There was confusion on Thursday at the Headquarters of the Special Military Taskforce, codenamed ‘Operation Safe Haven’ in Jos, Plateau State over alleged theft of 209 cows by suspected rustlers.
The Commander of OPSH, Maj. Gen. Anthony Atolagbe, had stated that 200 cows were missing, out of which 100 had been recovered and 20 found dead.
He added that some of the suspects had been arrested. But the spokesman for the agency, Maj. Umar Adams, said no arrest had been made.
“Up till now, there is no arrest; the security operatives are still on their trail and so far, they are still recovering more of the cows. They recovered about five cows and one sheep yesterday (Wednesday) while on the trail of the rustlers.”
When reminded of the statement from the OPSH Commander, he said, “I am not aware of any statement. The only statement I am aware of is the one I am telling you now and no arrest has been made.
“However, our personnel have been deployed and they are carrying out raids to ensure that they arrest the perpetrators. And in the course of the operation, they have been able to recover about five cows and one sheep. For now, there has been no arrest.”
Unofficial sources said 20 persons had been arrested for cow rustling in the state. Although information about the suspects was still sketchy, it was learnt that they cut across Hausa, Fulani and some other ethnic groups in Plateau State.
A source said:
“Over 20 suspects have been arrested by security operatives in connection with the stealing of cows and they are currently being detained at the headquarters of OPSH in Jos. As soon as investigations are concluded, they will be handed over to the appropriate agencies for prosecution.”
A statement issued in Jos by the Chief of Staff to the OPSH, Brig. Gen. A.M. Bello, also said some suspects were arrested and investigations were ongoing.
According to him, contrary to reports, there had been no tension in Plateau State, following alleged threats by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the state over an alleged attack on their kinsmen and the rustling of 350 cows belonging to their people.
Bello described the rumour as “unfounded, misplaced and out of reality and should therefore be disregarded.”
“Please note that only 200 cattle were missing, out of which 100 were recovered while 20 were found dead. Efforts are ongoing to find the remaining ones with the assistance of the locals in the area. However, some suspects were arrested and investigations are ongoing.
“Furthermore, the command has made efforts at meeting with all the parties involved and strongly advised them to remain peaceful and work closely with security agencies to unravel these criminals once and for all, rather than taking the law into their own hands.
We, therefore, advise members of the public to go about their normal business as the situation is under control.”