March 11, 2010

Jos: 49 face murder charge

*You are naive, Army tells Jang
*Residents on edge over fresh shooting

By Taye Obateru, Kingsley Omonobi, Luka Binniyat & Tordue Salem

JOS—THE police said, yesterday, that 49 people are to be charged with murder after communal violence left scores of villagers dead. Most of those facing charges are Muslims from the Fulani group, police spokesman Mohammed Lerama told the BBC.

The Nigerian Army High Command, yesterday, hit back at Plateau State Governor Da Jonah Jang, over comments he made on Tuesday accusing the army of complicity in last Sunday’s violence in three villages of Jos South local government  which led to the death of about 500 people.It said it was not only embarrassing to the Army but also a display of naivety by an ex- military officer.

Explaining that the internal security operation in Jos, the Plateau State capital had since been converted to a joint military operation following incessant crises in the area, the Army expressed surprise that the governor spuriously decided to target the Army when the operation involved personnel of the Nigeria Army, Nigeria Navy, Nigeria Airforce and the Police.

A statement signed by Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, Director of Army Public Relations and titled, ‘Governor Jang’s unfortunate statement’ reads: “The Nigerian Army has noted with serious concern a statement made by the Governor of Plateau State, Da Jonah Jang to the effect that last Sunday’s killings in the Jos South Local Government Area of the State could have been averted if the Army had acted on the early intelligence report he provided.

“Coming from a Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of a State with substantial military background, it is unfortunate that Air Commodore David Jang, rtd, has demonstrated an embarrassing naivety in interpreting the dynamics of land operations.  The governor would have spared the nation his unfortunate remarks if only he consulted sufficiently before making his inciting declaration.

“That Governor Jang visited the Defence Headquarters today, Wednesday, 10 March, 2010 clearly indicates that he knows the appropriate authority to consult in the event of dissatisfaction with the action of any Army commander. Rather than follow this process, he resorted to inflammatory remarks targeted at rubbishing the Army. His allegation insinuating bias is indeed unfortunate.

The mass burial site with sympatisers in Jos

Army in internal security operations
“It is noteworthy that the Nigerian Army is involved in internal security operations in virtually all states of the Federation including Plateau State. The record of the Army’s performance in all these operations has continued to attract commendation and appreciation even in the face of numerous challenges.

“Governor Jang’s ceaseless attack on the Army only goes to confirm his extraordinary partisanship to which the Army will not be blackmailed into supporting.

“It is common knowledge that the internal security operation in Jos, Plateau State is a joint military operation involving the various services and the Nigeria Police Force. This situation arose when the Police could not cope at the onset of the Jos crisis in January 2010 and the military was legally drafted to restore law and order in Plateau State.

“The Governor may have his political or other intents to achieve, but he should desist from compounding issues, at least in the interest of the people who are endangered by his proposition and disdain for the Army in particular.

“Although the Army is briefing appropriate authorities on its operations and believes that appropriate response to Governor Jang’s attack on the Army is forthcoming, it is necessary to reassure Nigerians that the Army is not involved in any complicity as suggested by Governor Jang through his numerous channels for blackmail. The Army will continue to make its vital inputs into the ongoing joint operations of the Special Task Force as duly mandated by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Residents on edge over rumours
Residents of Jos and its environs, yesterday, continued to be on the edge over rumours of impending attacks on the state from other parts of the country.

Many people did not go for their businesses on Wednesday or waited to study the situation before moving out of their homes following frightening text messages circulated the previous night that truck loads of mercenaries were heading for Jos to launch an attack.

The fear made many parents to prevent their children from going to school while most banks either did not open or closed early.

Meantime, the police said about 200 suspects have so far been arrested over last Sunday’s attack on Dogon Nahawa village with some of them confessing that they were mercenaries paid to carry out the attack.

Briefing journalists on the recent violence, Acting Commissioner of Police for the state, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba said some of those arrested also claimed to have been volunteers on revenge mission but were yet to name their sponsors.

He gave the number of those killed in Sunday’s attack as 109 contradicting the 500 figure given by the state government.

Aduba said: “Although the sudden and unnatural death of a single citizen is enough to mourn, but there is need to put the record straight. The unwholesome figure of 500 and 371variously credited to the state government through its Commissioner for Information is fabricated and should be disregarded.”

A scene of the Jos attack

The police commissioner said he had no prior knowledge of the planned attacks on villages in the state contrary to insinuations, adding that he had warned divisional police officers that they would be held responsible for any breach of the peace in their divisions.

Aduba said that holding traditional rulers responsible for acts of violence in their domains could also be a good way to check recurring ethno-religious crises in parts of the country.

The declaration came even as the Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, yesterday, declared a three-day fasting to seek God’s intervention in the recurring violence in the state.

In a broadcast to the people, Governor Jang said the said should be from today (Thursday) to Saturday was needed to “pray and cry out to God for the forgiveness of our sins, and to plead with him to bring peace on the Plateau and our dear nation, Nigeria.”

He said “We must not allow this to continue. Violence cannot be used as a way of solving conflicts. We must all respect each other irrespective of any affiliations. The responsibility of achieving peace is a collective one. Therefore, all hands must be on deck for us to achieve this goal.”

He disclosed that he had given directives to local government chairmen and traditional rulers to organize regular dialogue sessions to promote harmony.

The governor said: “The challenge before us all now is how to move forward as a people and put this sad episode behind us. It is time to forgive and allow peace to reign. We must sheathe our swords and embrace harmonious coexistence.

“My fellow citizens, I know that as a people we can talk to ourselves in friendship and love. But we must also tell divisive outside forces to leave us alone to rebuild the Plateau that the world has always known as “Home of Peace and Tourism” firmly anchored on the indomitable Plateau spirit. It is this spirit that has made Plateau the home of many nationalities over the years. Our spirit should not be dampened as I am convinced that we shall come out stronger.”

Meanwhile, the Plateau State Chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, has condemned the attack on a reporter of Highland FM Station, Jos, who was almost lynched at the venue of the mass burial of victims of the violence at Dogon Nahuwa village where he had gone to carry out his official duty.

Chairman Katdapba Gobum and Secretary, Isaac Shobayo in a statement said journalists should be seen as partners in the peace building process rather than as targets of attack.

Jang visits CDS, IGP
Meantime, 24 hours after he accused the Nigerian Army of blame in the events leading to the slaughter of about 500 indigenes of three villages in Jos South Local government area, Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, yesterday paid impromptu visits to the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo.

The governor arrived Defence headquarters at about 11.30 a.m and parleyed with the Chief of Defence Staff for close to one hour before leaving the premises by about 12.25 p.m.

Wailing Naomi Dung, who lost husband and three children at the scene of the mas burial.

Though no reason was given for the visit, Vanguard gathered that it was not unconnected with his outburst at the Presidential villa, Tuesday, during which he said that he got in touch with Commanders of the Army in Jos at about 9.00 p.m last Saturday, when information reached him that there were movements and possibility of attacks without any action being taken until 2.30 a.m, Sunday, when the Fulani headsmen struck.

It was gathered that Governor Jang, a retired airforce officer, sought the assistance of Air Chief Marshal Dike, as the number one military officer in the country to ensure that troops deployed to the state, were focused on the assignment given them.

Shortly after leaving the office of the CDS, the governor proceeded to the Police Force headquarters where he had another meeting with the IGP that last over an hour.

When Vanguard accosted Governor Jang on reasons for his visit to the CDS and later the IGP, he said it was a friendly visit, adding: “Don’t forget that these are my officers. Nothing stops me from stopping by and saying hello to these officers.”

Asked to comment on the situation of things in Plateau state presently, he said “Everything is calm now but we give thanks to God.”

Northern lawmakers blame regional crises on poverty
The Northern caucus in the House of Representatives, however, blamed the recurring crises in Jos, Plateau State and other parts of the region on poverty and frustration.

Besides, the House caucus also wants Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to collaborate with northern leaders on a development master plan for Northern states, like it is presently being done in the South-South States.
The caucus said it has also set up 20-member committee to tour the region with a view to addressing the fundamental reasons for incessant crises.

Chairman of the caucus, Rep.Terngu Tsegba, PDP, Gboko Tarkaa, Benue State, who read the group’s resolution on the latest crisis in Jos at a press conference, said that poverty remained the basic problem with Plateau State and other parts of the region.

He said: “Since the problem in the North is not just religious, but rather that of poverty and frustration, caucus calls on the Federal/State Governments to use the same method with which they dealt with militancy in the Niger Delta to solve the problem in Plateau and other northern States.

“The caucus also resolves to set up a 20 man committee to tour northern states with a view to forestalling a repeat or spread of the crises to other parts of the North.”

According Rep.Tsegba, security agencies should be alert to their responsibilities of protecting lives and properties of Nigerians.

The caucus, however, condemned “in strong terms the recent premeditated attack on villages in Jos South Local Government Area which resulted in loss of lives and properties including women and children.”