JUST as the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, settled in Abuja for its maiden national convention since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power three years ago, the smouldering violence in Plateau State exploded with venom. After two days of bloodletting, most media accounts reported over 120 people killed, though Police accounts put the death toll at 86.
The attacks, which took place in 11 villages in three local government areas – Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South – also saw the razing of over 50 houses. Defenceless Nigerians fled for their lives in scenes reminiscent of the Nigerian civil war. Fingers, as usual, are pointing to the armed herdsmen bandits who have been terrorising the Middle Belt region since 2001, with frequent forays reported in various parts of the Southern zones.
The Federal and state governments responded with predictable reactive precision: Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State slammed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the affected local governments, a step which in the past, never helped to curtail the massacres. President Buhari also issued a condolence message and as usual, vowed that the Federal Government “will never rest” until the killers are brought to book.
The pattern of these internecine herdsmen’s attacks on the central zone of Nigeria which is regarded as its food basket, has become unsettlingly familiar. The main flashpoints are in Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa and Benue. The bandits shift from one theatre to the other, almost at will.
The security agencies have always moved in after such attacks since 2001. Since their efforts have done very little to reduce the determined ferocity of these bandits, these responses appear like mere shadow-boxing. This led a former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister, retired Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma, to call on Nigerians to rise and defend themselves, for which he was condemned in both high and low quarters.
Plateau State has no anti-grazing law, which the Defence Minister, Alhaji Mansur Dan Ali, had blamed for the herdsmen’s attacks in Benue State. Governor Lalong has been very eager to please President Buhari’s government and accommodate the herders, yet these killers remain implacable. This mystery must be unravelled.
Unless something quick and drastic is done to halt these killings, many dangers lie ahead for Nigeria. This year’s farming season could be lost because the farmers that feed their nation are either being killed or rendered refugees in their own country. Food insecurity and a sharp rise in the cost of food imports and local staples will threaten this regime’s modest gains in the agricultural sector.
The coming campaigns and elections could overshadow these massacres as politicians will be more interested in their selfish political pursuits than directing resources to defend the people.
We warn, however, that insecurity is a direct threat to our lives and livelihood. We must act now!