By Innocent Anaba
The recent madness in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, which claimed over 50 lives, has once again brought to the fore the failing of our government to live up to its constitutional obligations to the citizenry, mostly as it relates to the fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy, which is the basis upon which the citizens surrendered their sovereignty to a few people who constitute government.
Section 15(2) of the 1999 Constitution states â€œaccordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibitedâ€.
It went further to state in subsection 3, that â€œfor the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the State to: (a) provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation. (b) secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation. (c) encourage inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties; and
(d) promote or encourage the formation of associations that cut across ethnic, linguistic, religious and or other sectional barriers. To emphasise governmentâ€™s obligation to guarantee that every Nigerian feels at home where ever he is, subsection 4, states â€œthe State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various people of the Federation, to the extent that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyaltiesâ€.
Unfortunately, Nigerians, or a section of it cannot claim any meaning to the above cited sections, basically because governmentâ€™s action has been everything but close to what it is supposed to do. The latest crisis, according to reports,Â first erupted on Sunday in Nasarawa Gwong, a suburb of Jos. Over 26 persons were said to have been killed on that day when fighting broke out between Christians and Muslims. But latest information during the week has it that the death toll had reached 150, while counting is still on.
The early morning violence was brought under control by the state government, which imposed a dusk to dawn curfew. There was more violence during the week,Â when some armed persons reportedly stormed the city in defiance of the curfew.
The violence according to reportsÂ spread to areas that never witnessed such violence in previous crises like Bukuru, Dadin Kowa, Rusau, Mai Adiko, Bukuru Park, Bauchi Road and Tudun Wada, where sporadic gunshots were heard from those areas. More than 3,000 internally-displaced persons, according to reports are taking refuge at the Bukuru Police Division and a mosque in the town, following the crisis which erupted in parts of the city.
While both the State and Federal Governments have intervened to bring the crisis under control, the frequency at which such religious crises erupt in some parts of the country has become a matter of concern to many Nigerians, particularly the wanton destruction of lives and property which follows such crises.
The more worrisome aspect is that people who have no business,Â remotely or otherwise to the cause of the crisis are often times the victims, as are they are killed and maimed and their propery destroyed,Â as if they are the remote cause of the crisis, while most of them are visitors, who have lived and worked in the town for years. One may ask why our government appears helpless in effectively defending its citizens against the perpetrators of religious crisis in the country including the recent Jos mayhem, and we were angry when the US government rose in defence of its citizens, by listing Nigeria on its terror list watch, after the failed attempt by a Nigerian, Farouk Mutallab to blow up a US airline.
Our government appears not happy with the US for taking such steps to protect its citizens, because it is not in the character of our leaders to protect Nigerian citizens, which explains why we have had so many religious crises in the country with precious lives and property worth billion of naira lost, while our governments have done little or nothing to check the trend. It is even suggested that our governmentâ€™s major concern over the listing of Nigeria as a terror country by the US is not much about the listing itself, but the humiliation they (our leaders) will go through when they go to the US and other European countries.
Nigerians have, however continued to express their disgust over the recent Jos crisis. Mr Solomon Adewale, a media practitioner, who spoke to Vanguard Law on the recent Jos crisis said, â€œthe people are mad. One, I donâ€™t know what they gain from these consistent crises. The Jos elders should be able to get to the root of this matter, because they know better and they should do more, as people are suspecting them of not being truthful.
The crisis we learnt, is more or less, â€˜owner/occupiers problemâ€™. The owners are Jos people, while the setters are the Hausas. As I said the elders should find out a way of settle the matter, because they have lived together over the years. But another dimension to the issue is the argument that politics has been introduced into the whole matter, which may make finding genuine efforts at resolving the matter, problematicâ€. Mrs Tope Williams, in her reaction said â€œI was pissed off that such a thing can still be happening again in this country. People sponsoring these crises should be brought to book. Our government need to make sure that those behind the killings are brought to bookâ€
A journalist, Uduma Kalu, feels that government has not done enough to check the killings. He said â€œthe North has lost its virginity. If you recall, the first killing of the Igbo was in Jos, in 1945. That was like strangers being killed by natives and nothing was done about it. The killings went round in all parts of the North, till last year, when Plateau and Northern Christian Association of Nigerian, CAN, declared that those so called religious riots are terrorism and sponsored by agents from the Middle East. CAN brought tapes, documents and materials to corroborate its claim, concluding that the idea was to Islamise Plateau and make it a lunch pad from where they can capture the South.
â€œIt is being sponsored by some agents in the Middle East, according to CAN. The creation of Jos North Local Government Area, has given vent to this argument that they want to Islamise Jos and Plataea State because most of these acts of terrorism are rooted in Jos North, that is the present act of terrorism. If you take the recent listing by the US of Nigeria as a terrorist nation to watch and what CAN had said since last year, you will now ask whether America was not right to list Nigeria as a terrorist nation to watch.
â€œJos killings has continued because our governments have not mustered the courage to deal with the killings, as it dealt with Boko Harram. If you recall, Boko Haram was more of Muslims versus Muslims and to kill the Northern big men, perhaps that was why government hastily intervened.Â But when it is against other religions and people from other parts of the country, government only impose curfews and draft soldiers. And for these crises to keep happening again after drafting soldiers and imposing curfew,Â means that governmentâ€™s action has not worked.
â€œIt happened in Warri, Ife-Modakeke and the rest, government must deal with it, as other countries have done. But Jos appears to be both ethnic and religious.Â How can you be in your country and you are treated like a stranger, you can see that we canâ€™t move forward this way.
If this native/settler issue is not resolved now, we may have it in other parts of the country, because we are no more living in the villages, as we are all migrating to urban areas and if we continue this way, we may not have Nigeria againâ€, he added.
Johnson Njoku, an analyst, said â€œit is a fight for superiority over who controls Jos, particularly the Muslims, who want to take over Jos. They did so in Ilorin, which explains why Ilorin has an Emir instead of an Oba. Now they are trying to take over Jos. Some have argued that itâ€™s a political matter, but we all know the truth and we should stop telling ourselves liesâ€. Lagos lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, wants government to bring the sponsors and perpetrators of the killings to book. He saidÂ â€œnews coming out of Jos is unsettling in the extreme.
While the immediate cause of the 24- hour curfew imposed on the city (or state?) is yet unclear, it is clear that those fomenting the carnage are exploiting the unnecessary and illegal leadership vacuum at the centre. We must condemn the latest wanton destruction of lives and properties in Jos under whatever pretext. Those killing fellow citizens deserve our swift censure.
â€œThe Police and the General Officer Commanding of the Army Division in Jos must ensure that the sponsors of this last mayhem are fished out and dealt with according to law. No excuse can be good enough. We must point out to those politicians in Abuja, particularly members of the National Assembly, who are playing the Nero when Nigeria is on fire that Nigerians will hold them accountable if the present republic is hurt by any means. There will be no hiding place for them.
â€œThose handling or advising our President must now see the need for him to send in the necessary declaration that he is otherwise unable to govern for now to enable the Vice President act as required by section 145 of the constitution. We need someone to act as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces in order to quell the carnage in Jos and other flashpoints.
â€œThe situation in Jos metropolis can be brought under control without the sensational 24-hour curfew, unless those who imposed the curfew have other unstated agenda. What is required is for the security authorities to use maximum force to subdue and dislodge the animals behind the crisis and carnage. A 12 hour curfew is sufficient, unless we want to show the world that we have truly become a banana republic where any kind of intervention is justifiable and desirable. The 24-hour curfew should be lifted immediatelyâ€, he added.
Similarly, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria noted that the failure and/or inability of security forces to detect and nip violence in the bud shows a clear failure of intelligence, and this underscores the urgency of security sector reform which people have been advocating in the past 10 years of civilian rule in Nigeria.
The group noted that it was also a mark of failure of governance that State and Federal Governments have failed woefully to unravel and address the root causes of recurrent ethno-religious violence and killing of innocent Nigerians, adding that it was the failure by the state to arrest and effectively prosecute the sponsors and mercenaries of violence that has encouraged the perpetrators to continue with impunity, and at the slightest excuse, to subvert public order and to kill at will.
It called on the Plateau State and Federal Governments to show the will and commitment this time to end acts of violence by arresting and prosecuting all those involved in the current and previous violence and killing in Plateau State, with a view to bringing them to book, adding that government must show some responsibility and demonstrate its determination to protect its citizens by ending for all time, unnecessary violence and willful destruction of lives and property.