Mr Francis Ayaga, Chairman, Gwer West Local Government in Benue, has urged government to compensate owners of houses allegedly burnt in Naka town by angry soldiers, on April 18.
The Naka residents incurred the wrath of the soldiers when they killed one of the army personnel deployed to maintain peace in the area.
Our correspondent, who visited the area, observed that many houses were burnt down while the owners, who fled the area, were gradually returning to the town.
Ayaga, in an interaction with newsmen on Wednesday in Naka, said that 300 houses were burnt down, adding, however, that the soldiers did not shoot anyone.
He said that many people collapsed at the sight of their houses on fire, declaring that the soldiers’ action was “certainly wrong”.
“Many people were hospitalised due to heart attack. Some people just could not stand the sight of all their belongings on fire,” he said.
Ayaga, who described the arson as “quite pathetic and unfortunate,” however, admitted that a soldier was indeed killed, and blamed hoodlums in the area for the incident.
“When we learnt of the incident, we quickly rushed to the area and fished out the culprits and handed them over to the Army.
“We also pleaded with the soldiers not to descend on the entire community, but they did not heed our prayers,” he said.
He said that burning of the houses was particularly shocking to him because he believed that two wrongs could not make a right.
“Two wrongs do not make a right; the Army should have dealt with the perpetrators, but its personnel chose to hit many innocent others. I think that was definitely wrong,” he said.
Ayaga claimed that the killing of the soldier was a product of “mistaken identity”, and called on the state and federal governments to compensate victims of the soldiers’ anger.