- For over two weeks now, several communities in Plateau State have witnessed resurgence of violence, leading to loss of over 50 lives, burning down of houses as well as destruction of property, farm crops and cattle.
Though there have been intermittent crises in several Plateau communities over the years, the intensity, sustenance and dimension the current one took was alarming. Originally, the crises were often between herdsmen and natives of the communities – what is in today’s Nigerian parlance referred to as ‘farmers-herders clash’.
The recent violence, however, began from two local government areas – Riyom and Bassa. After weeks of the non-stop violence, it then spread to Jos North which is one of the metropolitan local government areas. However, the crisis took an ethno-religious dimension, which has always been the dimension of Jos crises since 2001.
In Riyom, residents have been lamenting the continuous killing of their people by armed men as well as the destruction of their farm crops. About three weeks ago, some women from Riyom trooped out en mass to protest the killing of two youths at night by armed men.
The protesters, who blocked the Jos-Abuja highway, chanted different solidarity songs, while others carried leaves and placards with different inscriptions. As a result of the blockade, there was heavy gridlock and cars were prevented from plying the road for many hours.
Our correspondent gathered that the killing took place at about 8pm in Kum Village of Riyom Local Government Area, and the youths killed were identified as Titus John and Iliya Daylop.
About two weeks later, another attack happened at Wereng-Camp of Riyom LGA, resulting in the death of three persons. They are Dalyop Rumbu 33, Elisha Davou 27, and Davou Jatau 30, while Ezekiel Kwaso and Gideon Iliya were severely injured. The attack took place at about 5pm on August 1, 2021.
Again, it was gathered that Kwi Community of Riyom was attacked at about 7.21pm of same day, but the attack was repelled by the community members.
Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN) who confirmed this to our correspondent, also said these continuous attacks have inflicted unimaginable hardships on the people who are currently in dire need of humanitarian aid.
“ECCVN is heartily appealing with the authorities concerned for more deployment of Mobile Policemen across the distressed villages. This would largely raise a ray of hope, thereby calming fear of attacks in the minds of the people,” he said.
The killings and destruction in Riyom continued almost simultaneously with that of Bassa. In Bassa, over 20 lives were lost, houses burnt down and farm crops, that have germinated and would soon be harvested, destroyed. Several cattle were also killed. Both the herders and farmers recounted their loss from the violence.
Irigwe Development Association (IDA) in a statement said the terror being unleashed on their people by suspected herdsmen has continued unabated and without any sign of remorse or regret, and that some villages in Miango District came under intense and severe attack since Saturday July 31, 2021.
The statement, which was signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Davidson Malison, said the attack which started around 7pm lasted for over four hours unhindered and as a result over 250 houses were razed down in villages of Zanwra to Kpatenvie (Jebbu-Miango).
“The villages set ablaze are Zanwra, Nche-Tahu, Rikwe-Rishe A and B,Ri-Dogo, Nchu-Nzhwa all under Kpatenvie (Jebbu-Miango) of Kpachudu Community. About seven people were killed, while several others injured are receiving treatment at some undisclosed hospitals.
“As a nation, the continuous perpetration of these callous and barbaric acts without any form of attention by those saddled with the responsibility of securing lives and property are uncalled for, unacceptable and worrisome. As peace-loving people, we must be given the needed attention as it is our fundamental human rights for our lives to be safeguarded and protected. Also, our grievances have been hitting the deaf ears of the government,” the statement partly read.
On its part, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Plateau State Branch lamented the attacks and killings of innocent Fulani herders in Bassa and therefore called on the authorities to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book.
“MACBAN Plateau State Branch outrightly condemns the heinous attacks and killings by hooligans to initiate tribal war and abolish the peaceful co-existence between the peace revived by the present government, particularly at this trying time of our country. MACBAN states categorically that the pre-meditated attack on our members is an affront on the generality of fulani herders and must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.
“The association hereby calls on the security agencies and state government to ensure that those who are directly or indirectly involved in this despicable act are brought to book.”
“We call on all our members, especially those from Bassa LGA to be calm and not take laws into their hands, as the situation is being monitored to ensure justice is done to all, as injustice to one is injustice to all. We commiserate with the families of those who loss their lives and solemnly pray that Almighty Allah grant them the fortitude to bear their irreparable loss and pray for quick recovery of those that sustained various injuries,” the statement partly read.
Reacting to the endless violence, member representing Rukuba/Irigwe (Bassa) state constituency in the Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Musa Agah Avia and his Riyom counterpart, Hon. Timothy Dalyop Dantong, said they are collaborating to find sustainable solution to the violence in both local government areas which has become a recurring phenomenon.
They said violence would do no one any good because apart from the pain, deaths and destruction it causes, no one ever wins in violence.
Yet, the violence continued until it spread to Gada Biu and Polo area of Jos North on Tuesday night. Youths of the area blocked the highway and began burning down properties and trucks before security operatives intervened and dispersed them. Two lives were lost in the incident.
The next morning, boys from Angwan Rukuba (in Jos North still) also blocked the road and began beating up some persons, mostly tricyclists and other road users. The security agencies however quickly responded and brought the situation under control.
Few days before the crises spread to Jos city, Governor Simon Lalong had ordered the security operatives to deal ruthlessly with perpetrators of violence, saying no matter how long it takes, the criminals would be arrested and punished accordingly.
The governor stated this at the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, 3 Division, Jos, during the Inter- Brigade Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers 2021 Competition.
Lalong, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Danladi Atu, said his administration would never allow few criminals take Plateau State back to the dark days of pain and sorrow.
“As you are aware, peace and security has remained a very key priority of my administration since assumption of office. This is because before we came into office, Plateau State was plagued by series of crises, which resulted in the loss of lives and properties.
“We have to take very seriously the desperation of crisis merchants including recent isolated killings in some parts of the state such as Dong, in Jos North; Kwi in Riyom LGA; Barkin Ladi and Bassa LGAs. In particular, the reported killings in Bassa have become worrisome and persistent, even up till yesterday (last Sunday) where many houses were destroyed and some people killed. This must stop and I have directed the security agencies to be ruthless with these criminals.”
The governor also summoned an emergency security council meeting that day to get briefings and conduct reviews to determine the next step of action.
A statement by his media aide, Makut Simon Macham, said the governor had been in touch with all the heads of security agencies including the Police, Operation Safe Haven, Operation Rainbow, DSS, NSCDC and others with a clear mandate to move into the areas and apprehend perpetrators behind the wanton destruction of lives and properties, as well as restore normalcy to the affected areas.
Meanwhile, one of the injured persons in Riyom who sustained gunshot wounds, James Yohanna, recounted his ordeal. Yohanna, a 38-year-old father of eight, is appealing to kind-hearted Nigerians to come to his aid and that of other victims.
He said they received report about the planned attacks on their village in Byei, and they resolved to keep watch throughout that day.
“I was about to eat my dinner at about 6:34pm, so I could join the vigilantes to keep watch, when I heard heavy gunfire which I believed must be an invasion by the militias, based on the information we received three days before that they would be coming to attack us.”
“When I went out to assess the situation, unknown to me the attackers had already stationed themselves round the village. I took a route I suspected they could come through because there was sound of heavy gunshots. Immediately, I felt something strange hit me. I could not recall what happened thereafter. I later saw myself in the hospital,” he said.
Another victim in Miango area of Bassa, Ruth Hodus, said their house and cars were burnt down during the crises.
Mrs Hodus, who is a farmer, and her husband a civil servant, said all the members of her family were scattered in different places and being sheltered by kind-hearted people.
According to her, she and her husband are currently staying with their son in Bukuru area of Jos South, and she was not certain on when to return to their area.
Residents of Jos have, however, expressed worry over the recurring crises and also raised questions, chief among them being the repeated crises in Bassa despite the proximity of 3 Division, often referred to as Rukuba Military barracks – the biggest military formation in the state.
In all, the body language of the people shows that they want a quick solution to the violence and immediate end to the senseless bloodshed and destruction.
This story first appeared in Daily Trust, https://dailytrust.com/resurgence-of-violence-lives-lost-property-destroyed-in-plateau