BY TAIYE OBATERU & HOPE OFOBIKE
JOS— The alleged killing of one person and rustling of 500 heads of cattle almost undermined a peace parley organised by Special Task Force, STF, maintaining security in Plateau State, yesterday, as news of the development heightened tension among participants.
The STF had organised the parley among Fulani and locals in Shendam in a bid to end the upsurge of violence in the Southern Senatorial District of the state, which has resulted in the killing of scores of people and the displacement of thousands.
Commander of STF, Major General Henry Ayoola, was making his speech on the need to end the hostilities when information filtered into the venue that one person was killed and hundreds of cattle stolen at Longvel in the area.
The news unsettled some of the participants as they moved up and down the venue trying to get details of the reported incident.
It was learnt that the cattle rustlers invaded the village in large numbers, shooting into the air to scare residents before forcefully taking the cattle away.
Addressing the participants drawn from the six local government areas that make up the zone, Ayoola condemned the tendency by some people to attack innocent villagers, mostly women and children on the excuse that their cows had been rustled or to shoot at herds of cattle on the ground that they destroyed a farm.
Responding to contributions from various participants, he said ownership of cattle cut across the various ethnic groups, just as cattle rustling was not carried out by a particular tribe or religion but assured that continuous efforts would be made to bring perpetrators to justice.
He disclosed that 10 cases of cattle rusting was currently being investigated while four convictions had been secured in court against culprits.
He urged the people to always report suspicious movement of cattle to security agents.