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As peace goes on exile in Jos : A raging flame of failed criminal justice system?

Plateau women protest in Jos

The crisis that preceded the January 15, 2009inauguration of Justice Bola Ajibola Commission of Inquiry in Jos, occurred on November 28, 2008. The speed at which it was set-up as a follow up to the strife, was expected to be repeated on the implementation of the Panel’s report.  But four months since the submission, the government is yet  to implement its recommendations dispassionately. While people are waiting for the government to discharge this responsibility, booming guns, matchet wielding settlers and indigenes, have turned the state to a state of nature. Sadly, people now live with wishes of death. The gory tales and sights from the recent massacre in Dogon Nahawa, speaks volume about the killing fields of Jos. Charles Kumolu  reports

LIKE a tale from the streets of Somalia, dismembered human bodies littered the streets. There were headless bodies of women and children, a baby was reportedly sliced into halves.

Perhaps, the victims may have cried when the angels of death visited, but no one heard them cry, except their thirsty visitors.

While those, who were supposedly elected and employed to protect the people now trade blames, survivors are nursing the trauma of the crisis.  And the world is yet to come to terms with the shocking reality of the mayhem.

This is no fiction. It is the vivid picture of the state of Plateau  that is sweltering with the heat of ethno-religious killings.
The once peaceful city of Jos has become synonymous to destruction, following  violence between hitherto co-existing neighbours.

Though the people of Jos are not new to horrific killings, this crisis, however has left scars, given the barbaric way people were butchered in the middle of the night and the frequency of the mayhem.

Unlike in the past when streets worn desolate look, as businesses were closed down, with people fleeing the city in panic, they seemed ready to confront the monster this time.

This is why people are coming out enmass to say “enough is enough.” For instance, women recently shot Jos down in protest of the crisis. Following the scale and severity of the destruction this time, it would not be any other way.
Dressed in black and wielding wooden crosses, thousands of women marched in Jos to express grief at a new bout of sectarian carnage and anger at the failure to stop it.

The demonstration in the flashpoint city, capital of Plateau State, coincided with the start of a three-day fast ordered by the state government in a symbolic commitment of reconciliation between Muslims and Christians.
Nonetheless, the animosity among different communities in Jos, has become a sore thumb on the nation given its  frequency.

With a history replete of crisis like Ijaw-Itsekiri riots, Tiv-Jukun clashes,Tiv-Hausa riot, OPC,  Aguleri/Umuleri, Zangon kataf, Ogoni riots among others, the situation have become a monster-a reason why questions about the government being comfortable with the quagmire, is on the rise.

Accusations and counter accusation have continued to trail the cause of endless killings in Jos. But it is mainly believed that the creation of Jos North Local Government pioneered the crisis. But that seems to be on the surface, as the issue now has ethnic, and socio-political colourations.

Plateau women protest at the National Assembly in Abuja

For instance, while  former president said the crisis was caused by ethnic, economic and social factors, Prof. Wole Soyinka said it was the result of impunity and the refusal of successive governments to punish perpetrators.

Nonetheless, Vanguard Features,VF findings revealed that the failure of governance at all levels is responsible for the perennial problem.

From the pulpit to the streets, a lot of people believe that the government has failed and fallen  short of public expectation.

Most indicted is the criminal justice system that has failed to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of past incidents.
“I believe Prof. Soyinka is right because if someone does something today and nothing happens, the tendency to repeat that thing next is there. When someone commits an offence today and he is not punished, the person would not be scared of committing same crime again because those, who were supposed to apprehend that person failed to do so,” Justice Tajudeen Odunowo(rtd) said.

The retired judge of the Federal High Court further noted that “when a perpetrator of crime like extra judicial killing, is apprehended and prosecuted it would deter others from committing that kind of offence. With that anybody who would want to do that again, would think twice.  Law enforcement agents should start living up to it responsibilities because the nation cannot continue like this.”

He further dismissed the crisis as being ethno-religious, stressing the existence of political undertone in the whole saga.

“I don’t think this present crisis is ethno-religious, especially from what I read in the papers. The indigenes of the state, the Birom people are mostly Christians, while the Hausa/Fulanis Muslims are settlers in there and they have co-habited for a very long time.  So it is not always correct to say that it is ethno-religious.”

In addition Odunowo submitted: “I also read that some of the indigines of the state are crying against imposition of some sort. I am sure this latest development does not entirely have religious undertone because they had lived happily together for ages. By and large the problem is political. That it is why it behooves on the political authority to stop the politicians from twisting people around by using them to unleash havoc on humanity.”

For the President of Newstime Foundation, Mr. Tony Oyetador,  fasting and prayers as directed by Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang  cannot primarily solve the recurring crisis in Jos.

He believes that the diverse people in that city, needs to see each other as one people created by one God.
“The Lord of lords and King of kings gave us Pastors, Imams and leaders to give the right leadership.  Instead of that, people have been leading them astray and therefore a lot are perishing.  Calling for three days of prayer fasting in that city without understanding the holy books, will miss the mark, just like every child must understand the language of his or her parents so as to communicate effectively, we can only communicate and commune with our gracious  merciful God by reading the manuals of life.  The books are the Bible and the Koran. The  prayers and fasting should not be a matter of formality but a communion with God. That is the only way that all these crises can come to a screeching halt.”

Oyetador further maintained that, “It is not the recommendation of the panel that would end the crisis. It is only true knowledge of God that would bring the crisis to become history. We want people to know that this religious crisis would come to a screeching halt.

“We are preachers of peace our mission at Newstime is to preach God’s truth, point out the right way, show mankind the need for repentance that will bring about change and to tell them the dangers of living with evil. Messengers can not compel people to accept or listen to the message. Just like Jesus said, let those who have ears hear and those, who have eyes see.There is warning for those, who don’t want to repent and there is good news for those who would repent.”

A legal practitioner and Senior Advocate of Nigeria,SAN, A.B Mammud maintains that the Federal government should clearly address the indegine/settler dichotomy.

This, he wants to be achieved, through an act of the parliament.

“My view is that no one can come and have dominion in a place where he does  not have a good hold. It cannot succeed. To avert further occurrence, there should be government’s blueprint on the issues causing the crisis and that has to be done through the National Assembly, because issues of indigeneship should be addressed in Nigeria. I am not from Plateau but I have settled there for years,” he stated.

Continuing he said, “And it does not mean that I don’t have a home,  which is my home state.  The issue of posting for our security agents should be done properly, to avoid people being posted to where they can influence crisis to their advantage.

Victims for mass burial

“The criminal justice system is just there on paper. No one is following what the law says, because if it was functional, we would not have this kind of crisis all the time. Nobody has been used as scape goat, with a situation where the law turns a blind eye to what is happening, how do you think justice can prevail.”

Mammud further argued that the manner of deploying security operatives to their home state is partly responsible for the crisis”.

The Bola Ajibola Commission
Although a VF’s finding revealed that constituting another panel of enquiry into Jos crisis, would achieve nothing, it is still believed that recommendation of the Ajibola panel should be acted upon.

Observers say the report cover all necessary areas that could help stem the perennial socio-religious crisis in the state without bias.

The panel, headed by eminent lawyer and former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), was inaugurated on January 15.

Five reference points
THE Ajibola Commission of Inquiry had five prominent terms of reference.
The targets include, to establish the remote and immediate causes of the Jos unrest; identify individuals,
groups of persons and institutions directly or indirectly responsible for the unrest and their roles in
precipitating the unrest and recommend appropriate sanctions.

It was also charged to ascertain the extent of loss of lives and damage to property; recommend ways of
avoiding recurrence of such violent unrest in future and make any or other recommendations incidental to its
terms of reference.

Instructively,  the Hausa-Fulani populace were reported to have boycotted the panel’s sittings.

The reports/indictment
THE  Commission of Enquiry which was a follow up on the November 28, 2008 sectarian strife in some parts of Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State, faulted the creation of the local government area by former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

The commission also observed that local government election of November 27, 2008 in Plateau State was not the cause of the crisis, but only gave impetus to the Hausa/Fulani community to perpetrate mayhem since they felt that they were about to lose their primary source of economic and political dominance.

Accordingly, the 339-page report also said it was not satisfied by the explanations of former President Ibrahim Babangida that he did not create Jos North local government to favour a particular group. The commission said it found out that the former military president created Jos North local government in 1991 to favour the Hausa Fulani of Jos North as it was the Hausa Fulani community that demanded for the local government in the form it was created.

It also recommended that the present Jos North Local Government be re-delineated into three sustainable local governments with an equitable representative number of wards within each local government, while “the state government should give due consideration to all ethnic groupings in appointments, nominations and promotions within the state.”

In addition, it recommended that the state government should promote inclusion and participation through a ‘State Character’ principle similar to the Federal Character policy of the Federal Government, “as this would take into consideration citizens’ right in any part of Nigeria that they may find themselves.

“This means that all persons who are bona fide citizens should have equal rights, opportunities and access and not to deny those designated as non-indigenes of an area the access to some of the most important avenues of socio economic mobility be it government jobs, academic scholarships, university admission or fees,” it noted.

It further  recommended that the police be made to investigate the activities of some prominent persons in the state, including former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu, Alhaji Saleh Hassan, Sheik Yahaya Jengre, as well as former Minister of State for Information and Communications Alhaji Dasuki Ibrahim Nakande.

The commission recommended that Nakande and House of Representatives member representing Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency, Malam Samaila Mohammed, among others, be thoroughly investigated by the police, saying their utterances before and after the crisis were capable of igniting more crises in the future.


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