•Buhari regrets attacks, says politicians taking advantage of farmers, herders’ clashes
•PDP bemoans killings, carpets Buhari, APC
•Police Special Forces join other services on ground
By Henry Umoru, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, has described the attacks on some communities in Plateau State as an act of retaliation over the killing of 300 cows belonging to its members.
Suspected herdsmen had on Saturday night, through Sunday, attacked Riyom, Barakin Ladi and Jos South local government areas of the state, killing over 100 persons, though the Police confirmed 86.
Miyetti Allah’s statement came yesterday, as fresh attacks on Kwi village in Riyom local government area claimed one more life in the early hours, despite the dusk-to-dawn curfew declared in the three local government areas.
This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, advised citizens not to take laws into their hands in the recent upsurge of clashes between farmers and herdsmen, declaring that politicians were now taking advantage of the crisis between both groups to cause havoc, with a view to securing advantage in the 2019 general elections.
Chairman of the North Central zone of MACBAN, Danladi Ciroma, who signed the statement, said herdsmen in the state had lost about 300 cows in the weeks leading to the attack.
He accused the communities of hiding cattle rustlers among them as well as frustrating peace efforts of the state government.
He said: “These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human beings, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.
“There have been recent reports of cow rustling and destruction of farms between Berom farmers and Fulani herdsmen. The people carrying out these criminal activities are well known to the communities but the communities are hiding them.
“Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled and the criminals disappeared with them to Mangu.
“Since these cows were not found, no one should expect peace in the areas. Even soldiers that went after the criminals to recover the rustled cows were shot by the armed rustlers and eventually escaped with all the cows.
“The government of Governor Lalong has done a lot to restore peace, but the criminal elements hiding among their people are the ones frustrating these peace efforts.”
Ciroma added that security agencies should be fair to all parties, and not neglect any report presented by herdsmen, saying “because such report can lead to attacks and deaths if not properly handled.”
He said: “Criminals thrive a lot in Berom communities, but when the herdsmen, who are always victims of their crime, react with attacks, they blame the government.”
Hundreds have been killed this year alone in attacks by suspected herdsmen as well as in clashes between the herders and farmers, with President Muhammadu Buhari vowing to bring the killers to book.
Killings on-going despite curfew
However, despite the dusk-to-dawn curfew declared in the three local government areas on Sunday, there were reports of attack and killings in the early hours of yesterday at Kwi village in Riyom Local Government Area.
No official of government or security confirmed the incident as the Police Public Relations Officer, Mathias Tyopev said he was not aware of the development.
But a member of the State House of Assembly, representing Riyom, Mr. Daniel Dem, an indigene of the area claimed it happened.
He said: “Yes, I was called and informed that Kwi was attacked this morning (yesterday), but I can’t say how many people were killed. But there are still people trapped at Palang village of Shonong, no security is there to rescue them and the boundary between Riyom and Kaduna State is tensed.
“Since this ugly incident started, we have not rested, I just returned from Riyom to do a few things and go back there.”
Another indigene of Kwi, Mr. Dauda Gyemang, also confirmed the attack, saying “yes, a sick woman was killed. She was mentally retarded and could not run when residents started hearing the sporadic gunshots until the attackers caught up with her and killed her.”
The state government in its latest reactions to the incident yesterday, expressed displeasure at the manner gory pictures of the incident were being circulated on social media and called for caution.
The government in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said: “The state government observed with great concern the manner in which gory pictures of victims of the unfortunate attacks in parts of the state are being circulated on social media.
“While sympathizing with affected families and communities, government is advising citizens to respect the sanctity of both the living and the dead, particularly at this time when the entire state is in mourning mood.”
Similarly, the senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Jonah Jang, a former governor of the state whose constituency is affected by the attacks, in a statement by his Media Consultant, Clinton Garuba, condemned the killings, saying it had fast become a co-ordinated attempt of genocide.
The statement read: “With a deep sense of grief and genuine indignation, the senator representing Plateau North Senatorial Zone, Senator Jonah Jang, condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric killing of over 200 people in Gashish District, Razat, Ruku Nyarr, and Gana-Ropp in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State by herdsmen.
“These continuous killings are fast becoming a co-ordinated attempt at genocide aimed at annihilating our people and stealing our God-given heritage. As one who is particular about the welfare and well-being of the people, the senator’s heart is with the families of all those who have been deliberately and mercilessly separated from their loved ones for eternity.
“It is quite unfortunate that despite all the valuable lives we continue to lose, the government on the Plateau, led by Governor Simon Lalong, is still living in denial.
“How many Plateau lives must be violently ended before the governor realises that the peace he claimed to have brought on the Plateau is imaginary?”
Also reacting to the attacks, Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun, who condoled with the people, maintained that the “killing is unacceptable” and urged residents to “eschew violence and allow peace to reign.”
Reacting in a similar vein, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Jos branch, through its chairman, Bon Ngyou, condemned in strong terms “the senseless and mindless destruction of lives and property, since Saturday, June 23, 2018, in villages in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Mangu and Jos South local government areas.”
He said: “The NBA is gravely saddened by this development and calls on the security agents to quickly bring this dastardly act to an immediate halt as it is unacceptable. We cannot continue to toe this path to perdition.”
Meanwhile, authorities of the University of Jos has cautioned its staff and students to be mindful of their activities, in view of the recent events in the state.
The university in a statement by its Principal Assistant Registrar, Information and Publications, Abdullahi Abdullahi, urged the students to be vigilant and avoid conflict-prone areas.
“Following the civil disturbances recorded in some parts of Plateau State and attendant tension generated, Staff and Students of University of Jos are being strongly advised to be watchful and careful when coming to school.
“They should avoid conflict-prone and lonely routes and be careful with kinds of vehicles/tricycles they board to ensure their safety.”
Buhari regrets attacks
In his reactions to the latest attacks yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed regrets that politicians were now taking undue advantage of farmers/herders’ clashes across the country.
President Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, decried how increasingly cheap human life was becoming in Nigeria, as desperate people pursued their quest for instability and chaos which they hoped would give them an advantage in the coming elections.
He said: “We know that a number of geographical and economic factors are contributing to the longstanding herdsmen/farmers clashes. But we also know that politicians are taking advantage of the situation. This is incredibly unfortunate.
“Nigerians affected by the herdsmen/farmers clashes must always allow the due process of the law to take its course rather than taking matters into their own hands.”
He said information available to the Presidency had it that about one hundred cattle had been rustled by a community in Plateau State, while some herdsmen were killed in the process.
“The state governor, Simon Lalong, had invited the aggrieved groups and pleaded against further action while the law enforcement agents looked into the matter. Less than 24 hours later, violence broke out.
“Some local thugs then took advantage of the situation, turning it into an opportunity to extort the public, and to attack people from rival political parties.
“There were reports of vehicles being stopped along the roads in the state, with people being dragged out of their cars and attacked if they stated that they supported certain politicians or political party.
“On his way back to Jos after attending the All Progressives Congress, APC, Convention in Abuja, the state governor had to dismantle a number of illegal road blocks set up by these thugs. There were also a number of dead bodies thugs had killed, lying along the road,’’ the President said.
Also reacting yesterday, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, decried the gruesome killings, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to address and bring to book the perpetrators of killings and bloodletting in various parts of the country in the past was largely responsible for the increasing spate of killings in the land.
The party in a statement accused the ruling party of abandoning its primary responsibility of protecting lives because of its focus on the re-election bid of President Buhari in 2019.
The statement read: “When the Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari cried out that he was overwhelmed by the spate of insecurity and killings, the Federal Government gave him an ineffectual response laced with their trite blame game.
“We urge Nigerians to note that since the escalation of killings and blood-letting in various parts of the country, particularly in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Adamawa, Yobe, Borno, Zamfara, Kaduna and other states, no concrete steps have been taken by the APC administration to strengthen and fortify the security architecture in the troubled areas.
“Instead, what we are witnessing are inactions, impotent assurances and blame games that have continued to compromise security in the areas thereby creating opening for marauders to continue to ravage our people.
“In fact, if the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its Federal Government had channeled the same energy and resources they have deployed to fighting perceived opponents towards fighting marauders and insurgents, the security challenge would not have been as devastating as we have in our nation today.
“The PDP particularly agrees with Nigerians that if the over 7,000 security personnel, police surveillance helicopters and Armoured Personnel Carriers were not withdrawn from their primary security duties and drafted to be part of the APC national convention, the marauders would not have had a field day in this Plateau attack.”
In his reaction, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, called on the President to direct his security chiefs to immediately produce quick response measures to tackle the spate of killings in the country.
He said it was important for Nigerians to start having the assurances that the government was decisively responding to the current threat to lives and properties in parts of the country.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate President said: “I am very sad to hear the news of the incident in Plateau State. This is very depressing and gives the impression that the country is not safe.
‘’The problem of Boko Haram in the North East is well known to everybody but this killing by unknown band of assailants in Benue, Taraba, Plateau and Kaduna states is now giving another dimension to the crisis. Coming at the time we are getting ready for elections, we need to respond fast.
“If the plan is to develop some long term measures, we also request that the President should mandate the security chiefs to put forward an immediate short term and quick response measure which will restore confidence in the system and demonstrate to the criminals behind this killings the capacity of government to tackle the issue.
“We have to immediately device a plan through which the criminals behind the killings and their sponsors can be nabbed and made to face the wrath of the law. We have to also develop plans to mop up illegal fire arms in the hands of dangerous elements while also stopping the influx of these arms into the country.”
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has deployed the Police Special Intervention Force to Plateau State in response to the latest killings.
The IGP also deployed two Police Aerial surveillance Helicopters, five Armored Personnel Carriers, APCs, three Police Mobile Force Units, two Counter Terrorism Cells, CTU, and Police Intelligence Unit and conventional police personnel from other states to the affected areas in Plateau State.
A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Jimoh Moshood, yesterday, said the intervention force, headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, is mandated to immediately bring an end to the crisis.
The statement read: “The Police aerial surveillance helicopters and other components of the intervention force are already in the state.
‘’Their arrival in the state has restored peace and prevent further attacks in the affected areas
The Deputy Inspector General of Police; Department of Operations, is being relocated on the directive of the IGP to Jos, Plateau State, to coordinate and supervise the operations on the ground.
‘’The IGP’s directive was due to his concern for the recent killings of innocent people in Barkin-Ladi (Gashishi), Riyom, Jos South LGAs and other flash points in the state with the attendant disturbance of public peace, clashes and mayhem that engulfed the affected areas in Plateau State on June 23 and 24, 2018, which resulted in the loss of several innocent lives, burning of houses and vehicles, and destruction of properties.
“The IGP has directed the Commissioner of Police in charge of IGP monitoring Unit to lead the Police Special investigation Team to the affected areas and other flash points in Plateau State.