By Taye Obateru and Marie-Therese Nanlong
For the umpteenth time in almost a decade, series of attacks have been carried out mostly in the Northern senatorial zone of Plateau State and sparingly in the southern zone by yet to be identified gunmen and these have always left survivors with gory tales to tell.
Beside killing of mostly the aged, women, children and animals, houses and barns have also been razed with many of the villages in areas like Barkin Ladi and Riyom being deserted as the villagers relocate to safer areas due to fear.
In what many refer to as ethnic cleansing, these attacks concentrate in Beromland and the survivors always point accusing fingers at Fulani herdsmen as well as uniformed men whom they accuse of either aiding the attackers or perpetuating the attacks themselves.
Most of these attacks always leave the victims being buried in mass graves and most bodies burnt beyond recognition. Just a little over a year ago, such attacks and subsequent mass burial claimed the lives of serving lawmakers thereby throwing the State into disarray.
Again on the early morning of Tuesday, four communities in Riyom local government area were attacked by the same unknown gunmen leaving 10 persons dead and over 100 homes razed.
A survivor who did not want his name on print said the gunmen were Fulani herdsmen accompanied by some soldiers and they stormed the villages very early in the morning burning homes and shooting innocent persons.
The attacked villages are Gwon, Torok, Gwawereng and Gwarim all in Rim district of Riyom Local Government Area.
Confirming the incident, the Majority Leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly and Member representing Riyom, Daniel Dem described as sad the constant killings of innocent people. He confirmed that 10 persons mostly women and children were burnt to ashes by the attackers. According to him, “In most of the villages, attacks are carried out in the presence of men of the Special Task Force , why are they not going after the attackers?”
Dem lamented he is weary of burying members of his constituency and every effort put in place to ensure the killing and maiming stopped has been rebuffed and deadlier ones re-occur in another village.
Another survivor in Gwon village who gave his name as Bot called for the withdrawal of the Special Task Force (STF) keeping peace in the State as he said they have done more harm to the people than protecting them. He lamented that the situation in the locality has further impoverished the people as many people cannot go to farm again for fear of being killed by the said herdsmen.
He added, “As the rainy season is approaching, I don’t think our people can go to their farms because of fear of constant attacks by gunmen. Our foodstuffs had been burnt and many people have deserted the villages, we don’t really know what these people want from us or what we are to do for these killings to stop”.
Villagers in the four communities attacked have fled their homes due to fear even as several other villages in the area are now without people especially women and children who had fled to safer areas.
The STF did not issue any statement on the incident but the State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Felicia Anselm confirmed that there was an attack in Rim and its environs but did not give the number of those killed.
With most of the villages now deserted for fear of attack, there are fears of a lull in farming activities on which most of the villagers depend following their displacement from their source of livelihood. As one of the villagers noted, even if they eventually return to their villages, the fear of attack may keep them away from the farm unless the security situation improves.
Commenting on the killings, Mr. Godwin Okoko of Apurimac Onlus, one of the Non-Governmental Organizations working on the restoration of peace on the Plateau said, “What our eyes have seen in Riyom , Barkin Ladi and other environs over the years are unspeakable violent actions that can never be condoned in a just society. The people of Riyom LGA , Barkin Ladi LGA and other environs must be allowed to live in peace without fear to lives and properties.
“Governments at all levels must wake up to their sacred duties of protecting lives and properties; they must move a step beyond the usual slogan without action. The time to act is now and security agencies saddled with the responsibilities of protecting lives and properties should wake up from their slumber and be more pro-active in arresting this unfortunate situation while acting according to the rules of engagement.
“The bloodbath must stop, a few wicked, diabolic, misguided persons cannot be allowed to continue murdering innocent individuals at will, impunity in all its forms that encourage the serial killings must also be stopped”.