The Nigerian Army has promised to clampdown on armed bandits terrorising residents of Plateau State and stop the incessant killings in state.
The Commander Of Operation Safe Haven, Major General Augustine Agundu disclosed this on Saturday while reacting to the murder of three soldiers working with the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven.
He described the recent killings in the state as precarious and an act of lawlessness. He vowed that the troops is set to deal with the situation decisively.
“The peace on the Plateau has been disrupted to a situation that is no longer acceptable. I lost some men yesterday because certain persons have decided to take laws into their hands.
“I have declared enough is enough. What happened in Barkin Ladi will never repeat itself again. I’ve locked down Barkin Ladi completely and no human being is going to cause further havoc in that local government.
“Whatever is going on in Barkin Ladi local government, Riyom Local Government, Bassa Local Government, Bokkos Local Government, that is enough. My troops are resolved to bring the situation decisively under control.”
Agundu disclosed further that the three soldiers were killed in action by some attackers who are yet to known. He also lamented over the proliferation of arms in the Plateau.
He urged leaders of Plateau communities to get their youths to decorum so that residents of the communities can go about their business peacefully and without fear.
While the suspects – Ibrahim Joji and Mr Madu Ibrahim – were arrested allegedly for the attacks on June 23, the military apprehended three others – Shaibu Suleman, Buhari Shaibu, and Zakamin Abdulkadri – in connection with the killings that took place on July 14.
Brigadier General Agim revealed that the Commander of Operation Safe Haven was relocated to the LGA after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered that the perpetrators of the attacks be brought to justice.
He noted that while the military would continue with the arrest, those apprehended would be handed over to the police for further investigation and prosecution.
The DHQ spokesperson said although no weapon was found with the suspects, they were part of the said perpetrators of the attacks while their trial would take place in Jos.
The arrest of the seven suspects now brings the number of those apprehended so far in connection to the killings to 18.
The attack in June is one of the worst in the series, leaving at least 100 persons dead and several others displaced in Barkin Ladi and other parts of the state.
A day after the killings, the state government imposed a curfew on Barkin Ladi and two neighbouring LGAs – Jos-North and Riyom – to forestall reprisals and the breakdown of law and order.
The attacks had also sparked a widespread criticism and led to the deployment of special forces to the state, while President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the Nigerian Governors Forum, among others, paid condolence visits to Plateau.
Although the state government believes that relative peace and calm have returned to the affected areas, it urged residents to show restraint.
On July 2, the Secretary to the State Government, Rufus Bature, announced that the government had relaxed the curfew due to the gradual return of peace to the affected communities.
He said the killings formed the major discussion when members of the forum met for about five hours where they decried the spate of the insecurity in the country.
Governor Yari revealed that the governors sympathised with the victims, people and government of Plateau, as well as other states that have experienced similar incidents.
Read the resolutions to the meeting, he said, “The governors have unanimously called for the prosecution of perpetrators of the attack and resolve to find a quick and common solution to the security crisis in the country.
“The forum resolves to pay a condolence visit to Plateau state to commensurate with the government and people of Plateau State.”
According to Yari, the forum also decided to convene a day meeting with the security chiefs to come up with a “holistic solution to the country’s security situation”.
Governors at the meeting include Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Mohammed Abubakar (Jigawa), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia).
Others are Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), among other governors.
The governors met barely one day after the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, held a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari over the same issues.
The National Assembly leaders had after the meeting said that Nigeria can no longer condone the repeated killings of innocent citizens.
Although the police authorities in Plateau maintained that 100 people were killed when suspected herdsmen attacked the villages, conflicting figures have continued to trail the death toll.
President Buhari had paid a condolence visit to the state on Tuesday where he met with the traditional rulers, religious leaders, representatives of youth, women and trade union groups among other stakeholders in the state.
He had directed the security chiefs to be vigilant and ensure that the lives and property of the people were protected.
The President also appealed to Nigerians to live in peace with one another and avoid inflammatory utterances that can promote conflicts.
The Nigerian Army said on Thursday that they have arrested 17 people in connection with the killing of at least 100 people in the central state of Plateau.
Army Spokesman, Major Adam Umar said three of the arrests were linked to killings in the Barikin Ladi area, while the other 14 were arrested in connection with the deaths of travellers in the south of the state capital, Jos.
“We all know that some days back, some villages in Barikin Ladi were attacked and these three suspects were arrested in connection with that,” Umar said.
“As our men were repelling the attacks in those areas, we arrested these three suspects with four rifles, three locally made guns and one AK47,” he added.
The clashes are rooted in tensions over access to land between the pastoral herders and sedentary farmers but have also generated sectarian friction between Muslims and Christians.
Police and army reinforcements have been sent to Plateau to improve security, while a dusk-to-dawn curfew remained in place in areas of the state to restore calm.
At least 86 persons were confirmed killed by suspected herdsmen during the attack on Gashish district of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of the state last weekend.
The state’s Police Public Relations Officer, Mathias Tyopev, told Channels Television on Sunday that six people were also injured while at least 50 houses, 12 vehicles, and 15 motorcycles were razed.
He confirmed the casualty figure and destruction after a search and rescue team from the Plateau State Police Command visited the communities affected by Saturday’s attack.
The six villages attacked by the assailants are Xlands, Gindin Akwati, Ruku, Nhgar, Kura Falls and Kakuruk, all in Gashish.
Plateau State, which had previously enjoyed relative peace, has recently been hit by series of attacks mainly perpetrated by suspected herdsmen, resulting in the death of several persons.
Call For Calm
Several groups and individuals have continued to react to the resurgence, calling on the Federal Government to shake up the country’s security set up.
One of such groups was the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which has asked the Federal Government to review Nigeria’s security architecture in a bid to stem the rate of killings in the country.
The association lamented that despite assurances and promises by President Muhammadu Buhari that his government was committed to the safety of lives and property of Nigerians, “coordinated and premeditated” attacks have continued in Plateau and other states.
Furthermore, it called on the Federal Government not to rest on its oars until the perpetrators of the attacks are brought to book.
In a statement on Monday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President said that although a number of geographical and economic factors are contributing to the longstanding herdsmen/farmers clashes, politicians were taking advantage of the situation.
He, however, called for calm in the troubled state.
While describing the attacks as painful and regrettable, the President assured residents that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
The state governor, Mr Simon Lalong, also assured residents that the government remains committed to their security, and it is doing everything possible to ensure that perpetrators are not spared.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has asked security agencies to improve their efforts and strategies in bringing an end to violence and wanton killings across the country.
PENGASSAN’s National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Fortune Obi, said this in a statement on Thursday, in reaction to the latest attack on communities in Jos, Plateau State, which left at least 100 persons killed.
“PENGASSAN notes that the Security Agencies, especially the police seem helpless in the face of the mindless and unprovocative killing of innocent Nigerians.
“We, therefore, call for more recruitment into all arms of the Security Agencies, including the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and also advise the Security Agencies to review their strategies to put an end to the killing.
“The Security Agencies should improve their relationship with the communities to enable them to get necessary information before any attacks”, it said.
Furthermore, the group condemned the killings, especially as the cattle breeders association, Meyatti Allah had allegedly said the killing was a reprisal following the rustling of several cows.
“We equally frown at the statement by a spokesman Meyatti Allah that the killings were in response to rustling of about 100 cattle in the area.
“This is not an excuse for lawlessness in a country that has government and security apparatus to handle issues,” the company said.
While commiserating with families of the victims, the people and Government of Plateau State, PENGASSAN, however, called on the government and security agencies to take immediate action.
It said beyond condemning the killings, the government ought to deploy a special squad of military and other forces permanently to troubled prone areas to bring a permanent stop to it.
“Besides, we implore the Government to deploy a special squad of military and other forces permanently to trouble-prone areas of Benue, Taraba and Plateau states. The Federal Government should rise above just condemning such killings and courageously do all it takes to protect the lives and properties of citizens which is the whole essence of governance”.
The lawmaker representing Barkin Ladi, Riyom Consistuency at the National Assembly, Honourable Istifanus Gyang, has alleged the attack on some communities in Plateau State is an attempt by ‘killer herdsmen’ to take over the communities.
The lawmaker in an interview on Channels Television Breakfast Programme, Sunrise Daily on Thursday claimed that the herdsmen are on the prowl and taking over Plateau villages.
“The issue at stake is simply an agenda of land grabbing. These attacks have been sustained over 10 years and in the process, villages have been overturned and the people displaced. People are massively killed and the lands occupied by killer herdsmen.
“Over four villages have been added to the 45 that have already been overturned and are under forceful occupation. It is simply a game to ensure that a cattle colony carved and the land is grabbed for grazing. This is the reason behind the killings that we are witnessing in this constituency. It is harrowing that over 200 will be killed in cold blood. This is very unfortunate,” he lamented.
Gyang appealed for proactive measures to be taken by the state and Federal government, noting the attacks might generate into terrorism like Boko Haram attacks, if treated with kids glove.
The lawmaker also claimed that the attackers have been defiant to peaceful dialogue, frustrating the efforts of local authorities to instill peace in Barkin Ladi District.
“About three traditional rulers have been killed. Three others are presently living in exile. Recently, two traditional rulers had to escape from their palaces. So, the traditional institution and even churches are not left out.
“In a recent attack in a community in Dorowa, all the churches in that community were destroyed and burned down.”
Gyang thereby appealed to the Federal Government to enforce law and order in Plateau State, noting that, “The Nigerian State must rise up to its constitutional responsibility to ensure that this thing is arrested in my constituency, otherwise, ethnic groups will be cleansed in Nigeria.”
According to him, the perpetrators must be speedily brought to book, justice must be done so that families that are currently displaced will be rehabilitated and peace returned to the affected villages.
Barkin Ladi residents, mostly women and children in Gashish District, were on Monday reported to have left their homes following Saturday’s killings and attack on their communities by suspected herdsmen.
The displaced families are currently seeking refuge at the Barkin Ladin Local Government Secretariat.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has announced a mourning period of seven days for the victims of killings in Plateau State and other parts of the country.
During the seven-day period, the party’s flags in its offices will be flown at half-mast in honour of those who lost their lives, a statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Wednesday said.
Beyond declaring a mourning period, the opposition party wants residents of Plateau to demand justice, defend their rights and sue the Federal Government.
“The PDP urges the people of Plateau State to exercise their rights as global citizens, work with other public-spirited Nigerians and groups and take President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for acting helpless in the face of continuous mass killings in our country,” it said.
The decision is in reaction to the weekend attack by suspected herdsmen on villages in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State in which at least 100 people were killed.
In addition to the killings, over 50 houses were set ablaze and many who survived the attack fled the communities, leading to humanitarian challenges.
Already, the Plateau State Government has called on the Federal Government to provide N10 billion for a Victims Support Fund.
The latest in the wave of killings that have affected several states in the country since January 1, 2018, when suspected herdsmen attacked villages in Benue State killing 73 people have attracted criticism for the Federal Government.
It has also sparked fresh calls for President Muhammadu Buhari, who lamented that life was being cheapened in the country after the Plateau attacks, to take decisive action and halt the bloodshed.
There have also been accusations of bias on the part of the security agencies with a former Minister of Defence, Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma accusing the military of bias earlier this year.
The PDP, however, suggested that such accusations won’t come up of it was in power.
It said, “The PDP firmly holds that the life of every Nigerian is sacred. All Nigerians must be protected whether they are Birom, Basange, Igbira, Tiv, Idoma, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, Gbagyi, Yoruba or from any other tribe whatsoever.
“The fundamental duty of government all over the world is the protection of lives and Nigerians can no longer continue to fold their hands while compatriots are being daily hacked down by marauders.”
The Federal Government and the Presidency have repeatedly denied allegations of bias against it.
During his condolence visit to Plateau on Tuesday, President Buhari told residents of the state that “there is some injustice” in allegations that he is silent over the killings because he is Fulani.
He assured the people that the necessary steps would be taken to protect them and bring those behind the brutal attacks to justice.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) reacted to the killings on Wednesday morning, demanding the arrest and prosecution of those responsible.
“We call on security agencies to spare no efforts in ensuring the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators and in stemming the occurrence of such violence in all parts of the country,” the APC said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Bolaji Abdullahi.
The party appealed to religious and community leaders “to demonstrate true leadership even in the face of this terrible challenge by appealing to those affected not to take the laws into their hands and avoid utterances and actions that can provoke reprisal”.
Concerns over reprisals by victims of the attack and the possible breakdown of law and order had led the Plateau State Government to impose a curfew on Barkin Ladi and two neighbouring LGAs – Jos-North and Riyom – on Sunday.
“We call on security agencies to spare no efforts in ensuring the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators and in stemming the occurrence of such violence in all parts of the country,” the statement said.
The APC described the attack as an act of “barbarism, bestiality and cruelty” to a fellow man, saying nothing can justify such incident.
They condoled with the government and people of Plateau State over the attack which left at least 100 people dead in Barkin-Ladi and Riyom local government areas of Plateau.
The ruling party further stressed the need for Nigerians to live in harmony with one another, irrespective of their religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds.
They added, “We appeal to religious and community leaders to demonstrate true leadership even in the face of this terrible challenge by appealing to those affected not to take the laws into their hands and avoid utterances and actions that can provoke reprisal.”
The party, however, said they are confident that the prompt visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state would help to provide some succour to the people of the affected communities.
They also described the visit as a reassurance of the President’s commitments to tackling the security situation in the country.
The request is coming on the heels of the weekend attack on some villages in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area of the state, where several persons were killed by suspected herdsmen.
The commissioner explained that the fund would help the government address the issues of compensation after the deadly attack rendered many other residents homeless.
According to him, the VSF is needed so that “Those who have been affected will be supported or compensated to reduce the human suffering and also feel that justice has been done to a level because, sometimes, most of these things lead to reprisals.”
Dati’ further decried a situation whereby security operatives allegedly receive directives from their headquarters in Abuja, rather than from the state governor who is considered as the Chief Security Officer.
He claimed the security situation would have been better managed if there was a better synergy between the state government and the agencies.
“The military (personnel) do not report to the governor, They report to the Commander-in-Chief (President),” the commissioner affirmed.
“If they (the residents) report (a situation), there has to be that process of taking clearance before they (the military personnel) can move.”
At least 100 people were killed and many others displaced by the attack on six villages of Xlands, Gindin Akwati, Ruku, Nhgar, Kura Falls and Kakuruk, all in Gashish district.
President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly leadership, as well as prominent Nigerians and groups, have condemned the incident.
During his condolence visit to the state, the President met with traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, representatives of youth, women and trade union groups in Plateau.
He also appealed to Nigerians to live in harmony and avoid inflammatory utterances that can endanger peace or promote conflicts.
President Buhari had consequently ordered the security chiefs to be vigilant and ensure that the lives and property of the people were protected.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has dissociated itself from the purported statement on the recent killings in Plateau State by the Chairman of the group in the north-central region, Danladi Ciroma.
According to the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah, Mr Othman Ngelzarma, who appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday, such comments do not reflect the true position of MACBAN.
“The statement made by the zonal chairman should be credited to him,” he said. “That should be his personal opinion because I believe he should be an indigene of Plateau State.”
Mr Ciroma had described the attack on the communities in Plateau as an act of retaliation for the killing of 300 cows belonging to members of the group.
But the national secretary faulted the comments and condemned the attack which left at least 100 dead and several others displaced.
He also commiserated with those who lost their loved ones to the attack, as well as the government and people of Plateau State.
Ngelzarma added, “It is so wicked, it is condemnable. We don’t condone it, we do not like it. It is really unfortunate and we sympathise with the communities in that area.”
Reacting to the allegation that some members of the association go about heavily armed, he noted that such persons should be treated as criminals.
“Whoever is holding a dangerous weapon up to the level of AK-47, we consider that person to be a criminal as far as we are concerned.
“We know these are prohibited arms that should not be held by any other person apart from the security operatives. Apart from that, I don’t think it is allowed for anybody in this country to hold a dangerous weapon as AK-47,” the MACBAN stressed.
Nigerians across the country condemned the incident and demanded immediate action.
Top politicians and government officials were not left out with Senate President Bukola Saraki demanding urgent security measures, while the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) called for a review of the country’s security architecture.