Gists, News, Scandals

Bloody Business: Dangote's soldiers cause deaths in Gboko

In a World Health Statistics 2014 report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the world was said to have witnessed major gains in life expectancy in recent decades. The report revealed that Nigerians’ life expectancy that stood at 46 years in 1990 rose to 54 years in 2012.

A major highlight of the report is that women live longer than men in Nigeria. Their life expectancy rose from 47 years in 1990 to 55 years in 2012, while Nigerian men that could be expected to live up to 45 years in 1990, had life expectancy of 53 years in 2012. The report further observed that low-income countries made the most significant progress, with an increase of nine years in life expectancy between 1990 and 2012, from 51.2 to 60.2 years for men, and 54.0 to 63.1 years for women.

But what do we call it when a life of a 19-year-old boy, or some Gboko population, which was cut short not by heart diseases, lower respiratory tract infections and stroke, which top the list of 20 major causes of premature deaths worldwide, accepted to be killing our people in large numbers.

Terhile Jirbo, a member of Mbayion community in Gboko, Benue State, sprayed with bullets just for answering the call of nature. What seemed a harmless routine left a deep cut in the heart of Gboko. He was shot while emptying his bowel on March 18, near the Gboko Cement factory, the second most lucrative cement factory belonging to Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote by one of two-dozen troops securing the multibillion-dollar factory.

As if that was not enough, the soldiers decided that best response to the members of the community when they protested the killing was to ‘bath them with more gunfire,’ according to eyewitnesses.

Remembering the tactics used in war zone, or in fighting insurgency, it was reported that one of the soldiers shot a woman on the leg. While trying to to crawl to safety, a soldier closed up on her, pointed his rifle directly at her head and blasted away, a witness said.

The gory details of the incident could be best likened to a horror film. By chance or fate, Mr. Jirbo, the teenager whose shooting by a soldier ignited the fracas, survived the attack. But he would be deformed for life, his mouth disfigured and emptied of almost all teeth in the upper region. A soldier shot him in the mouth.

While the military and the Dangote group confirmed the attack and the killings to PREMIUM TIMES, both have failed to impress the community on the steps they took to show sympathy, offer compensation to bereaved families or even help bury the dead.

Four months after the killings, that situation has remained the same despite repeated petitions by the community to the highest civilian and military authorities, including President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark (an indigene of Benue State), and Defence Minister, Aliyu Gusau.

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