Sunday Magazine

Blood on the Plateau: How 70 persons were killed, 2500 houses razed

• 1000 hectares of farmland destroyed within 6 days

• Ex-Rep member’s house looted, burnt

• Army base, GOC failed us –Victims

 

To the Irigwe Chiefdoms in Bassa Local Government of Plateau State, the past one week leaves them with horrible memories of tears, sorrow and blood.

 

In six successive days, suspected Fulani herdsmen in a flurry of attacks killed over 70 of their kinsmen, women and children inclusive. Besides turning many of them to widows, widowers and orphans, thousands of them were rendered homeless and the source of their livelihood destroyed following a near apocalyptic incineration of 2, 500 houses and 1000 hectares of ancestral farmlands.

The affected villages include Zanwra, Nche-Tahu, Rikwe-Rishe A and B, Ri-Dogo, Nchu-Nzhwa all under Kpatenvie of Kpachudu/ Jebu Community of Bassa Local Government Area of the state.

 

The attacks, which occurred from July 31 to August 4, 2021 began with the destruction of thousands of hectares of farmlands with a variety of crops. Some of the natives were reportedly ambushed and killed on their way to their farms.

Sunday Telegraph reports that Miango, the home to the Irigwe people have been under incessant attacks for years now and no culprit has been apprehended by the authorities making the attacks to continue unabated.

 

Finding revealed that the attackers in their numbers came on July 31 around 7pm, shooting and burning houses belonging to the indigenous people. Villagers said the attack lasted for hours without any form of intervention from security operatives.

 

Widow laments One of the victims, Mrs. Celina Ishaku, a 60-years old widow, resident of Miango, said her house was burnt down while her farm destroyed, thereby compounding her woes. She narrates her pains to Sunday Telegraph. “What shall we do now?

 

Who will help us at this point of pains and suffering? Fulani herdsmen have burnt down our houses, still they went ahead and destroyed our farmlands.

 

We don’t have anybody on this planet earth apart from God. Only God can help us. They keep killing us every day, and there is nobody to help us.” “Nobody to help,” she shouted in tears, “no husbands; no children; no women, all of them have been all killed.

 

Now we have neither house nor food to eat while they have destroyed our farmlands, are we not part of this country? She asked”. She, however, prayed, “Oh God, help your children, they want to wipe us all in Irigwe land. Please God, help us. Come to our rescue. Security is silent.

 

Government is silent while they keep attacking and looting our property”. She also lamented that the government has not done enough amidst the recent occurrences and appealed for government’s intervention, stating that they are a peaceloving community but they cannot understand these continuous attacks on their land. Irigwe Development Association (IDA), said that the six-day attack affected Jebbu Miango and Kwall District of Irigwe Chiefdoms of Bassa Local Government of Plateau State.

 

The National Publicity Secretary of IDA, Mr. Davidson Mallison told journalists in Jebbu Miango while conducting journalists around the scenes of the fresh attacks said it was most shocking.

 

 

He said the deceased were killed during a sustained attack that lasted six days from Saturday to Thursday without the intervention of the Police, Operation Safe Haven, a military outfit which has been in the state for over seven years and any other security agencies.

 

Malison said over 2500 houses, including the residence of a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lumumba Dah Adeh were burnt and food items, generators, motorcycles and water pump machines were carted away.

 

He explained that the attackers who came in vehicles, looted foodstuffs, household items and other valuables in most homes before setting them ablaze.

 

“Within six days, over 70 persons were killed; over 2500 houses were burnt down, over 1000 hectares of farm land were destroyed completely. Household items that we cannot even count them.

 

“Domestic animals worth an estimate of N100 million have been looted by these herdsmen. You could see the damage that these herders have caused Irigwe nation is so unbearable.

 

This is the first time that Irigwe land has witnessed this kind of dangerous attack.” He explained that the attack which was massive took on a different dimension as the herders did not only mean harm to Irigwe people but came with an agenda to forcefully take over their ancestral land which he said they will resist without looking back.

 

Hon. Adeh whose house was burnt and household items and livestock carted away called on government and spirited individuals to assist the vulnerable communities.

 

“It is sad that these communities have been razed down and the people have been forced to desert their ancestral homes with consequent pains and pressure that has caused the people.

 

“The most unfortunate aspect of the saga is that the herders sustained attack on these villages for four days without being repelled by the security forces, especially despite the fact that Jabbu Miango shares fence with the 3rd Armored Division of the Nigeria Army, where we have the GOC that doubles as the STF Commander.

 

“Most of these attacks did not occur overnight. It is not as if we didn’t receive intelligence. Even when you get information that the herders are coming, you make all contacts, there is no response and that is the most painful.

 

That makes us to wonder whether we are part of this nation of selective response to crisis and attacks.

 

“There was looting beyond what they (the attackers) could carry by hand such that they had to deploy vehicles to convey them and they passed through roads which are manned by security officers.

 

They burnt my house and went as low as carting away television sets, chickens and other valuables in the house before setting it ablaze.”

 

The Paramount Ruler of Irigwe Chiefdoms and the Brra Nggwe Rigwe, His Royal Highness Rev. Ronku Aka, while receiving relief materials mostly foodstuffs donated by the former Rep Adeh, to be distributed to displaced families, described the incessant attacks of his subject as most horrendous.

 

The Brra Nggwe Rigwe also frowned at the continuous violence in his domain, adding that the land bequeathed to the Rigwe people  by their forefathers could not be forcefully grabbed, irrespective of attacks and other strategies deployed against them. “I am saddened as you can see the entire community razed down.

 

The most unfortunate aspect of this incident is that these marauders consistently attack this village four consecutive days without been repelled by security agencies, especially that this community shares a fence with the 3 Armoured Division where we have a GOC who double as the STF Commander”.

 

The Plateau State Governor and Chairman Northern Governors Forum Barr Simon Bako Lalong had summoned an emergency security meeting with head of security agencies in the state where he received further briefings and conducted detailed reviews to determine the next line of action against the incessant killings of farmers in the State.

 

Lalong expressed sadness over the development and sympathised with families affected. He tasked security agencies to take all necessary measures to stop the deteriorating security situation in Bassa and Riyom local government areas which had led to the loss of lives and destruction of houses, property and farmlands.

 

He assured that the government will engage all stakeholders in addressing the matter with a view to bringing an end to the unfortunate and unacceptable attacks on innocent citizens and disrupting the peace of the affected areas and the state at large.

 

However, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State Chapter, has charged the security agencies in the state to be fair and just in mitigating the rising spate of attacks in Bassa, Riyom and other parts.

 

CAN Chairman in Plateau State, Very Rev. Fr. Polycarp Lubo, stated this when he received on courtesy visit the General Officer 3rd Division, Nigerian Army and newly appointed Commander, Operation Safe Haven, Jos Major General Ibrahim Ali at the CAN Secretariat Jos South Local Government. Lubo noted with dismay the unabated attacks on innocent and law-abiding citizens as a set back to the peace process in the state.

 

He stressed that the unfortunate incident was unacceptable and called on the commanding officer to swiftly mobilise his men to arrest the ugly trend.

Meanwhile Plateau State Inter- Religious Council consisting of leaders of the various Christian and Islamic faiths has expressed a deep shock, sadness and total condemnation over the unnecessary attacks and wanton destruction of lives, ripening farm crops, livestock (cattle) and the razing of houses in Bassa, Riyom and Barkin Ladi local government areas of the state.

 

Co-chairmen of the Religious Council and former COCIN President Rev. Prof. Pandang Yamsat and Emir of Wase, His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sambo Haruna in a joint statement described the carnage and bloodletting as a total negation of the teachings of Islam and Christianity.

 

“It is not only ungodly and inhuman; it is also a denial of both Biblical and Qur’anic teachings and therefore poses a serious threat to human lives, food security, economic and social progress of the state and the nation at large.

 

“We as your spiritual fathers are appealing to all involved in the perpetration of these heinous crimes to have a rethink and return to the virtues of tolerance and dialogue with one another, restitution, reconciliation and forgiveness, as clearly taught by the holy scriptures.

 

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported by Bukhari in the Hadith to have said “a Muslim whose Muslim or non-Muslim neighbor is not safe from his harm is not considered a true believer.”

 

In the same Hadith the Prophet added that “whoever kills a non-Muslim who has peace agreement with Muslims shall not smell Paradise though its fragrance is felt from a distance of 40 years (journey).”

 

“Similarly, the Lord Jesus Christ commands His believers that “If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault between you and him….” And “Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, ‘I will repay those who deserve it,’ says the Lord.” (Matt. 18:15-17; Rom. 12:19).

 

The two religious leaders said the carnage has advanced beyond one tribe against the other; or one faith against the other, to criminality versus human dignity and sacredness.

 

They called on government and security agencies to intensify their efforts to restore peace and security of all citizens, particularly in vulnerable communities in Bassa Local Government area.

 

“The problem can never be beyond our government and security agencies, being constituted authorities, servants and agents of God to reward the good and punish the wrong in our nation (Romans 6.1-4)”

 

Meanwhile Sequel to the recent attacks in some communities of Bassa Local Government Area, the Senator representing Plateau North, Istifanus Gyang, has urged the military task force responsible for the maintenance of peace in the state, Operation Safe Haven, the Police and the DSS, to discharge their duties “dispassionately and provide protection to endangered communities of Plateau North and ensure that all threats to peace are decisively dealt with”.

 

The lawmaker further stated that “this pattern, ugly one at that, has become the norm rather than the exception in bloody and highly destructive attacks on host communities in Plateau North Senatorial District where killer herdsmen kill and destroy both lives and livelihood with reckless abandon.”

 

Gyang, who is the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, added “I’m urging the OPSH, Police, and DSS to discharge their duties dispassionately and provide protection to endangered communities of Plateau North and ensure that all threats to peace are decisively dealt with”.

However, a Plateau pressure group known as Plateau Our Heritage, has also expressed total disappointment with the body language of the government at all levels on the war that has been declared on Plateau people with no form of attempts to halt it.

 

Chairman of the group and former Commissioner in Plateau State Hon. Alex Kwapnoe said government at all levels are instituted for the major responsibility of protecting its citizens, but in Plateau instance, the government has failed its people.

 

“It is not in doubt that the Plateau man is a peaceful person and has opened his doors to all manners of people to the point that as it is today, he is gradually losing grip of these doors as the enemy has taken his peaceful disposition for granted and are using their size, economic clout and by all means to chase him from his God-given ancestral abode.

 

“It has been witnessed in recent times, that apart from the daily kidnappings, killings in Jos city and Plateau lands; the enemies have devised another plot by engaging in the decimation of unripe farm crops with the government at the local and state levels paying lip service as usual.

 

“We are further worried over the unabated attacks which point to the fact that the government and its agencies are either overwhelmed or are in support of the ongoing carnage in the communities; especially in Miango, Bassa, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Jos South and Bokkos LGAs axis with no arrests of any sort, even when victims have said it times without number that their tormentors are sponsored and fully armed herdsmen”.

 

He urged government to take deliberate efforts to flush out killer herdsmen/terrorists from the surroundings of the state and make them pay for their heinous actions.

 

However, after three hours of deliberations behind closed doors, the Plateau State Security Council rose from its emergency meeting with a directive by Governor Lalong to the security agencies in the state to take full control of all vulnerable in Bassa and Riyom LGAs and clear the attackers that have perpetrated mayhem within the areas.

 

Plateau State Commissioner of Police, Edward Egbuka, said the governor, after receiving full briefs from the various security organs in the state and after exhaustive review of the situation, gave marching orders to the Police, Operation Safe Haven, Nigerian Army, DSS, Civil Defence, NSCDC and other collaborating agencies to reinforce and contain the situation without further delay.

 

“This is to sound a warning to the people involved in perpetrating these violent acts. Their leaders will be arrested. There are records of leaders that are on bail temporarily, and some of them have been fingered in these attacks. Nobody will be spared. Human life is sacred and nobody can take it at will.

 

There is a government in place and it will not accept lawlessness” the CP said.

 

The meeting also resolved to enhance engagement and collaboration with informal security groups such as the vigilante, community watch groups, hunters association and community leaders for enhanced intel ligence gathering.

 

 

 

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