â€¦60 suspects feared moved to Abuja
By Taye Obateru , with Agency Report
At least 150 bodies have been recovered from wells around Jos following Muslim-Christian clashes in Jos and environs which the estimated death toll already stood at over 300, a village head and volunteers told AFP yesterday.
This came to light just as it was learnt that the 60 suspects arrested in connection with the clashes might have been moved to Abuja allegedly on orders from above.
Similarly, an acting police commissioner has been appointed for the state in place of Mr. Greg Anyating.
Reasons for his replacement wereÂ not immediately known.
â€œSo far we have picked 150 bodies from the wells. But 60 more people are still missing,â€ said Umar Baza, head of Kuru Karama village near the city of Jos.
â€œWe took an inventory of the displaced people from this village, sheltering in three camps and we realise that 60 people can still not be accounted for,â€ he added, speaking by telephone.
Head of the Muslim volunteer team in the village, Mohammed Shittu, said further searches would be carried out on yesterday.
â€œNow we have 150 bodies in all, taken from the wells as from Thursday. We are still going back there today (yesterday) to comb the bush around the village to search for more bodies,â€ he also told AFP.â€œFrom the account of survivors, some people fleeing attacks were ambushed and killed in the bush. That is why we are going there to search for more bodies.
â€œWe believe there are more bodies in the wells but the degree of their decomposition makes it difficult to continue the retrieval operation. We have therefore decided to sand-fill all the wells,â€ Baza further said.
The state government has given no official death toll for the violence, which broke out last Sunday in Jos, capital of Plateau State and later spread to nearby towns and villages, but religious leaders and medical workers said they had counted around 300 bodies by Wednesday.
Global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterdayÂ urged Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to order â€œan immediate criminal investigation into credible reports of a massacre of at least 150 Muslim residents of a town in central Nigeria.â€
HRW said in a statement received in Lagos that witnesses said groups of armed men â€” believed to be Christians â€” attacked the largely Muslim population of Kuru Karama on Tuesday morning.
â€œAfter surrounding the town, they hunted down and attacked Muslim residents, some of whom had sought refuge in homes and a local mosque, killing many as they tried to flee and burning many others alive,â€ the statement said.
At least two vehicles said to have been sent to convey the 60 suspects from Jos to Abuja
were sighted within Plateau State police headquarters Friday evening.
A source said Governor Jonah Jang on getting wind of the move contacted the inspector general of police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, who was said to have denied giving any such order.
Efforts to reach the police comissioner or the spokesman for the command to comment on the development failed as they were out of theiroffice when journalists called yesterday.
However, when contacted, the state attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Mr. Edward Pwajok, described it as a rumour which he found difficult to believe.
He said doing so would be contrary to the position taken by the body of attorneys general which at a recent meeting agreed that offenders were to be prosecuted where the offences were committed in line with due process and the rule of law.
He wondered why the suspects would be taken to Abuja when all the investigating officers and witnesses needed to prosecute them were in Jos adding that taking them there would also be against the resolution of the Senate which asked the Plateau State Government to fish out perpetrators and prosecute them.
Pwajok recalled that 26 suspected mercenaries were taken to Abuja after the 2008 crisis in a similar manner where they were releasedwhile the case files of over 300 suspects arrested and investigated were equally taken to Abuja and were never returned thus frustrating their prosecution.
He said he has been sending lawyers from his office to the police to get the case files of the suspects to enable the Ministry of Justice file charges against them without making any headway adding, â€œwe have
the fear that history may repeat itself.â€