•Arise and defend yourselves—M’Belt leaders tell communities
•Accuse FG, security agencies of complicity in killings
•Call on AU, ICC to intervene; Obasanjo in Jos, wants root cause identified
•Buhari, Saraki, Dogara in closed-door meeting; •Arrest perpetrators of killings— APC
•Confusion as IGP reverses deployment of Plateau CP
Jos–Violent protests, yesterday, rocked Plateau State Government House, Jos, following last weekend’s killing of over one hundred persons in three local government areas of the state.
The otherwise peaceful protests turned violent when no government official came out of their offices to address the protesters.
The protests came on a day the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, called on communities in the region to arise and defend themselves against unabated pogrom being launched at them by herdsmen.
This came as former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Jos yesterday, and asked the federal and Plateau State governments to identify the root cause(s) of insecurity and deal with them, so people could get reprieve from the incessant violence plaguing the land.
President Muhammadu Buhari also yesterday met with Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, with a promise to re-oganise the nation’s security apparatus to address the herdsmen crisis in the country once and for all.
The protesters threw stones, damaging some cars parked at one of the parking lot at the new Government House as well as some offices.
Among the damaged cars were those belonging to two journalists, Peter Amine of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, and Douglas Francis of Core TV.
The protesters had converged on the old airport junction and marched to Government House but were initially prevented from getting access to the premises.
Some of the protesters, however, climbed the fence of the complex to gain access, forcing security men deployed to Government House to open the gate.
They had expressed displeasure at not being received by any government official, even as Mr. Joseph Lengman, Director, Peace Building Agency, who was detailed to address the protesters scampered for safety.
The situation turned violent when some of the protesters ran after the fleeing government officials, trying to stop them from leaving the premises.
Offices of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Permanent Secretary, Government House and other top officials of government were also attacked.
The defiant protesters defied all entreaties to stop the protests, and this compelled security operatives at Government House to start shooting to scare them away.
They stood their ground, demanding to see the governor to register their displeasure over the killings as well as his stance on the ranching policy.
At the time of the protest, Governor, Simon Lalong was out of office, visiting the about 50 victims of the attacks who are currently receiving treatment at Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH.
Saraki in Jos
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was in the state yesterday to commiserate with the governor and the people over the killings.
Saraki conveyed the condolences of the National Assembly to the people, assuring that they would be there for the state in whatever way it needed the National Assembly’s assistance.
He called on the people to work together with the governor to overcome the challenges and tasked security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous act.
He also urged the governor to “be fair and just” in dealing with the situation.
In his response, Governor Lalong thanked Saraki and the National Assembly for identifying with the state, stressing he was shocked at the killings, especially coming from the very people who gave the state government a road map to peace.
The governor assured that he was working with all stakeholders to ensure the situation did not spread to other areas.
Meanwhile, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, yesterday, called on communities in the region to arise and defend themselves against unabated pogrom being launched at them by herdsmen.
Reacting to last weekend’s killings in Plateau State, President of the Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, who made the call at a media briefing in Abuja, said the killings going on in the Middle Belt were unacceptable.
He argued that the call for self-defence had become imperative since the government has abdicated its responsibility to protect them.
“Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to life and nobody should be deprived of that right. The right to private self-defence is constitutionally recognized to protect that right to life,” he said.
Bitrus, who indicted the security agencies as culpable of conspiracy in the killings, said: “In very many cases, the circumstances surrounding the killings and destruction suggest that there is complicity by the leadership of security and intelligence agencies.
“Besides, the forum has asked the international community, African Union, AU, to condemn and call to order the federal government for failing in its responsibility to protect the people of the Middle Belt.
Bitrus, who also noted that the African Union’s silence was no longer golden as Nigeria had been on the road to the genocide in Rwanda with the African Union maintaining silence, however, called on the International Criminal Court, ICC, to investigate the genocide in the Middle Belt and bring the perpetrators to justice.
He stated further: “We call on the entire people of the Middle Belt to organize themselves in their communities to defend themselves and their property as the government has abdicated its responsibility to protect them.
“Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to life and nobody should be deprived of that right. The right to private self defence is constitutionally recognized to protect that right to life.
“Governments of all states in the Middle Belt should as a matter of urgency support communities in the Middle Belt to train vigilante groups on ways of repelling external aggression of the sort communities in our homelands have been subjected to in the last two decades.
“Governors of the states of the Middle Belt should urgently bring to the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari the need to bring to an end this undeclared war against the people of the Middle Belt as it has the potential of degenerating to a state of anarchy.”
The Forum also called on President Buhari to immediately reconstitute the top echelon of the security forces.
“The people of the Middle Belt have every reason to suspect that the top echelon of the security forces is unwilling or unable to protect them.
“The refusal of the Inspector General of Police to stay in Makurdi as directed by the President and Commander in Chief in January, 2018 and the recent comment of the Minister of Defence directing states to suspend the Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition Laws of their various states are clear evidence that they are neither interested, willing or able to be fair to the people of the Middle Belt.
“We call on the President to work with the legislature and immediately commence the process of constitutional amendment for the proper restructuring of the Nigerian federation. In the interim, we call on the President to direct that all police personnel be posted to their various states of origin in line with the principles of community policing.
“We call on the President to immediately direct arrest of the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, for investigation and prosecution.
“The President should also immediately direct the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to set in motion the process for the proscription of these two organisations,” he said.
Justifying claims of security agencies’ complicity in the killings, Dr. Bitrus said: “The most recent attacks in Plateau State where several communities cutting across three LGAs left over 200 persons dead was sustained for over five hours without any response from the security forces.
“It is inconceivable that an attack of such magnitude requiring the kind of logistics involved could have been planned without any inkling by the intelligence agencies.
“It is absolutely impossible that for five hours the security agencies were ignorant of the attacks in this era where majority of the members of these communities have access to mobile phones and have numbers of police divisions and relatives’ numbers. Our conclusion therefore, is that this is evidence of high level complicity by the security forces.
“The recent twist to the genocide in the Middle Belt is that after each round of these killings, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, or the Miyetti Allah Kautal Haure have claimed responsibility for the killings.
“In Benue and Taraba, the Miyetti Allah opposed the passage of the Anti -Open Grazing Prohibition Laws of those states and openly declared that the killings were a direct consequence of their opposition.
“Just a few days ago and immediately after the genocide in Plateau, the Miyetti Allah claimed responsibility and their justification was that over 300 cows were stolen by some indigenous Berom youths. In all of these cases, the leadership of the Miyetti Allah has not been arrested nor has the government banned this organization,” Bitrus said.
He called on all Nigerians of good will to stand and demand that the government acts to bring an end to the genocide in the Middle Belt.
“We call on all Nigerians to note that the Middle Belt is the bulwark against these rampaging terrorists from over running the entire Nigerian nation up to the Atlantic.
“Other Nigerians who stand aloof now do so to their damnation and that of their children, even those yet unborn,” he said.
Obasanjo in Plateau
Also in Plateau State, yesterday, was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who asked the federal and Plateau State governments to identity the root cause(s) of insecurity and deal with them so that people would get reprieve from the incessant violence plaguing the land.
He admitted there were problems during his time in government but “not in this magnitude” and believed solutions could be found to address the challenges.
Obasanjo, who visited Jos to commiserate with the governor and people of Plateau State over the recent killings in the state, extended his condolences to the bereaved families.
He said: “I’m here to express my condolences, what happened is very sad, that in this day and age, this type of barbaric act is taking place in our country. I have suggested and I will say it again that we should find out the root cause of this problem and deal with it.
“There must be remote and immediate cause, if we deal with it, we are not going to be multiplying condolence visits. I believe that any human problem has human solution, I do hope and plead with government at the federal level, those of you in states and even local government level to join hands even at the community level to find the causes and deal with them permanently.
“We offer our condolences to the bereaved families, all we can say is that God knows the best. Even in my time, we had problems but not in this magnitude, we thought we were dealing with them as at that time but the earlier we deal with it, the better. I believe we can find solution, we must find solution.”
Responding, Lalong appreciated his coming but noted that a phone call would have sufficed.
He added: “Insecurity is not new to me, we thought we could handle it. When we came in, we quickly put up a team, including Berom and Fulani.
“They came out with a road map to proffer solutions, we adopted the recommendations and have implemented some and was in the process of implementing the remaining ones. We have done our best, we have learned our lessons, we will be very firm.”
Buhari, Saraki, Dogara meet
Less than 24 hours after visiting Plateau State as a result of the killings, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday held a closed-door meeting with the President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, at his official residence, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting took place early in the morning before the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting at the Council Chamber of the State House.
This is even as there was indication that the President may reorganize the security apparatus in the country to curtail the reckless and incessant killings of citizens.
Speaking after the meeting, the Senate President, Dr. Saraki said they met with the President to get first hand information from him after he visited Plateau State on Tuesday.
He said: “We met with the president to first of all commiserate with him and get a briefing from him. Part of the briefing he explained how steps are being taken to forestall recurrence and restore sanity because this is a great concern to him and to us also.
“To see what can be done with NEMA and security agencies, we will all work towards it, nobody is happy with it and we will all come together to ensure that we restore sanity.
“We commiserate with all families, it is our own intention to also go and pay our condolence visit to the people of Plateau.
“Our general appeal at the end of the day is that we all live together in peace and harmony and we will continue to do our best to see that this kind of thing does not happen again.”
On his part, speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said they went to commiserate with the President on the killings in Plateau State and to know measures put in place to forestall further occurrence.
He also said the President briefed them on efforts so far made and the reorganization plans to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Dogara said: “We are here to condole with Mr. President, the government and people of Plateau State over this very unfortunate incident.
“He has briefed us on what he saw first hand when he visited Plateau yesterday (Tuesday) and measures he is putting in place to ensure that we do not have a relapse or a recurrence.
“These are very sober moments for all of us in a situation where people in hundreds are killed and we can no longer tolerate this kind of situation as a government.
“Whatever it is we must not lose the fight against violence because we can’t lose that fight and still keep our civilization.
“If you go to the North East, you can see the level of devastation caused by Boko Haram; everything resembling progress from schools to hospitals to government institutions, everything has been pulled down. And we don’t want a replication of this all over the country.
“The President has taken enough steps, these are security issues, these are not matters that you can discuss but he has told us what he is doing, the reorganization that he plans to put in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
“My advice is to our people, not just Plateau, Benue, Zamfara, Taraba states, virtually all communities faced with this situation, especially in the north. I think the issue of securing our communities, living in peace must be taken as a project, it’s something each and everyone of us must invest in.
“Whether as traditional rulers, as community leaders, councilors, chairmen, all strata of society must invest in peace building. That is is the only way we can live in a secure community and ensure that we progress as a country.”
APC tasks security agencies
Also yesterday, the All Progressives Congress, APC, charged security agencies to rise to the challenge of arresting the perpetrators of the killings.
The party in a statement signed by National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, said: “Nothing can justify such descent to barbarism, bestiality and cruelty to a fellow man as witnessed with the gruesome killings.”
While it grieved over the dead, the party appealed to religious and community leaders to “demonstrate true leadership, even in the face of this terrible challenge, by appealing to those affected not to take the laws into their hands and avoid utterances and actions that can provoke reprisal.
“We are confident that President Muhammadu Buhari’s prompt visit to Plateau State will help in providing some succour to the affected and reassure everyone of Mr. President’s commitment to tackling the security situation in the country.
“We also, once again, call on security agencies to spare no efforts in ensuring the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators and in stemming the occurrence of such violence in all parts of the country.”
IGP reverses redeployment of CP
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, yesterday reversed the redeployment of Plateau State Police Commissioner, Undie Adie, to Force Headquarters, Abuja, hours after the redeployment.
The IGP had sent Bala Ciroma from Force Headquarters to take over from the police commissioner but soon got another directive to return to Abuja.
A statement issued yesterday by the command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Mathias Tyopev, indicating the reversal, said: “Posting and deployment of Police personnel is at the discretion of the Inspector General of Police and it is a normal routine in the Force.
“The Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris has reversed the earlier deployment of CP Undie Adie to Force Headquarters, Abuja, back to Plateau State Command. CP Bala Ciroma has since handed over and returned to the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
“It is the reasoning of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, that CP Undie Adie understands the terrain better and as such, he is to remain and steer the ship off the tides. CP Adie has already taken over the command and thanks the people of Plateau for the cooperation so far received and solicits for more synergy.”
Military parades suspects
The Special Military Task Force, “Operation Save Haven” also paraded three suspects in connection with the latest killings in Plateau State yesterday.
The three men were said to have been arrested at Gashish District in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau.
The suspects were paraded in Jos alongside 14 others, who were arrested over the killings but their names were not given by the STF.
Prading the suspects, spokesman of STF, Umar Adams, told reporters that the suspects were arrested clutching sophisticated rifles.
He said two of the suspects were herdsmen and one Berom, one of the ethnic groups in Plateau, currently at odds with herdsmen over grazing rights.
Adams, who noted that the suspects were arrested in the course of the attacks, said: “We all know that some days back, some villages in Barkin Ladi were attacked and these three suspects were arrested in connection with that.
“As our men were repelling the attacks in those areas, we arrested these suspects with four rifles, three locally made guns and one AK47.
“The other 14 people were arrested in connection with civil unrest recently experienced in the state.”
Adams said the suspects were still being investigated and that more arrests would be made in the course of time.