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Good neigbourliness in times of crisis: The NVRI example

By Taye Obateru

Except perhaps for those who had prior knowledge of the recent crisis in the Plateau State capital
and environs, it was an incident that caught many unawares.

Many residents of Jos have become crisis-weary and probably felt it was the same for others. Little wonder that quite a number did not believe when initial reports of the outbreak of another crisis came. But it turned out to be true. Neighbours and friends once again became enemies, attacking one another and destroying property.

However, amidst the mayhem and betrayers of seeing one’s supposed friends or neighbors instigate or lead attacks on one or one’s household which many suffered, are some who actually stuck their neck out to protect their neighbours.

Stories of how some at the risk of their own lives and property went out of their way to ‘hide’ friends and neighbours from attack or pleaded with mobs that were set to attack or torch buildings were heard from various quarters. Despite the madness of the period, these people set example in good neigbourliness by protecting rather than instigating attack or actually attacking their neighbours.

Eyewitnesses recounted how this played out at the National Veterinary Research Institute, (NVRI), Vom near Jos where the prompt actions taken by the management saved what would have been another blood bath. It was learnt that the 85-year old institute became a sanctuary for many who fled from nearby K-Vom following an attack on the settlement by hoodlums.

The hoodlums were said to have pursued the fleeing residents to the institute and actually began to unleash terror killing two members of staff of the Federal College of Animal and Health Production Technology residing at the Dogon Layi quarters and injuring some others. They also torched about eight houses and cars. In all about 20 members of staff were said to have been affected but the youth corps members and the students of the schools located within the institute were safe as the situation was brought under control.

The prompt intervention of the Director General, Dr (Mrs) Lami Lombin who was said to have in conjunction with the security staff of the institute taken immediate steps helped to forestall a total breakdown of law and order. Apart from contacting the security agencies to deploy men to the institute, immediate steps were also taken to convert the staff school into a camp for the displaced where they were protected and taken care of. Over 2000 people who were predominantly Muslim women and children were said to have taken refuge at the school at the peak of the crisis.

It was also gathered that the institute provided vehicles for some of the members of staff who requested to travel to their home states in the heat of the crisis and arranged for security men to escort them to safe points like Akwanga and Lafia. Thus, Dr. Lombin not only protected the institute which is the major producer of animal vaccines for the country from possible destruction but took steps to protect staff, students and fleeing people from the neigbouring community from danger at such a critical period. Similar good gestures in good neighbourliness were heard.

There was the story of a village head whose house was burnt when he tried to prevent irate youth from attacking some of their Muslim neighbours. An Alhaji in Nasarawa Gwong area also had his life threatened by a rampaging mob when he tried to protect his Christian neighbours. There were other stories of Christians and Muslims who hid friends and neighbours of different religions in their homes or helped them to escape from danger in the heat of the crisis.

With allegations of bias by individuals in government, in the security agencies and elsewhere who reportedly took sides with their own during the crisis, these are no doubt laudable examples to emulate. With more Nigerians imbibing the virtues of good neighbourliness, there are bound to be fewer crises in the country.


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