From Gyang Bere, Jos
Life and property are longer safe in Plateau State. In recent times, there has been widespread bloodletting in different parts of the state. Blood, death, grief and utter fear have become the order of the day. And nobody knows who is next to die.
Accused of the complicity in the tragic mayhem are Fulani herdsmen. They invade rural communities at night with sophisticated guns, sack residents and disappear before dawn. But they also operate at dawn and in open fields.
There are instances when they enjoy enough time to graze their victims’ fields, loot their homes, maim and kill, before setting their belongings ablaze. That has become the new signature of one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria.
Jebbu Miango/ Biu Carnage
The recent security breach began with a sustained attack on Irigwe people in Jebbu Miango, Byei and Wereng camp communities in Bassa and Riyom local governments. The herdsmen invaded Byei and Wereng in Riyom LG and killed many. That was on Friday, July 30, 2021.
They mowed several hectares of farmlands and grazed crops belonging to local farmers, particularly maize. Sadly, when the villagers queried, they struck at night with AK-47. Witnesses claimed that in the whole of that week, they sustained these attacks. No fewer than 85 persons lost their lives on that occasion.
Unverified statistics claimed that over 3,141 houses were burnt while 1,520 houses were vandalised, including 2,901 farms as 5,901 families were displaced in 26 villages.
The paramount ruler of Irigwe, Ronku Aka, said the state was sitting on time bomb and urgent steps needed to be taken. He lamented that over 2000 people lost their lives in his domain since the inception of these confrontations:
“We have been trying from our own end to live peacefully with everybody living on Irigwe land. We have been living in peace with many tribes here, including Fulani.
“We gave out our daughters in marriage to them. We gave them our farms and they farmed freely. They grazed freely and they did everything they wanted to do, including their Shadi Cultural Festival. We allowed them to stage it here.
“But to our greatest surprise, we just woke up one day and saw them trooping out of Irigwe land. That was around 2000. They left without any concrete reason. They (Fulani) cannot come out and say they left this place because of this or that.
“Now, they are residing somewhere else, but they bring their cows down to graze here, most especially in the night. And on such occasions, they end up destroying farmlands and burning our houses.
“The problem we are facing is well known to everybody. I kept telling people that the Irigwe man did not go out to attack anybody. We never attacked Fulani herdsmen.
“But I also believe that if they come to harm you and your family, defend yourselves. That is my stand. Because you cannot just sit down and watch them kill your children, your wife and even you. And do nothing.”
Attack on commuters
The tragedy took new turn on on Saturday, August 14, 2021. That fateful day, the people of Irigwe were at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital (UJTH) to pick up bodies of their deceased relatives, ahead of a scheduled mass burial.
On their way to the graveyard, the grieving procession ran into a convoy of commuters from Bauchi State heading to Ondo State. One thing led to the other and there was a burst of transferred anger. It led to the death of some of these passengers on Rukuba Road. A bigger tragedy overwhelmed the city.
Twenty-three of these passengers lost their lives, 23 sustained injuries and 26 rescued unhurt. Violence soon erupted in different parts of the state capital, resulting in the death of three students of the University of Jos (UNIJOS). Many were injured and others are still missing, according to reports.
This led to the closure of the university and evacuation of students by their parents and state governments. A 24-hour curfew was imposed on several parts of the state to restore order. But despite this, the state is still unsafe. There have been reports of “silent” killings of venerable persons in a number of unsafe and unsecured areas.
Yelwa Zangam bloodbath
A few days ago, while Governor Simon Lalong travelled to Abuja to solicit for additional security presence and relief materials, another bloody attack took place at Yelwa Zangam in Jos North Local Government. That was on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.
In what looked like a reprisal, no fewer than 33 persons were killed. Twenty-seven of them were set ablaze in one house where they had gone for safety. The attackers cut down the bridge linking the community to the rest of the world to cut off help lines or any form of rescue operation before descending on their hapless victims. They butchered, killed and roasted their preys.
Bitrus Pada survived the attack but lost seven members of his family. He confirmed that the attack was carried out by Fulani herdsmen. He said 33 persons were killed, dozens injured and several houses were burnt:
“We want government to come to the aid of the community in terms of providing security, providing scholarship to orphans whose parents were murdered and rebuilding the houses that were burnt by the assailants.”
President, Anaguta Development Association (ADA), Sunday Buna, said: “Anaguta community has never taken an arm against any community but we have been attacked. We need a police station here to curtail some of the security challenges. We also want you to compensate the victims to alleviate their sufferings.”
Miyetti Allah Reacts
State chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Mallam Muhammad Nura Abdullahi, said some Fulani were killed in the attacks: “On Thursday, July 22, 2021, Hassan Abdullahi, Idris Muhammad and Manu Adamu were invited to come and settle a mischief cause d by their cattle in Vatt village.
“But as they were trying to reach their cows, they were attacked, arrested by a vigilance group in Fusa village. They were handed over to the security personnel of Anti-Kidnapping Unit in Jos. To our greatest surprise, two of them were taken to Naton village and were found death thereafter.
“Manu Adamu escaped death by whisky but sustained injuries. He has been discharged from police clinic Jos where he was hospitalised.
“Also, on July 27, armed Miango militias attacked, killed and beheaded Isa Sa’idu while grazing his cows around Kafi Gana village. Salisu Jibrin sustained gunshot injuries and is receiving treatment at a nearby hospital. The incidence occurred without any little provocation.”
Genesis of the violence
The bitter truth is that the violence on the Plateau dates back to 2001. Its initial eruption was recorded in Jos Bukuru Metropolis, leaving hundreds dead and properties destroyed.
Since that time, the state has witnessed several attacks, leading to the present reoccurring cases of herders/farmers clashes. The slight departure is that the attacks moved from the urban centre to the rural communities where the objective is to maw down vulnerable and defenceless members of the communities, outside the checks of the security arrangements put in place to ensure peace and stability in the state.