Relentless and coordinated attacks on communities in Plateau State have since become ‘normal’ occurrences as the people of the state appear to have lost count of such onslaughts. While hundreds of lives have been lost in the nefarious attacks, a new dimension has now set in by way of crushing newly planted crops and setting the farmlands ablaze apparently to increase the losses suffered by their owners.
From Wase, Qua’an Pan, Shendam, Langtang North, Langtang South in Plateau South to Mangu, Kanam, Bokkos in Plateau Central and Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bassa, Jos North, Jos South and recently Jos East in Plateau North, the entire state is constantly witnessing violent conflicts orchestrated by elements opposed to peace. Although Plateau South and Central zones have had some reprieve, the situation in Plateau North seems to defy all solutions as it is perpetually under attacks by armed persons.
The unceasing destruction of grown crops, burning of food barns, robbery, ambushes and killing of farmers and community members have become the new normal in some communities in Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Bassa local government areas of the zone.
The situation is not only causing insecurity but also threatening food security, hence the need for urgent action to be taken to end the cycle. For instance, in the Irigwe Chiefdom where the bulk of attacks in Bassa LGA take place, there are indications that people may likely become poorer due to the sustained destruction in the area.
Taking stock of the series of incidents in the last nine weeks, Irigwe natives through the National President, Irigwe Youth Movement, Ezekiel Bini; National Secretary, Zamfara Ishagoro and National Publicity Secretary, Lawrence Zongo emphasized that the tactic was a deliberate effort to throw the entire Irigwe nation into famine, death, excessive hunger, food insufficiency, inadequacy, and untimely death.
They said: “The marauders have been wreaking havoc on the farmlands of Irigwe nation where variety of crops such as maize, sweet potatoes, acha, Irish potatoes, pepper, tomatoes, cabbage, carrot, green pepper, soya beans, etc., have been encroached, destroyed and shattered beyond growth within the span of seven months of this year, 2021. Over 700 farmlands with crops worth over N2 billion have been destroyed within the said time frame. The recent destruction of crops in Irigweland for the month of June and July are as follows:
“On June 3, 2021 four farmlands at Chuvo were destroyed; on June 4, 2021 five farmlands were destroyed; on June 6, 2021, three farmlands were destroyed all at Chuvo. On June 17, 2021, nine farmlands at Ri-bakwa were destroyed; on June 18, 2021 four farmlands at Nnunche Kpara were destroyed.
“On the June 20, 2021, 12 farmlands were destroyed at Ri-bakwa and Te’egbe; on July 4, 2021 eight farmlands at Chuvo were destroyed; on June 9, 2021, over 45 farmlands at Zonwrru were destroyed. On July 10, 2021, 12, 14, 22 farmlands at Nzhwaruba were destroyed; on July, 2021, 16 and 18 six farmlands at Chuvo were destroyed. Over 25 farmlands have also been destroyed by the same marauders at Ancha village within the same period. Rikwe-Chongu village also experienced the same destruction worth over 50 farmlands and the total destruction of over 25 plots of farmlands on July 19, 2021 at Ri-bakwa and Nchetahu of Kpachudu Community. On July 21, 2021 the marauders macheted and destroyed over 15 farmlands at Zanwra. They also ambushed and killed one of us at Ancha village of Miango District.”
However, the destruction, which was halted for some days, resumed as armed men between July 31 and early hours of August 1, attacked hamlets in the Chiefdom leaving the survivors in pain. Survivors and community leaders say the attacks took place between 7pm on Saturday to about 3am on Sunday as the attackers shot sporadically, looting foodstuff, domestic animals and other property and setting others on fire.
At the time calm returned in the hamlets which included, Zanwra, Nche-Tahu, Rikwe-Rishe A and B, Ri-Dogo, Nchu-Nzhwa all under Kpatenvie (Jebbu-Miango) of Kpachudu village, seven people were shot dead, over 200 houses burnt and thousands of people displaced. On July 31, 2021, Fulani terrorists attacked Kpachudu from 7pm to 3am on Sunday despite the presence of Mobile Police Officers with an armoured personnel carrier. Government has betrayed us for so long; they leave us to the mercy of gunmen because of our faith.”
Also, the National President, Irigwe Development Association, Ezekiel Bini, said over 22,000 of his people were displaced following the violence.
He said: “The assailants, who organised themselves in groups, destroyed crops and looted household items belonging to natives before setting the houses on fire. Our people are in pain following attacks by Fulani gunmen. What we have is a humanitarian crisis in Irigwe land. So far, we have counted seven people who were killed and nine people who sustained gunshot injuries. As we speak, 275 houses have been burnt down and over 22,000 people displaced, including women, children and the aged. Some of the displaced persons are currently taking refuge in neighbouring communities in Miango district, while many others have relocated to Jos.”
A survivor of the latest attack, Pastor Adamu Musa, said: “I was shot by Fulani attackers. We were affected without knowing what was happening. They came to kill Christians; I am a Christian and these people are my brothers. I left Islam and have even become a pastor. I was here with the brethren when they came.”
But the State Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Nura Muhammad, absolved the Fulani of any wrongdoing saying: “What happened was that the Irigwe people mobilised their kinsmen and attacked our people in Rafin Bwauna village, a settlement mainly occupied by Muslims, Hausas and Fulanis. We tried as much as possible to inform the security agencies, but to no avail. We are still compiling the names of those killed. But for now, we lost six of our people, while 11 are in various hospitals.”
But ASP Gabriel Uba, who speaks for the State Police Command, told Arewa Voice that 50 houses were burnt and four people killed. According to him: “On July 31, 2021, the Command received a report that there was a conflict between gunmen suspected to be Fulani militia and youths from Irigwe at Jebbu Miango, Bassa LGA of Plateau State.
“Unfortunately, 50 houses were torched and four natives were also shot dead. Upon receipt of the report, the tactical team of the Command was immediately deployed to the scene to tighten the security of the area and to restore peace. The Commissioner of Police, CP Edward Egbuka, with other senior officers of the Command visited the scene and has ordered a discreet investigation to fish out the perpetrators of the dastardly act. Normalcy has been restored in that area.”
The Member representing Rukuba/Irigwe constituency in the State Assembly, Musa Avia said the onslaught is a plot to grab land and uproot his people from their ancestral home. His words: “I have severally drawn the attention of the House of Assembly to what is happening in my constituency, but our powers have been limited due to the failure of the executive arm to act accordingly.
“During a recent plenary, I moved a motion of urgent public importance on the need to stop the carnage going on in Bassa and we summoned the Commander of Operation Rainbow and other security agents, including the Permanent Secretary, Security. They all came with the exception of the Permanent Secretary but we scheduled another meeting before the latest ugly attack. I spoke with the permanent secretary and he told me that the government would deploy security to the vulnerable villages. Since the latest attack on my constituents lasted for over four hours without the presence of any security agent, it means no deployment was done,” he informed.
Senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Istifanus Gyang, who is consistently calling authorities’ attention to the ugly incidents in the zone, expressed dismay at the recent incident. Gyang through his Special Assistant, Media & Protocol, Musa Ashom, noted: “A pattern, ugly one at that, has become the norm than the exception in bloody and highly destructive attacks on host communities in Plateau North Senatorial District where killer herdsmen kill and destroy both lives and livelihood with reckless abandon.
“Most disturbing is the fact that repeated attacks have all been preceded by widely circulated intelligence information as to the date, time and location of the attacks. With such prior information, the belated or non-response of the Security agencies has been called to question.”
He urged the Operation Safe Haven, Police, and DSS to discharge their duties dispassionately and provide protection to endangered communities of Plateau North and ensure that all threats to peace are decisively dealt with.
Meanwhile, at the time of this report, women and children from nine hamlets including Chwuyeh, Ntiroku, (aka Angwan Magaji), Isho (aka Kishisho), Gyeh, (aka Kigam), Kangbro, Hwrra, Zirshe Maiyanga and Dundu numbering about 15,000 are taking refuge at the Kwall Central, desperately in need of food, clothing and sanitary wares.