Gyang Bere, Jos
Life has lost meaning for the 97-seven-year-old Village Head of Shilim community, Baba Magit Mallo, ever since March 8, 2018, when herdsmen invaded the place and killed 35 persons. Shilim community is in Daffo district of Bokkos Local Government Area, Plateau State.
In the aftermath of the attack by the Fulani killer herdsmen, more than 10,000 people were displaced from Shilim, Morok, Farandong Hai, Bok, Ganda and two other villages as their houses were set ablaze and destroyed that fateful night.
Baba Mallo was rendered homeless. He narrowly escaped death, though he sustained injuries while running for safety. He is now a living ghost, watching Fulani men and families who took over their villages graze their cattle freely.
On the night of the attack, Mallo fled into the bush where he took refuge for three days without food. The old man was dying slowly under a traumatic and agonizing condition as he was conscious of the fact that he had lost two children and three relations to the bloody attack.
Mallo, who had no knowledge of the whereabouts of his aged wife, summoned courage and returned to the village three days after, fully intent on dying in his village.
He was overwhelmed by the sight of the sheer number of dead bodies he saw and the houses burnt in the attack. He was left with nobody to rule over as Village Head because all the inhabitants that survived the attack had taken refuge at the IDP camp set up by the COCIN Regional Council in Daffo. Mallo resolved to remain in the village despite pleas by youths to relocate to the IDP camp.
In an interview, he told Sunday Sun: “There was no need for me to run away, I escaped into the bush during the attack, where I spent three days and three nights, but I decided to return to the village because this is the only village I have. My forefathers handed over this village to me and I will not allow anybody to take it over from me. I will prefer to die defending my ancestral land. If they want to kill me, let then come and kill me.
“I have lost able young men who are supposed to protect this village. So why should I run, run to where? This is not possible, I know that I left for three days and my conscience did not give me rest. That was why I came back and I will remain here till I die.”
His 83-year-old wife, Lidya Mallo, recently returned to the village with her five-year-old granddaughter who survived the attack. She is now learning to start life afresh in the village.
These days, Lidya lives in fear, particularly at night. Her mind is always occupied with the thought that the killer herdsmen would invade again and kill them.
Narrating her ordeal, Lidya said: “I am living in fear, I ran to the IDP camp when the incident happened but I returned to stay with my husband. My granddaughter who lost her father also came with me.
“We are learning how to start living a new life, I am not afraid of death now, anything that will happen let it happen. You can see that no house is standing in the community, which once had nine villages.
“We want Government to help us rebuild our houses, most of our people who are into agriculture want to come back but their houses were burnt and pulled down. Those who want to start rebuilding their homes are not allowed by the herdsmen to do so.”
One the villagers, 43-year-old Markus Amos, a father of five children said that he wants to return to Shilim to prepare for the next farming season.
He was sighted with his five children, preparing to start moulding blocks to rebuild his house. The children were fetching firewood and assisting in clearing the land.
Recalling the terrible night of the attack, he said that narrowly escaped with his five children but lost his wife
Markus escaped narrowly with his children that horrible night and lost his wife. The children, Linda Amos, 14, Gloria Amos, 13, Mapis Amos, 10, Jean Amos, 8 and 5-year-old Miracle Amos are too happy to be alive.
Markus told Sunday Sun: “My desire is to return to this village as soon as possible because we are approaching the next farming season. I did not farm last year because of the attack but I am prepared to build even if it is one room to return to the village.”
The house of Machip Mahang, 34, was also burnt and destroyed. His foodstuff and valuable items in the house were removed before it was set ablaze. He is helpless and hopeless and still undecided on whether to return to the village or not; moreover he has no money to rebuild his house.
“I am living in the IDP camp with my family. In the day time I usually go to the village to see what is happening. I am begging the government to assist us. Nobody has given us relief materials since this thing happened in March 2018. Only individuals and organisations are assisting us with food to eat. We are helpless. Government should give us hope,” Mahang said.
About 35 persons were killed just as 45 houses and two churches were burnt in Shilim village during the attack. At the moment, no native is living in the village except the village head and his aged wife.
Cattle are grazing freely into the village with nobody guiding them. The herdsmen now have a field day in the farms of the natives, and have been frustrating the return of the natives, so that their cattle can continue to graze freely.
When some natives like Maren Christopher, moulded blocks to start rebuilding their homes, the bricks were destroyed by the herdsmen.
At the Church of Christ In Nations (COCIN) Regional Church Council Daffo, the IDPs numbering over 1000, made up of aged men and women, queued up before men of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), to give statistics about the level damage done to the homes and other losses incurred by them.
It was gathered that the statistics would enable the government and the security agencies prepare for the relocation of the IDPs to their villages. Some of the IDPs have been squatting with their relatives in Bokkos town.
The coordinator of the IDP camp, Rev. Ishaku Joshua Mangai, said some of the displaced persons were living in the church premises with others squatting with their relatives in different locations.
Rev. Mangai noted that the people need adequate security and their houses rebuilt to enable them return to their ancestral villages.
“Initially, we had over 5,000 persons who took refuge in the church but some of them gradually left to stay with their relations inside Bokkos town and other areas that are relatively safe,” Mangai said, adding, “The people are willing to return home because most of them are farmers. Most of them who relocated to other communities have rented farmlands for cultivation. Government should provide bricks, roofing materials and beef up security for the people to return because the attackers are working to stop the natives from coming back so that they can graze freely on the land.”
Charity Asoro, a 31-year-old newly married lady from Farandong Hai was displaced with her husband. Both of them are at the IDP camp in Daffo.
In a plaintive appeal to the government for relief assistance, Asoro, whose home was also destroyed said: “We cannot continue to stay in the IDP camp, we are refugees in our own home, the government should help us by providing security and financial assistance to rebuild our homes before the next rainy season so that we can go back to farm.”
A resident of Genda village, which was also wiped-out by the attackers, Magut Matawal, is displeased that he is idle and wallowing in the camp. He expressed the desire to go home but cited lack of accommodation and security in the villages as two major factors holding him back.