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JOS: How residents were smoked out, massacred

….Silent killings continues

By TAYE OBATERU
As condemnations continue to trail last Sundays massacre of hundreds of people in Dogon Nahawa and other villages in Shen area of Plateau State, more facts are emerging on how the attackers launched the apparently well-planned operation. A community leader in the area, Mr. Rwang Chuwang told Saturday Vanguard that at least one of the attackers was identified as a young man who grew up in the area before they relocated.

Chuwang, who is president of Shen Community Association which encompasses Dogon Nahawa and other villages, said some of the survivors confirmed identifying the man among their attackers. He said the precise manner in which the operation was carried out bore testimony to the fact that the  attackers understood the terrain.

“It is only people who knew the environment well that could have carried out such a well-planned attack. It was later confirmed by some of our people that a young man who had lived in this community led the attack. This is very unfortunate because we never had any problem with them until they  left on their own volition. In fact, it is on record that we protected them anytime there was crisis.

“For more than 45 years, we gave them our land free-of-charge and they  raised their families and cattle here and we had no problem with them. It is therefore painful that it is those who had benefitted from our generosity and good neighbourliness that would do this to us”, he said almost in tears.

A survivor, Dalyop Gyang, explained that the Fulanis had dispersed themselves across entries to the three villages attacked to avoid attracting suspicion. He said they  hid within the rocks surrounding the villages and converged in the middle of the night to launch the attack. Like hunters on a game, the attackers “smoked” out their victims by setting fire on their roofs or windows and waited with swords with which they hacked them down as the ran out. According to him, “some of them also waited in the bush and among the rocks, waiting for those who might try to escape. The corpses of those killed in the bushes and hills are still being discovered.”

With the tension generated by renewed violence in the state, residents have been recounting how they are coping with the situation. Not a few non indigenes confirmed to Saturday Vanguard that they were under pressure from their people to relocate. According to those spoken to, the spread of the violence which was hitherto limited to the state capital to neighbouring local government areas where marauders have been launching night attacks on communities has not helped matters.

The latest orgy of violence is allegedly being perpetrated by Fulanis said to be on revenge mission for the losses they suffered in human and material terms during the January 17 to 19 crisis. They are alleged to have vowed to avenge the killing of their kith and kin allegedly by the Berom ethnic group. Berom communities in Riyom, Barkin-Ladi and Jos South Local Government Areas have therefore, been the targets of attacks in past weeks.

Allegations of pockets of silent killings within the state capital across ethnic and religious divides are also rampant. The tension generated by all this has set residents on edge such that a loud argument between two people can trigger pandemonium.

A resident, Mr. Onoja, who spoke on the situation lamented that business and other activities were being adversely affected. “We now have a situation where even a tyre burst can make people begin to close their shops and run helter-skelter. Just a few days ago, I got a sudden call from my children’s teachers to come and pick them from school because of the tension in town. I did not allow them to go to school today (Wednesday). That is the situation we have found ourselves now.”

Businesses are also suffering as confirmed by traders who said sales have dropped drastically. Emeka who sells clothing in the centre of the town said the tension has slowed down activities, adding that some of his suppliers have refused to take goods to Jos. “My brother, the situation is bad oh! Many people have left town and many more are planning to relocate from Jos because of the crisis so business has been bad”, he said.

Similar tales were told by women engaged in petty trading, especially of perishable food items like tomatoes, plantain and vegetables. Some of them said they no longer buy in large quantity because of the uncertainty. According to Mrs. Ogbonnaya, it is unwise to stockpile “when you are not even sure you will open tomorrow because of crisis.” She recalled that plantain worth several thousands of naira got spoilt during the January crisis when she could not open her shop for several days.

Notwithstanding, there are those who feel rather than talk about relocating or doing other things, all hands must be on deck to find a solution to the crisis to enable Plateau State to regain her lost glory as a home of peace and tourism.

Director, League for Human Rights, Shamaki Peter, believes that the situation could normalize if governments at the Federal and state levels as well as the security agencies had the will to do what needs to be done.

He said failure to punish perpetrators of previous crisis and the perceived bias of government and security agencies on both sides were not good for a society in search of peace.

He alluded to situations where security personnel drafted to quell disturbances were alleged to have openly taken sides noting that this was eroding the confidence of the people in the security personnel.

He also called for a proper investigation into allegations that mercenaries were coming into Plateau from neighbouring states as a way of stemming sporadic night attacks like the one that happened last Sunday. Peter also called for investigations into allegations that security personnel have not been acting on intelligence reports given to them on the planned attacks.

Governor Jonah Jang had made a similar allegation when he told reporters in Abuja that the mayhem would have been avoided if the army had acted promptly on the security reports of impending attacks. These allegations were, however, dismissed by the army authority as well as the acting Police Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba who told journalists on Wednesday that he also, never got any such report.

Similarly, member representing Jos South/Jos East in the House of Representatives, Mr. Bitrus Kaze,  re-echoed the allegation when he told journalists that he wanted the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Three Armoured Division of the army, Major General Saleh Maina held responsible for last Sunday’s killings. He went further to declare that peace might not return to the state if the GOC remained “because we have totally lost confidence in him.” Asked to justify the allegation, Kaze said the GOC was duly informed of the planned attack “but he did nothing”, adding that distress calls to him (Maina) while the attack was going on were unsuccessful because his line was unavailable. He recalled that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, recently alerted on plans by some people to launch attack on Plateau State and wondered why no action was taken to prevent the attacks.

According to him, “The IG at a conference of Assistant Inspectors General and Commissioners of Police admitted that some youths were planning to engage in guerilla war attack on some parts of Plateau State. If no less a person than the IGP was aware and even declared it and the national security adviser and the GOC did nothing and allowed our people to be killed like animals, then something must be wrong somewhere.”


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