- How the recent Plateau killings started
- Governor Caleb Mutfwang imposed 24-hours curfew
- Peter Obi visited the area, expressed concern
For the past eight years, Plateau state has witnessed relative peace from the two decades of ethno-religious violence that has claimed tens of hundreds of lives with properties worth hundreds of millions of naira annihilated.
The usual crisis, largely between pastoralists and farming communities, had arguably reduced to the barest minimum with virtually all warring parties interacting with one another peacefully.
However, since the start of the campaigns for the last general elections, attacks and killings in various communities across the state escalated at an alarming proportion.
Between April and May this year, more than 300 people including women and children were killed in the villages of Mangu, Barikin Ladi and Riyom LGAs of the state.
Report had it that in Mangu alone, more than 150 people were confirmed killed in a night attack and houses burnt in May in two communities of Kubwat and Fungzai in the Kombun district of Mangu Local Government Area.
Muwaghagvul communities accused herders of attacking their village. But the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), through its state chairman, Nuru Abdullahi, denied the allegation.
The chairman, instead, accused the Muwaghagvul community of killing herders on April 17 in Maitumbi community. The leadership of Muwaghagvul Development Association had also denied the allegation.
Litany of killings in the past three months
In April, not less than ten persons were allegedly killed by the Fulani herdsmen. Though the actual figure of the casualties could not be ascertained, it was also reported that several residents are believed to have died in the attack.
The then governor of the state, Simon Lalong, immediately ordered security forces to fish out persons behind the attacks.
In a statement by Makut Macham, Lalong’s press and public affairs director, quoted the governor as saying the attackers must be “brought to justice without delay”.
He said the swift intervention of security agencies has doused the tension in the communities.
According to him, “the attacks are another attempt to reintroduce the era of violence and crises which have been largely contained due to the government’s huge investment in security, peace building and reconciliation,” the governor said.
“While commiserating with those who lost their lives and properties, the Governor directed the Peace Building Agency and the State Emergency Management Agency to immediately reach out to the victims with support.”
Analysts have continued to say the former governor seemed to have sounded prophetic if the soaring security challenges in the state are anything to go by.
In a review of killings and kidnappings in 2022, the data and research collated by some journalists in the state showed that arm that Plateau — alongside Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna and Benue — accounted for 40 percent of the 4,545 people killed during the year under review.
As the killing spree continues, in May, scores of people were murdered in Mangu Local Government Area after suspected herders attacked villages in the area.
It was reported by so many media houses that at least 13 people were killed in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of State as the recent upsurge in reprisal attacks between herders and farming communities in the area continued to take a dangerous and frightening dimension.
The incident followed the alleged killing of five herders in Rawu village in the preceding Thursday.
The following day being Friday, some persons suspected to be herders invaded the community, killing eight people.
The spokesperson of the state’s police command, Alabo Alfred, who confirmed the second attack in the community, said he was not aware of the killing of the herders also said the police have not confirmed the casualty figure of Friday night’s attack.
“I am not aware of the killing of the herders but there was an attack on Rawuru community where people were killed and houses burnt. Our men have been there and we are waiting for the report of what has happened.
However, following the attack, the state chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Nuru Abdullah while speaking to news men clarified that five herders were ambushed while returning from a cattle market in Bukuru, a town in Jos South Local Government Area.
According to his statement, “the police commissioner is aware. The DSS and Operation Safe Haven are aware. All the security agencies are aware,” he said.
With his statement, reprisal attacks literally erupted in the state with both sides trading blame on each other.
By and large, in June, twenty-one people, including a cleric, were killed on Sunday June 11th night in Riyom and Barking Local Government Areas of the state.
Residents of the areas said a group of gunmen invaded the communities when most inhabitants of the villages were sleeping.
The attacks happened hours after two herders, who were returning from herding their cattle, were shot dead in Fa’s, a village in Riyom LGA, that Sunday evening.
The spokesperson of the state police command, Alabo Alfred, who confirmed the two incidents, added that security personnel are on top of the situation.
The Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), in Riyom LGA, Bello Tafawa, again identified the herders who were killed as Adam Ahmad (33) and Musa Ibrahim (23).
“The gunmen attacked them when they coming back home after rearing. The victims died instantly because of the gunshot wounds on their bodies. Adam Sani Ahmad left behind six children, while Musa Ibrahim left behind one child.
“This is an unprovoked attack on our members. We have already reported the case to the security agencies in the area, including Operation Safe Haven, a multi-security taskforce maintaining peace in Plateau, because we don’t want anybody to take the law into their hands,” Mr Bello said.
Confirming the attack, Rwang Tengwong, National Publicity Secretary of Berom Youth Movement, said “two persons were killed in Rim village of Riyom Local Government Area, Seven killed in Jol, Eleven in Kwi while a Cleric, Reverend Nicodemus Kim was killed in Gana-Ropp Barkin Ladi LGA.
“The attacks on Rim, Jol and Kwi were simultaneously coordinated by the terrorists between the hours of 2 p.m and 7 p.m. In Kwi, an entire Community, Hei-gwe, was completely burned down, and over a hundred farmlands destroyed.
“In Gana-Ropp, the Cleric, Reverend Nichodemus Kim, with the Church of Christ In Nations, was attacked at about 8 p.m. at home, and the militias opened fire on him.
“The BYM called on the federal and state governments to come up with new strategies to address the security situation in the country and particularly in Plateau State. Security personnel must also wake up to their statutory responsibility to safeguard lives and property.
“The BYM equally call on the Berom nation to remain calm and law-abiding in all these but must explore every avenue to defend our communities as we cannot sit and watch while we are killed one after another,” he added.
In the face of the growing clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and Plateau people, it could be said that there is a theatre of tit-for-tat attacks between pastoralist and farming communities in these areas.
July attacks and imposition of 24-hour curfew
In the face of the seemingly uncontrollable security situation in the areas, residents of Farinkasa Kerana and Sabon Gari communities in the same Mangu Local Government Area on July 8, witnessed another fresh attacks by gunmen, which left 12 persons dead.
It was reported that this came as Governor Caleb Mutfwang imposed a 24-hour curfew on the Mangu council following recent attacks that led to the loss of lives and property.
However, kinsmen of Governor Mutfwang under the aegis of the Mwaghavul Development Association, have renewed calls on the Federal Government to declare the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, as a terrorist organization.
One of the residents Mathew Habila, who confirmed the killings in Jos, said the victims were killed in their houses Saturday night
In his words, “We have our people killed again in another attack last night. This time, 12 people were killed with several others injured and many houses were burnt by Fulani militia at Farinkasa Kerana and Sabon Gari communities in Mangu districts of Mangu council.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Alabo Alfred could not confirm the recent killings.
Renewed call to declare MACBAN a terrorist group
Meanwhile, kinsmen of Governor Mutfwang under the aegis of the Mwaghavul Development Association, MDA, have renewed calls on the Federal Government to declare the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, as a terrorist organisation.
Addressing newsmen in Jos, National President of MDA, Joseph Gwankat, said: “It is in the public domain that MACBAN has been hiring foreign mercenaries to attack communities, including ours.
“Our villages have been deserted due to these attacks and have become grazing fields for the Fulani herders. So far, a total of 204 of our people have been killed in 53 attacks carried out by them.
“We, therefore, strongly suggest that the Federal Government should declare MACBAN a terrorist organisation because of the heinous crimes that its members are perpetrating in various parts of Nigeria.
“We urge the government to take full responsibility for educating children below the age of 10 who have lost both parents as a result of the attacks, while arrangements are made for the SS3 students whose WAEC exams were disrupted due to these attacks.”
Mutfwang imposes 24-hr curfew on Mangu
The governor, in consultation with the State Security Council, imposed a curfew on the entire council to restore law and order.
A statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Gyang Bere, said: “Consequently, movements within the council have been banned until further notice except for security personnel and persons on essential duties.
“Security agencies have, therefore, been directed to ensure total enforcement of the curfew.
“Meanwhile, the governor has assured the people that the government is working round-the-clock to restore peace.”
Peter Obi urged residents to return to peaceful coexistence
The Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, has described the recent mayhem in some parts of Plateau state, which led to the killings of hundreds of people, as unfortunate.
Obi was in Jos, the state capital on Wednesday, where he celebrated his 62nd birthday with over 20,000 Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Mangu local government area of the state.
He donated the sum of N5 million and 100 bags of rice to the victims of the recent crises in the area.
Speaking at the palace of the Paramount Ruler of Mwaghavul land, Mishkaham Da John Putmang Hirse, Obi condemned the killings and promised to partner with the state government and traditional institutions to ensure that the displaced persons were adequately taken care of.
He solicited the attention of all well-meaning Nigerians to re-integrate the displaced persons back into society having lost all their valuables and loved ones.
The LP presidential candidate commiserated with the people of Mangu, describing the killings as sad and uncalled for.
Obi had earlier visited Governor Caleb Muftwang at the Government House, Little Rayfield, Jos, where he told his host that he chose to celebrate his birthday with the Internally Displaced Persons in Mangu to show support to the people and also commiserate with them over the needless killings that have claimed several lives and properties in some local government Areas of the State.
According to him, “Plateau was known to be the most peaceful State in Nigeria, with beautiful weather and a serene environment, but in recent years it’s been plagued by crises and killings.
“We must go back to the Plateau we used to know. A Plateau where people from various parts of life come to organize events and enjoy the beauty of the plateau. I call on Security Agencies to collaborate and bring these perpetrators to justice”.
Inspector-General of Police advises citizens on the crisis
In any case, on July 20, the Acting Inspector – General of Police, (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun, urged residents of State to refrain from attaching religious or ethnic colorations to criminals perpetrating heinous killings and crimes.
In his statement, such colorations could cause more harm to peaceful coexistence and national unity.
The IGP gave the advice when he embarked on a critical duty tour to assess and address the prevailing security challenges in some parts of Plateau State.
During the tour, the IGP had a crucial meeting with the Plateau State Governor, Caleb Muftwang, at the State House, where they extensively discussed the security situation in the state, analyzing its complexities and exploring strategic solutions.
According to a statement on Thursday by the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the IGP convened a gathering with the Plateau Stakeholders Forum at the Police Officers Mess in Jos, providing an opportunity for comprehensive deliberations and collaboration among key stakeholders to address the prevailing security challenges and foster sustainable peace and stability in the region.
Adejobi said: “Similarly, the IGP proceeded to Mangu Local Government Area of the state, the epicenter of the immediate security challenge, where he actively engaged with the local community and police operatives on the ground to corroborate intelligence received on the situation. The interaction provided a platform for open dialogue and enabled the IGP to assess the state of affairs, gather valuable insights, and reinforced the commitment of the Police to addressing the security challenges faced by the people of Mangu and restoring peace and order in the area.
“The Inspector-General of Police, therefore, emphasized the need for improved preventive deployments, effective intelligence gathering, and community engagements to proactively address the security concerns in Mangu. The IGP while reaffirming the commitment of the NPF to protect lives and property, and restore peace and harmony in the area, reiterated the NPF’s resoluteness in its determination to deploy necessary resources, strengthen preventive measures, and implement proactive strategies to address the security concerns in Plateau State and other regions across the country.
“Ag. IGP Kayode Egbetokun, however, charged the good people of Plateau state to refrain from attaching religious or ethnic colorations to the criminals perpetrating heinous killings and crimes in the state as a criminal remains one irrespective of his religion or ethnicity, and such colorations could cause more harm.