John Agim, acting director of defence information, says some politicians use thugs “disguised as herdsmen” to attack communities.
Although he did not mention a particular state, the defence spokesman made the comment while speaking on the farmers-herdsmen clashes that have led to killings in Taraba, Benue, Zamfara and Nasarawa.
In an interview with PUNCH, Agim said some arrested suspects have labelled politicians as their sponsors.
He said: “The problem which the state governments (not only in Taraba) have with the military is that when the military came in, they thought the soldiers were coming to enforce their laws. Is that the military’s responsibility? If the military goes in and says it wants to enforce the state’s anti-grazing laws, then it means the military is doing the work of the state government. The military is not supposed to enforce those laws. So we told them we are coming to make sure that there is security.
“It was also discovered that there were a lot of people carrying arms, including the herdsmen. So we said nobody should carry arms; anybody who carries arms shall be arrested. But they (the state governments) don’t want their own people to surrender their arms.
“During this period, we also discovered that some politicians were using their thugs against another community within the same state, and they made it looked as if herdsmen were attacking the people. Some of these people were arrested.
“For instance, in a local government area, there are two communities fighting against each other and we arrested some people with arms. We did not want to blow it up because it will be misinterpreted.
“Some of the suspects arrested and stopped from carrying out that vandalism told us that some politicians sent them against another community to carry out those attacks. So the state government said they did not agree with the army panel, but they have not given any cogent reasons.”
Reacting to Theophilus Danjuma’s allegation that the military is in collusion with herdsmen, Agim said: “The military has no reason to collude with herdsmen because a good number of the troops serving in that operation are from that region. People should not play politics with security issues because if we do, it will not do anybody any good.”