Residents of five villages situated 20 kilometres off the Bida–Minna highway in Niger State have deserted them, following military raids in the villages over the weekend.
This is just as the General Officer Commanding One Mechanised Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade, has dispelled the report that the army killed innocent people during an illegal operation in the state.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the residents, who are mostly indigenes of the area, left their homes for fear that the military would carry out further raids in the areas.
As at Sunday night, there was nobody in Kpaidna, Legbe-dagma, Bambe, Kopa and Lunku villages in Bosso local government area.
It was learnt that many of the residents had gone to stay with their relatives in Minna and Maikunkele in Bosso.
Oyebade clarified that what the troops carried out on Thursday was a legitimate operation that led to the killing of seven bandits and the arrest of 57 others.
He reiterated that those arrested and the seven villagers killed were bandits and gunrunners who had opened fire on soldiers during the operation, resulting in the death of 10 soldiers and an officer, with one soldier still missing.
The GOC stated this yesterday when he paid a visit to the 31 Artillery Brigade, Minna, during which he also visited three injured soldiers receiving treatment following the clash.
LEADERSHIP recalls that on Thursday, at about 1am, at Kpaidna, Legbe-dagma, Bambe, Kopa, Lunku and surrounding villages in Bosso, there was a clash between some villagers and the military, leading to the death of 11 military men and seven civilians, who the GOC referred to as gun runners and bandits.
Findings revealed that the combined security team that had earlier occupied the villages on Saturday had since left as they traced some of the villagers to Kpakungu, a street in Minna, where some of the youth fled to, with bullet wounds for treatment, after the crisis.
It was learnt that the military men were still in some remote parts of Kpakungu looking for the Gbagyi youths who, they said, masterminded the attack on them, but the situation had calmed down by yesterday, as most of those they were looking for had been arrested.
The GOC stated that the military recovered both crude and sophisticated weapons in the operation that took place at Kpaidna, Legbe-dagma, Bambe, Kopa, Lunku and surrounding villages in Bosso LGA of Niger State .
“In the course of the engagement, seven bandits were killed and several others arrested. Several weapons, crude and sophisticated weapons were recovered,” General Oyebade said, while apparently debunking the report that villagers were indiscriminately killed.
He disclosed that the army would screen the 57 arrested and hand over those found wanting to the police, adding that if they did not carry out the operation, the weapons recovered could have destabilised not only Niger state, but Nigeria in general.