IT has been nearly 20 years since a group of armed militants masquerading as “herdsmen” set up camps in the Plateau region, systematically planning and attacking indigenous communities. In spite of all efforts by successive regimes at the Federal and state levels, the Plateau killings have continued unabated.
If anything, the violence recently took on a sinister turn. Early in July this year, many reputable national dailies, including Vanguard, obtained a document (which the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, validated) alleging that at least 54 villages had not only been taken over by the invaders after driving away the indigenes, they were also being renamed in the language of the alleged invaders.
Putting the report beyond doubt, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, after a meeting with Governor Lalong and leaders of the State in Jos on July 27, 2018, announced that as part of the long-term measures to arrest the situation on the Plateau: “Government is going to guarantee the return of the land to their original owners so as to calm the anger of the victims of (those) attacks”.
Nearly two months later, the Nigerian Army has come out with the most forceful statement as far as the Plateau situation is concerned. According to the Commander of Operation Safe Haven (the military exercise to quell the Plateau crisis), Major General Augustine Agundu over the weekend, the menace of the Plateau militants can no longer be tolerated, especially after five soldiers were killed.
“I have declared enough is enough,” he said, adding: “What happened in Barkin Ladi will never repeat itself again … whatever is going on in Barkin Ladi Local Government, Riyom Local Government, Bokkos Local Government and Bassa Local Government, that is enough. My troops are resolved to bring the situation decisively under control”.
We have been calling for decisive action since this crisis started nearly two decades ago. If the armed and security forces had moved in on time we would have put the Plateau crisis behind us long ago. It would have prevented the spreading of the armed herdsmen’s menace to other parts of the North Central and Southern zones like the virus that it is. It would have saved thousands of lives and prevented millions of people from feeling unsafe in their fatherland and at the hands of unknown alleged “alien” invaders.
Now that it seems the military has woken up to full action, we call on it to leave no stone unturned in flushing out the murderous miscreants. The displaced indigenes must be resettled in their homelands. As the fourth most powerful military force in Africa, the Nigerian armed forces have a reputation to protect. They must demonstrate their experience in peacekeeping campaigns.
We wish them the best of luck.