AS Nigeria gained her independence in 1960, it was never in the wildest imagination of our founding fathers that 58 years into the future, some parts of the country would again be re-conquered and colonised.
That is exactly what is happening in the Middle Belt, especially Plateau State, where armed herdsmen have attacked and displaced indigenous populations from no less than 54 villages in Jos South, Mangu, Bokkos, Barkin Ladi and other local government areas.
Five members of the House of Representatives from Plateau State: Istifanus Gyang, Edward Pwajok, Timothy Golu, Solomon Maren and Johnbull Shekarau on Tuesday confirmed to the plenary session of the House that the aggressors have been changing the names of the occupied villages to Fulani names. Based on this and other already adduced evidences, the House of Representatives, for the first time since the crisis started in 2001, officially recognised the attacks on the Plateau indigenes as “genocide”.
We are waiting impatiently for the Presidency to also affirm these attacks as “genocide” and immediately mobilise the armed forces to move in and bring the aggressors and their sponsors under the full weight of our laws.
Genocide on any patch of Nigeria’s territory is an affront to our nationhood; a desecration of our constitution and all the sacred articles of association that bind us together as one people protected by an inviolable sovereignty. We are, albeit mildly, encouraged by the undertaking of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that the Federal Government will resettle all displaced persons back to their communities currently occupied by aggressors. But we do not believe that the measures being proposed are strong and far-reaching enough.
The N10 billion announced for the resettlement of the victims now languishing in internally-displaced persons, IDP, camps is like a drop in the ocean when compared to the N179 billion proposed for the establishment of ranches. Without first of all flushing out the attackers, bringing them to justice, reclaiming the villages they are occupying and resettling the indigenes in their communities, the Federal Government will continue to be seen as merely paying lip service to the Plateau and Middle Belt genocides.
We are firmly against any measure designed to make the herdsmen militants feel they could benefit from their criminal aggression against innocent Nigerians, such as forcing people to give up their ancestral lands or “accommodate” their attackers. The Federal Republic of Nigeria must never allow any group to make war on others for ethnic expansionism. That is a recipe for anarchy which this country cannot survive.
The Federal Government is duty-bound to protect the lives and property of all law-abiding Nigerian citizens and residents alike. This is a task that must be done.