The Plateau Peace and Good Governance Watch, a civil society group has reacted to the removal of Major-General Anthony Atolagbe as Commander of Operation Safe Haven by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin.
Olonisakin had removed Atolagbe and subsequently replaced him with Major-General Augustine Chris Chukwudi Agundu as the new Commander, a development many observers attributed to the increased attacks in Plateau State that led to death of scores of Nigerians, left many others other injured with properties destroyed under the leadership of the former leader.
Reacting to the development, the Plateau Peace and Good Governance Watch said it received with satisfaction the removal of Major-General Atolagbe and the subsequently appointment of Agundu, which it believes would curtail criminality in Plateau axis.
It therefore commended the decision of the Defence Headquarters in this regard, decrying that if it had come earlier, lives that were lost due to the former Commander’s negligence would have been averted.
Rev. Ezra Samuel, National Co-ordinator of the group in a statement said the removal of Major-General Atolagbe, was long overdue because of his alleged romance with political players at the detriment of the lives of citizens.
Samuel said, “Contrary to the news making the rounds and being sponsored by Atolagbe’s associates, he was removed over his negligent handling of the recent crisis that resulted in loss of lives in Plateau state which manifested in his failure to address the crisis in line with laid down protocols.
“This willful negligent might have jolted the Defence Headquarters into action but Atolagbe’s collusion with fifth columnists that are resolute on destroying Nigeria is something that has always been known but no one was willing to put themselves in harm’s way since he is known to unleash death in the guise of armed herdsmen on anyone that attempt to expose his shady dealings.
“The former Commander also acted below the rules of engagement when he decided to disobey the operational conduct of the military that officers and soldiers should not hobnob with politicians during an operation as sensitive as Operation Safe Haven, which should have led to the restoration of peace on the Plateau but was instead converted into a cover to unleash untold suffering on the population.
“There was further strong basis to prove that under Atolagbe’s watch details of military operations were passed on to killers hired by disgruntled politicians while soldiers were also directed to stand down from chasing and apprehending the murderers. This explains the brutal efficiency with which the killers decimated entire communities while the former Commander was dining with his patrons.
“We therefore urge the Defence Headquarters to probe Major-General Anthony Atolagbe’s role in the recent incidents in some parts of the state where lives were lost.
“The Plateau Peace and Good Governance Watch urges Nigerians to discountenance any insinuation that Atolagbe was removed for any reason other than his criminal negligence and compromised handling of the crisis in Plateau state.
“Instead of falling into the trap of becoming sympathetic to a saboteur, Nigerians should challenge the removed Commander to explain how he allowed the gruesome murder of innocent citizens to occur under his watch,” Samuel said.
He therefore advised the new Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Major-General Augustine Chris Chukwudi Agundu, to avoid the apparent failings of his predecessor in the discharge of his duties.
“He should distance himself from ethnic sympathies that could becloud judgment and taint professional reputation because this was one caution that his predecessor decided to do away with,” the statement added.