Gyang Bere, Jos
Saturday October 24, 2020, is a date that will not be forgotten in a hurry by the people and government of Plateau State.
It was a day when all hell was let loose. Hoodlums, as if lying in wait, hijacked the peaceful #EndSARS protest to loot and vandalise public and private property in the Jos-Bukuru area of the state.
The criminal elements, who overwhelmed security personnel, were on a looting spree on that fateful Saturday. They stormed various locations in the state and broke into warehouses housing palliatives, including items not meant to be consumed, and carted them away.
As gathered, the looting commenced a few hours after the state governor, Simon Lalong relaxed the 24-hour curfew earlier imposed on the state to avert stealing, bloodletting and destruction of property.
In spite of the efforts to stop the atrocity, the miscreants, in their hundreds and thousands, invaded a facility at NITEL, Bukuru, where the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, and Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, had delivered palliatives from the Federal Government meant for the indigent, sick women and other vulnerable people.
The surging crowd broke the walls of the building for easy access to the warehouses. The news of the perceived manna from heaven travelled fast around the city. Before most people could understand what was happening, the warehouses were emptied.
It was learnt that young people as well as older men and women, who were passing by, joined in looting the palliatives. The rush to grab as much and as quickly as possible was said to have led to a stampede that left many injured.
With the quest to steal more, the miscreants reportedly proceeded to the stores of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the office of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) all in Anguldi, Bukuru, in Jos South Local Government Area (LGA). They also went away with materials meant for disaster management in the North Central zone.
It was observed that the hoodlums reinforced and moved into the house of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, looted valuable items, property and vandalised different parts of the building.
The angry youths, after driving away the security personnel stationed in the house, stole many tricycles, sewing machines, motorcycles and bags of rice and other items kept in the building for future distribution.
The facilities visited and vandalised by the hoodlums included the PRUWASSA office, Anguldi Bukuru, ASTC Office, K/Vom Government Technical College, Bukuru, Joseph Gomwalk Secretariat, Jos, PADP, Dogon Dutse, and Plateau Publishing Corporation (Nigerian Standard), Jos Foods Abattoir, Plateau State Water Board, Jos International Breweries, NASCO, Red Cross, North Central Zonal store, Riyom Local Government Secretariat, Home Economics Training Centre, Riyom, Ministry of Agriculture store house, Bukuru, Fertilizer Store, Riyom, and National Seed Council office, Bukuru, where over 4,265 bags of wheat seeds were kept, among others.
Decrying the ugly situation, Governor Lalong estimated the property looted and vandalised to be about N75 billion. This was revealed after the governor, alongside Plateau State Caucus at the National Assembly, inspected the damaged facilities.
The governor was joined on the tour by the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, Sen. Istifanus Gyang, Sen. Hezekiah Dimka, Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos, Hon. Alphonsus Longgap Komsol, Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi and Hon. Solomon Maren.
Having assessed the level of destruction and looting, Lalong, who was obviously disappointed, described the scenes as horrifying. He said that such action had taken Plateau State back and increased the burden of infrastructural deficit, which would make development difficult. He appealed to host communities in the state to stand up and defend public and private property in their domains so as to encourage development and progress.
The governor appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of the state. He lamented that the level of vandalism and destruction of property placed Plateau State in a disadvantaged position.
“We have all seen the level of devastation; nobody will tell me that this was an #EndSARS action. This is a means to destabilise Plateau, to completely condemned and destroyed the state.
“These are sensitive areas that are supposed to be for the benefit of the people, but the people are destroying it. This was purely criminality. But we will not be discouraged. Government will continue to do her best for the peace of Plateau.
“I want to state here clearly that those that we have arrested will face the wrath of the law. We are going to carry out a thorough investigation. As we are here, some people have been arrested selling looted Plateau property in Niger State,” he said.
Hon. Wase, who led the caucus of the National Assembly to the state, vowed that stakeholders in the state would not allow criminal elements to unleash terror and hardship on innocent citizens.
Wase joined others to condemn the looting and vandalism of public and private facilities in the name of searching for where palliatives were kept.
He said: “Criminality is not part of Plateau people; we should not shut out our economy by ourselves. These criminals should be fished out and prosecuted to allow genuine citizens go about their businesses.”
He appealed to Nigerian youths to be calm over the #EndSARS protest. He assured them that the National Assembly was working to accelerate the implementation of the protesters’ demands.
While calling for restraint in the interest of national unity, Wase stated that the issues that were raised by the youths were systemic issues that predated the Lalong administration.
Said he: “The federal and state government as well as the National Assembly are doing all that is needed to be done to ensure justice for the victims of police brutality. Let us, therefore, cooperate with relevant government agencies that are working day and night to ensure our safety.
“I believe that the Nigerian Police Force has taken note of our agitations. Let us not take out our anger against a reckless few on the entire state and the country at large. Let us not destroy our collective heritage while trying to right the wrongs of others.”
Deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, representing Plateau North, Gyang, said he was saddened over the development. He said the fact that there was hunger in the land does not call for looting and destruction of property.
He called on the federal and state governments to work tirelessly towards tackling poverty and engage the youths positively.
Minister of Women affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, who was part of the inspection tour, said: “We must put Plateau first at all times. I condemn the violence that broke out in the state.
“I am appealing to all stakeholders to join hands with Governor Lalong to ensure that lasting peace is restored to the state.”
She called on parents to ensure that their wards were monitored. She also announced that the food items were about to be delivered when the #EndSARS protests began.
One of the leaders of the #EndSARS protest in the state, Plangkat Melshim, told Governor Lalong during a meeting with the youths that justice must be given to all those who were victims of SARS brutality in the state.
“We demand justice for all victims of police and military brutality. Some of them are Henry Anthony Dokotri, Joshua Malan, Rinji Peter Bala, Shedrach Kums Fenan, and all others. We demand justice through the independent judicial panel of inquiry, which has been set up to oversee the investigation, report and prosecution of people involved in police misconduct.
“We demand that the public hearings be streamed live and broadcast across all media. We demand that the protesters should nominate the representatives of civil society groups and youth members of the panel. We demand the appropriate compensation for all victims and their families through the immediate setting up of a Victims Support Fund and that disbursement is proper, transparent and open.
“We unequivocally state that, if after 90 days there is no feasible progress in meeting the demands herein stated within the powers of the governor, the youths would meet on the streets again,” Melshim said.