June 9, 2023

Plateau attacks: Help us return to our farms, survivors plead

mile 2 clash

File photo

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

It is a dire strait for the victims who have been caught in the web of the ceaseless killings in Plateau State, especially the women who have to run with their children and household items while trying to escape from the war fronts each time one breaks out.

The unfolding tragedy for women has been so severe for them to bear because unlike men, who can run with barefoot to escape being slain, women and girls in the war-stricken areas of Plateau have other vital needs to care for while trying to escape the assassins’ bullets.

Women have always been the victims of the many senseless killings in Plateau State. They are either killed along with their children or left widows as their husbands get killed. While displaced, they are further traumatised by a lack of basic needs including sanitary pads. As a result of many assaults unleashed in the area in the past weeks, women have been thrown into disarray and they are distraught at the moment. The displaced persons, mostly women and children from the recent attacks in the Mangu Local Government Area of the state, are pleading for urgent help to enable them to at least regain their bearing and return home. They are also becoming more and more uncomfortable with the unfriendly weather conditions which make them sick, made worse by their inability to get fresh and unadulterated food from their farms, which have been deserted for many months as a result of being displaced by attacks.

The attacks/statistics

It will be recalled that starting from May 15, 2023 there was a weeklong attack by suspected Fulani mercenaries on almost 30 communities in Mangu LGA. Over 100 people, mostly women and children, were killed and over 10,000 people displaced. Communities attacked included: Gwet, Mutong, Bwor, Komtul, Vodni, Dangdai, Changal, Kombili, Washna (Jwakchom), Larkas, Ajing, Fushi, Bin Kwahas, Manja, Murish, Dungmunan, Kyampus, Jwakmaitumbi, Kantoma, Alohom, Gaude, Danhausa, Kikyau, Gongong, Gudum, Tyop, Farin Kasa, Kubwat and Fungzai.

As at the last count, no fewer than 879 men, 2,177 women, and 2,966 children have been located in a few camps in Barkin Ladi and Mangu LGAs. About 1,977 others are in churches and school halls in Jos metropolis and Pankshin LGA. The number of those being camped in nearby Bogoro in Bauchi State and some others is yet to be determined as they take temporary abodes with their relatives and friends. The leadership of Mwaghavul Development Association, the tribal body of the people in Mangu has offered some support and called on the Federal and state governments to ensure the provision of basic needs for the survivors. The National President, Sir Joseph Gwankat also pleaded with the government to take over the responsibility of fending for the school children who have been made to miss the Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations due to the attacks in Mangu.

Gwankat said: “People have been displaced and government must take immediate steps to facilitate the return of all persons that have become refugees in different IDP camps by reconstructing their homes and providing security. Otherwise, they won’t be able to go back and continue with their farming activities. NEMA/SEMA must urgently mobilise resources immediately to address the situation of the victims.”

Attackers pilfer valuables

The Plateau State Baptist Conference, which reportedly lost no fewer than 50 members, including a high-ranking Pastor, has been able to locate 500 displaced members and has given them so assistance to restart their lives again following their predicament in their hands of their attackers. Rev. Koeleh Saleh, who heads the church in Plateau State said: “In Kantoma, we lost 31 members, including a moderator. Twenty-three women were made widows on account of the attack. We lost nine members in Jwak Maitumbi and a member in Kombili. Most of our members are displaced in over 10 local churches. In the Jos metropolis, a family is hosting between 10 to 20 people and we have over 200 displaced persons in Jos. We have 50 in Barkin Ladi, over 200 in Salama Baptist Church in Mangu, and 78, including 44 little children at Bwarak, Pankshin.

“It is so terrible that people have been displaced, they have buried the dead they can bury and they want to go back to their homes but they can’t… The disturbing thing is that people who attacked have come around to remove their doors, and zinc that was not burnt. This is a farming season, and the government should think of returning these people to go to their farms. Whatever we are doing now will not be forever. Government should wake up to their responsibility and ensure a safe place for these people to return to their farms.”

Encouragement: An American Baptist Missionary, Angel Oswood who comforted the survivors said: “We are glad to be here partnering with our conference and to help where we can. The Church outside Nigeria has not left Christians here alone, they are giving and they are praying; God is in control and he is going to work things out but we don’t know how. We want our Nigerian brothers and sisters to know that they are not alone, we will do what God calls us to do to try to alleviate some of the sufferings that are going on.”  

Survivors speak

Godsave Markus from Kantoma stated: “We saw how they attacked our neighbouring villages, Jwak and Murish. It was raining and that was between 3 pm and 4 pm. One of our brothers who ran to alert us was killed on the way. As we went to pick the body, we didn’t know that the Fulanis were close to the body. They surrounded us and we ran in confusion. Many people were killed because they were tired and couldn’t run fast. We narrowly escaped as they burned and stole our property. I want to return so that I can go to farm because when we don’t farm, we don’t have food and money.”

Chamun Lazarus noted: “My pregnant mother, some other family members and I were together when we saw people running. We were told that Fulanis were attacking neighbouring villages and were coming towards ours. We wanted to run but we could not leave my mother alone(sobs). We later escaped with her but they killed my step-father and my brother. Our means of livelihood are in the farms; those who survived should be assisted to return to the village so that we go to farm.”

Grace Panmun added as she lamented: “Some of us ran to Bogoro in Bauchi State. This thing is about land-grabbing and if we are not safe and we don’t have access to land, how do we farm? This is also economic sabotage to weaken the economic power of the people”.