*Aliyu Gusau is new Security Adviser *400 victims get mass burial *UN, Vatican mourn, appeal for calm
By Taye Obateru & Emmanuel Aziken
ABUJAâ€” THE Jos crisis which led to the death of about 400 people on Sunday,Â has led to the sacking of the National Security Adviser, Sarki Mukhtar, by the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
To replace him is Aliyu Gusau, a one time National Security Adviser to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Meantime, about 400 corpses of the victims of Sundayâ€™s massacre were, yesterday, given a mass burial at Dogon Na Hauwa village in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State amid tears and wailings.
This emerged as, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, said there was no alternative to dialogue in resolution of conflicts. He spoke at a peace conference on the recurring crisis in Jos.
Strong stench of decomposing human bodies permeated the air as the bodies were removed from the truck which conveyed them to the burial site. An elderly man collapsed and had to be revived on sighting the bodies lined up in the mass grave. He was later led away from the scene by some of his relations.
The burial was preceded by a funeral service at the village square where various clerics preached on the need for all to accept what has happened as the will of God.
State Commissioner for Works and Transport who headed the Rescue and Recovery Committee said three mass graves were dug for the bodies.
He said about 380 were being buried at Dogon Na Hauwa while about 36 corpses would be buried in the two other graves. According to him, some of the bereaved made their own burial arrangements.
Police arrest 96 over the massacre
Meanwhile the Plateau State Police Command said that about 96 persons had been arrested over the massacre, with the Police spokesman, Mohammed Lerama, indicating in a statement, that four of the fleeing Fulanis were shot dead by the security men.
Speaking at the workshop on peace organized by the Institute for Governance and Social Research, Gowon lamented that the peaceful nature for which Plateau was known had been disrupted. He said the issues must be addressed honestly to resolve the problem.
While reiterating his commitment to one indivisible country, Gowon recalled that it was this commitment that made him resort to the use of force to keep the country one during the civil war.
He said: â€œThose who know me know that I have been on the side of peaceful resolution of all conflicts. If you will recall, as head of state, I did all that was possible to secure a peaceful resolution of the Nigerian crisis in the second half of the 1960s. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to use force to preserve the unity of our nation.â€
Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, regretted that present leaders of the country were not doing enough to sustain the unity of the country which former leaders stood and fought for.
He lamented: â€œif past national leaders fought to keep the unity of this country like Gowon did and late J.S Tarkar fought to keep the Middle Belt one, what are the present leaders doing to sustain the unity of Nigeria and Middle Belt?â€
The conference was almost disrupted by pandemonium in the town following rumour of an outbreak of violence in some parts. This led to shut down of business houses and schools as people ran helter-skelter and scampered to their homes. However, there was calm after a while as people went about their businesses with most shops remaining shut throughout the day.
Authorities deployed troops to arrest the marauding gangs that rampaged across villages near the city centre, where hundreds died in clashes early this year. Under fire for failing to prevent another outburst of sectarian violence, authorities said they had arrested scores of people in connection with the attacks.
Agency reports said that Muslim residents of the villages had been warned by phone text messages, two days prior to the attack, so they could make good their escape.
Dozens of university students, yesterday, carried placards outside a Jos hotel where several former heads of state and the state government held a peace conference.
Placards read: â€˜We want peace in Plateau Stateâ€™ and â€˜Say no to genocideâ€™.
In Bukuru and Dadin Kowa on the fringes of Jos, police fired warning shots to disperse protesters and rounded up youths trying to demonstrate, according to a police source.
Witnesses meanwhile described how victims in Sundayâ€™s three-hour systematic orgy of violence, mainly women and children, were caught in animal traps and fishing nets as they tried to flee attackers who hacked them to death.
Vatican expresses sadness, concern
The Vatican, yesterday, lamented â€œhorrible acts of violenceâ€ committed by machete-wielding gangs. Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told a news agency that the church reacted with â€œsadness and concernâ€ to the violence in Jos, blaming it on Muslim pastoralists.
Asked to comment on the nature of the conflict, Lombardi deferred to Nigerian church authorities. The Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, told Vatican Radio, yesterday, that the violence was rooted not in religion but in social, economic, tribal and cultural differences.
Ban Ki-moon appeals for calm
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, also appealed for â€œmaximum restraintâ€ amid revulsion at the slaughter of more than 500 Christians, as survivors told how the killers chopped down their victims.
Survivors said the attackers were able to separate the Fulanis from members of the rival Berom group by chanting â€˜naggeâ€™, the Fulani word for cattle. Those who failed to respond in the same language were hacked to death.
One report said the gangs shouted Allahu Akhbar before breaking into homes and setting them alight in the early hours of Sunday. Churches were among the buildings that were burnt down. Ban told reporters he was â€œdeeply concerned,â€ adding: â€œI appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint.â€
200 hospitalized after attack â€“ Plateau govt
The Plateau State Information Commissioner, Gregory Yenlong, who gave details of the attacks said more than 200 people had been hospitalized in Jos.
He said: â€œMost of the survivors are … receiving treatment. Over 200 are admitted in hospitals in Jos. People were attacked with axes, daggers and cutlasses – many of them children, the aged and pregnant women. Churches, houses and food stores were torched and crops were slashed with cutlasses.â€
Atiku seeks improved intelligence gathering
Meantime, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has tasked security agencies in the country to improve their intelligence gathering mechanism to be able to prevent the frequent massacre of innocent people in internal conflicts in the country.
Condemning the weekend killings in Jos, Plateau State in a statement, yesterday, Atiku called on the government to bring the perpetrators of what he described as a massacre to book.
He said: â€œSuch horrific massacre of innocent people, especially women and children, has assumed a disturbing trend in the country and all those behind it must be prosecuted. Such killings dehumanize all of us. Nigerian security forces must review and overhaul their intelligence gathering capability to be able to nip in the bud this sort of wanton loss of lives and property.â€
Atiku who said he was worried by the culture of impunity and brazenness with which these crimes were being committed, stressed that both the Federal Government and the Plateau State Government must do every thing possible to protect the lives of the people.