Gyang Bere, Jos
Residents of communities in Langtang North Local Government Area, Langtang South Local Government Area, and Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State may now heave a sigh of relief. Over 1,000 small arms and light weapons acquired by some youths in the area have been recovered.
Bandits used such weapons after the 2001 crisis in some communities in Plateau South to terrorise innocent citizens and rob them of their valuables. Some youths in the community have also used such weapons to inflict permanent deformity on innocent members of the communities.
These and other criminal activities going on in Plateau South drew the attention of the Nigerian military, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin directed the Commander, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) in charge of internal security in Plateau and environs, Major General Agustine Agundu to conduct a search on the communities.
But the chairman of Langtang North LGA, Laven Joshua Ubandoma, intervened on behalf of the communities. He volunteered to facilitate the recovery of the illegal arms from civilians in the area.
Ubandoma is the only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) council chairman in Plateau State. He was sworn in after a year of legal tussle.
The council boss set up a committee on recovery of small arms and light weapons among the Tarok nationality. The committee, which had members from Langtang North and South, was chaired by the Madaki Langtang, Daniel Bongtur.
The committee swung into action and recovered well over 1,000 weapons, which were surrendered voluntarily to the committee.
On Thursday, February 6, the chairman fulfilled his promise when he handed over the recovered weapons to Governor Simon Lalong who subsequently handed them over to the Commander of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Major General Augustine Agundu.
At the event, Ubandoma said: “Our meeting today signifies that the Tarok nation has embraced peace. We saw how the Tarok people suffered 20 years ago, in 2002. Women, children and aged persons were displaced from their homes in Kadarko.
“That crisis came with a lot of destruction; our people suffered serious casualties. Despite this, the crisis kept on going until the Tarok people took their security into their hands.
“The people stood vehemently to defend themselves and later went after the assailants. They subdued them and got some of these arms that were used in destroying and killing our people.
“Since the administration of Simon Lalong came on board, he has taken over the mandate of ensuring peace in the state. In the last five years, we don’t have cattle rustling in Langtang. Criminality and other forms of banditry have stopped, and our people can sleep comfortably now.
“With the peace, we took a decision with our traditional rulers that there is no need to keep those arms because they are illegal in the hands of the civilians and the recovery of the arms shows that peace has finally returned to Tarok nation.
“These arms are being handed over today voluntarily to show that the Tarok people have embraced your policy trust on peace. Our collective resolve now is that we want to rid our communities completely of crime.
“We are the first local government that started this and we want other local governments in the state to key in to ensure that Plateau is rid of arms and small light weapons.
“We plead with the government to look into the plight of the youths who have voluntarily surrounded this arms with a vow that they would not go into crime again. We appreciate them for this singular gesture.
The Madaki Langtang and chairman, Committee on Recovery of Small Arms and light weapons within the Tarok nationality, Daniel Bongtur, said the effort of the committee was earlier resisted by some uninformed people. He said, however, that they were educated on the imperative of the exercise, which he noted had yielded results.
His words: “The small arms and light weapons recovered include anti-tank guns, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy and light multipurpose machine guns, automatic rifles, fabricated long-range revolvers, pump action guns, double and single barrel guns, automatic revolvers, dane guns, local shells, local pistols and revolvers, various sizes of live ammunition and various explosive devices.
“There was some initial resistance from some people, including party loyalists who tended to view the approach as a cheap way of disarming the natives to be slaughtered by their enemies who had killed them in the past.
“Most of the weapons were seized from those who attacked the Tarok nation and were subsequently used in the defence of the people. Holding illegal arms is a contravention of the law and breeds trouble. We are happy to inform you that the list of those who voluntarily surrendered their weapons to the committee is ready.”
Governor Lalong said the exercise would go a long way in consolidating on the peace already gained by his administration in the state.
“Today’s event, which is the pilot phase of the Community-Driven Arms Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme, is very important to the efforts at removing unauthorised arms from non-state actors within the state.
“This event, driven by the community, local government and security agencies, is meant to address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. which has become a source of concern and increased violent crimes and loss of lives and property.
“It is, therefore, relevant to underscore the fact that this programme is not only aimed at retrieving unlicensed arms from non-state actors, but to also initiate a rehabilitation phase where those who voluntarily surrender their arms will be assisted and reintegrated back to society.”
Lalong urged other local governments to emulate Langtang North for the return of enduring peace in the country.
“You will agree with me that Plateau State has witnessed various criminal activities and crises that can be directly linked to the availability of these arms in the hands of criminals and their collaborators. It is hoped that this programme will not only remove these arms from people who constitute danger to the society, but also offer them alternatives to better livelihood.
“On the heels of the recent killings in Mangu and Bokkos local governments, I addressed stakeholders, where I directed that those who committed these crimes must be arrested and prosecuted. Already, the police have made arrests and investigation is on-going.
“We have to move beyond this tragedy to the next step of finding a permanent solution to the challenges of killings, kidnapping, robbery, banditry and other crimes that are threatening our collective existence. Events such as this disarmament will definitely make the implementation and sustenance of the community policing initiative easy in the state, as those who are not permitted to carry arms will no longer constitute a threat to lives and property.”
He praised those that voluntarily turned in their arms for choosing to turn from their old and evil ways.
“Our administration is therefore delighted to partner with you to enhance community resilience as well as provide support for the social reintegration of these repentant individuals and groups in the two local governments.
“We shall support the two local governments by availing the repentant persons opportunities through collaboration with the ITF, BON, PLASMEDA and other relevant agencies, including local and international organisations. We want to support you in the area of skills acquisition, capacity building, training and direct empowerment.”
Commander, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Major General Agustine Agundu called on other communities on Plateau State to emulate Langtang North and South to rid the state of all kinds of crime.
He noted that a lot of civilians were still harbouring weapons and advised them to surrender those illegal weapons to the security agencies.
Gen. Agundu said the military was determined to provide the basis for lasting peace in the state.