*Victims of Plateau killings cry
*Others recount their experiences
By Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos .
The time was a few minutes past 5am, residents were preparing for the day’s activities, some were already out of their houses; unexpectedly, sporadic gunshots rented the air. Caught unawares, many wondered what was going on, while some thought they were from the nearby Operation Safe Haven Checkpoint. To everybody’s chagrin, the sound kept coming, making confused residents scamper for safety.
The confusion that followed was better imagined than described. Some abandoned their cars and took to their heels, while the bold ones waited to see what was amiss. Sooner than anticipated, their fears, were confirmed as armed Fulani herdsmen were on rampage killing and maiming people.
They shot anyone and anything at sight, their fire power superseding the security forces, setting ablaze worship centres and homes, taking pleasure in sacking the village.
These played out at Dong Kasa and Rafiki communities on Wednesday. Dong in Jos North local government area shares boundary with Rafiki, an Irigwe village in Bassa local government area. The Irigwe Chiefdom has known no peace in almost six months but the latest attacks, which occurred for three consecutive days, have claimed not less than 50 lives, yet to be ascertained number of injured, some people still missing and property worth millions of Naira destroyed.
Among the villages affected are Nzharuvo, where five people mostly children, were killed, Dundu where 25 people were killed and Rafiki/Dong where more than 25 were also killed, including two members of Operation Safe Haven, keeping the peace in the State.
Apart from Bassa, Bokkos local government area has also not been spared as the rampaging herders invaded seven villages of Ngakudung, Farunhai, Mhorok, Ganda, Warrem-Hotom, Maidunna and Josho, killing not less than 40 people, setting ablaze over 200 houses, food barns and farmlands and rendering about 2,000 people homeless.
While the Bokkos incident happened at the time President, Muhammadu Buhari was in Plateau State on a two-day working visit during which he launched a five-year road map for peace in the State, the Bassa incident occurred shortly after his departure.
The Plateau Police Command Spokesperson, ASP Mathias Tyopev and the Spokesman of Operation Safe Haven, Major Adam Umar had confirmed most of the attacks, but did not give figures of the casualties.
The State Government had imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in Bassa and called on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the attacks in both local government areas.
However, survivors of the incidents, though lamenting the situation, are full of appreciation for being alive to tell their stories.
According to Paul Bossan, who teaches in a Secondary School in Miango, Bassa local government area, “It was about 6.30 a.m. I heard sounds of gunshots and they were so close to my house at Rafiki, I thought they were coming from the nearby Checkpoint but the sound continued and so I became suspicious”.
“As I checked, I saw armed Fulani men advancing towards my area shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ searching houses as they passed bye. I had to abandon my car and took to my heels for safety. My car was burnt and so was my house but part of the house was saved when help came. More than 20 houses were burnt in my area; though, I am sad at the incident because people died but I am happy to be alive to tell the story.”
A woman, Laraba Yohanna, whose two children were killed at La’ake village, narrated that, “before the attack, the children were playing with other children as there was moonlight and suddenly, we heard gunshots and approaching feet and we knew we were in trouble”.
“As the Fulani herdsmen were approaching, they were shooting and everybody was running, some who had gone to bed woke up confused, before we knew what happened, my children were gunned down and till this moment, it seems like a dream to me.”
The Village Head of La’ake, Daniel Kadzai added that “The attackers invaded the village in a commando style and carried out the killings within minutes and it happened at the time most men and youths had gone for mining activities.”
Kadzai, who lamented that security agents were withdrawn from the village and the few ones left did not have operational vehicles also recalled that the village had been under siege for long saying, “Fulani herdsmen had been living here with us but without any reason, they packed their loads and left and started selling their lands which they bought from us”.
“This is not the first time Fulani herdsmen had attacked us. Sometime in 2002, they killed my Predecessor. I don’t know what they want from us, no Irigwe man will go and attack Fulani. We are suffering here, since last year till now, we hold burial almost on a daily basis, our people cannot go to the farm or market and come back safely. They will either be killed or maimed on the way by Fulani herdsmen.”
With the ongoing attacks, citizens of the affected areas are appealing to all people of goodwill to come to their aid and ensure an end to the incessant attacks.