Last Tuesday’s marching orders by President Bola Tinubu to security agencies to fish out the masterminds of the killings in Plateau State may mark an end to the senseless atrocities in the state if it is not treated like the previous orders by his predecessor, which ended up as mere rhetorics for eight years, Seriki Adinoyi writes
It was on Monday morning, July 11, at about 6:30 am, and commuters that had set out early for Abuja were seen making U-turns and returning to Jos, the Plateau State capital. They had been turned back by outraged youths and women of Farin Lamba. The peace of the friendly community in Jos South Local Government Area (LGA) had been violated by dare-devil gunmen.
The assailants had swooped on the community the previous night at about 9 p.m. in an Opel Vectra car and sprayed bullets on whoever was in sight. The villagers who were relaxing after a hectic day were gunned down for simply relaxing in front of their homes.
Of particular concern was a heart-rending case of a father who was returning home after he took his eight-month-old daughter who was running temperature to a pharmacist. He was gunned down together with his daughter, leaving only his wife who was at home.
The carnage was in addition to a similar incident that happened on Sunday, July 10, at Sabo Gari in Mangu LGA, where a total of 22 people were gunned down, leading to the declaration of curfew in the area.
For the past two decades, the people of Plateau State go to bed and wake up the following morning to find themselves dead.
Successive governments have tried in vain to find solutions. Each time it happened they will direct security men to chase after ‘the dare-devil’ gunmen, but it has always been a wild goose chase.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was recently forced to relocate their Orientation camp from the permanent site in Mangu to temporary camp at WAYE Foundation in Jos South LGA.
The recent renewed onslaught on the communities started in April, just after the general election. Many believe it is a genocide by people who are bent on taking over the state from their ancestral owners.
Reacting recently, the National President of Mwaghvul Development Association (MDA), Chief Joseph Gwankat, said no fewer than 207 persons have been killed in Mangu LGA alone in the last two months. The figure excludes those killed in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, and Jos South LGAs.
He lamented that the villages and farms deserted by victims of the attacks have become grazing fields for the Fulani herders.
In his account, the Publicity Secretary of Berom Youth Moulders (BYM), Mr. Rwang Tengwong, said it was painful that the people wake every day to bury victims of new attacks.
The Senator representing Plateau South in the National Assembly, Air Vice Marshal Napoleon Bali (rtd), has also described the spate of killings in the local government of the Governor Caleb Mutfwang as politically-motivated. He alleged that some people had threatened to make the state ungovernable for him.
He lamented that Mangu that hosts the largest corn, millet and Irish potatoes farms in the state and Nigeria is now under siege, warning that the development portents a serious threat to food security in the country.
The communities have now taken it upon themselves to form vigilante groups to secure their people. Their men no longer sleep; every night they keep vigil over the communities. But this in itself has impacted negatively on the people’s productivity as they are unable to go to their farms the following morning. The farms themselves are not even safe.
The Dane guns of the vigilantes cannot match the superior firearms of the attackers that bear AK-47 and pump action guns.
A former governor of the state, Jonah Jang, had established a state-owned security outfit, Operation Rainbow, similar to Amoteku in the South-west states, to complement the ineffective efforts of soldiers and the police. He believed that the soldiers and police did not understand the rocky terrain of the state and would therefore need the state’s local security personnel to assist them.
But he was vehemently resisted by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) which claimed that the security outfit was targeted at annihilating the Fulanis, and a subtle plot to chase them out of the state.
Efforts to convince them to see reasons for Operation Rainbow were rebuffed. Jang even offered to recruit some Fulani as personnel, but they refused.
But Jang went ahead with the plans, got the approval of the then-President Goodluck Jonathan for the outfit, and brought some Israeli to train the personnel on combat.
As this started yielding positive results, the then-opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) alleged that the governor had a sinister motive to use the outfit to work against the opposition in the 2015 elections.
Operation Rainbow, which was supposed to bring succour to the security challenge in the state, was still struggling to stand firm when Jang left the government.
But with the opposition APC taking over government in Plateau State in 2015, Operation Rainbow was technically ‘killed’ by the Simon Lalong’s government, thereby giving back audacity to the attackers.
The new government of Governor Mutfwang had said he would revive Operation Rainbow, but the state chairman of MACBAN, Mallam Nuru Abdullah said the Fulani have no confidence that the government will not use it to technically chase them out of the state.
But the state government has insisted that the hunters and vigilante associations will work in collaboration with Operation Rainbow to secure the rural communities.
The communities accused the Fulanis that have their settlements in the affected communities of inviting the foreign killer Fulanis to attack the communities.
Meanwhile, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) newly deployed to 3 Armoured Division, Jos, Major General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who also doubles as the Commander of Operation Safe Haven in Plateau, has expressed readiness to hunt down the attackers and make them drink their own blood. He has temporarily relocated to Mangu LGA headquarters.
But Nigerians have seen cases where army commanders took similar steps in the past only to provide cover for the attackers.
However, President Tinubu had on Tuesday in Abuja, given very reassuring messages to the people of the state following his directive to security agencies to fish out the masterminds of the killings. He insisted that they be made to face the full wrath of law.
Since his assumption of office, President Tinubu has demonstrated his readiness and capacity to bring to an end the senseless killings across the country.
President Tinubu should further raise the bar by giving the military commanders timelines to carry out his order or be shipped out.