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Beyond the madness on the Plateau!

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Villagers look on as others prepare to evacuate the Ganaropp village where 35 people were killed by Fulani herdsman in the Barikin Ladi area near Jos on June 27, 2018. Plateau State in Nigeria has seen days of violence where more than 200 people have been killed in clashes between Berom farmers and Fulani herders, Nigeria is facing an escalation in clashes between farmers and Fulani herders over land use and resources that is deepening along religious and ethnic lines. STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP

Consider all these screaming headlines: “Taming the beast on the Plateau” (March 24, 2010), “Bloodbath on the Plateau again!” (Dec, 29, 2010) and “Who will stop the madness on the Plateau?” (September 11, 2011). All these are the titles of my opinion essays as previously published under my Drumbeats column in Daily Independent newspaper. They were apparently meant to draw public attention to the spate of killings of innocent souls in the state once adjudged as one of the most peaceful in Nigeria.

As events have since proved not much has been achieved by those in the corridors of power to stem the tide of the unfortunate bloodbath. On August 29, 2011, twenty innocent Nigerians were gruesomely murdered during the violence sparked at Angwan Rukuba Road, Jos. Muslims had to celebrate their Ed el Fitri indoors as no one dared to visit the amusement park and other places of tourist attraction. Yet, the worst case scenario was to follow.

The newspaper headlines painted the picture of horror with facts and figures: ‘‘Five more killed in Jos.”(Daily Independent, August 31, 2011). Next came, “Family of eight wiped out in Jos .”(Daily Sun, Sept 5, 2011). Soon after was: “Another family of eight wiped out in Jos.” (PM News Sept 9, 2011). These grisly and despicable killings, added to the highly disturbing massacre of 500 Berom natives in Dogon Nahawa by some blood thirsty herdsmen on Sunday, March 7, 2010 was akin to a horror movie than a harsh reality. My immediate response back then was a question: Has Nigeria turned into such a lawless state that evil now holds sway with impunity?

Precisely on September 11, 2011, this was the concern I raised: “For how long are we going to tolerate the crass absurdity of unmitigated murders in our nation state, Nigeria? Indeed, my continued outrage at the recurring bestial blood-letting on the Plateau since 2001 is predicated on the apparent impotence on the part of both the Federal and state governments through the security forces to rein in the monster of the orgy of violence.”

According to reports then, some armed Fulani herdsmen went on a bloody rampage in Heipang near Jos on Sunday, September 4, 2011. By the time they were through, the family of Chollom Gyang, including his wife Hannatu, six children and a four month old baby were dispatched to their early graves! And in a subsequent sweeping strike by unidentified gunmen another family of eight, including a visitor were hacked to hideous death at Foron village in Barkinladi Local Government Area at about 1.00 a.m. That was on Friday, September 9, 2011. It was the fourth of such beastly attacks in Plateau State within one week!

Worse still, on another Sunday, June 24, 2018 some 135 innocent souls were summarily dispatched to the great beyond in villages such as Razak, Ruku, Kura and Gana-Ropp, all in Gashi District in Barkin Ladi LGA of Plateau State.

Expectedly, the killings have triggered global outrage. The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has expressed concern over violent conflicts between farmers and herders, particularly the Plateau attacks. The Amnesty International (AI) has said by failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government is encouraging impunity that is fuelling rising insecurity across the country. The Director Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stated that AI has independently verified estimated figures indicating that since January 2018 “at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states, which is double the 894 people killed in 2017.”

Said he: “The death tolls reflect killings as a result of farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry. We are gravely concerned about the rising spate of killings across the country, especially the communal clashes between farmers and herders and attacks by bandits across at least 17 states.”

Cumulatively, the mindless mass murders have equated Nigeria to the Hobbes state of nature. Hobbes describes sovereignty as the soul of the Leviathan. According to him, a “natural condition of mankind” is what would exist if there were no government, no civilisation, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature. Under such situation life would be “nasty, brutish and short.”

The gory situation symbolises a country whose leaders cannot afford the ­­much needed security of lives and property in line with the basic principles of government. That is, as enshrined under Section 14, Sub-Section 2(b) of 1999 Constitution as amended.

So, what is the way forward? While awaiting the reordering of the security architecture by President Muhammadu Buhari, one would state the obvious. The current over centralization of the police at the centre cannot help us out. It must, like the all-powerful federal structure, be diffused to the states and their communities. They know where the insecurity shoes pinch them and would find the requisite solution.

Second, we are under-policed. According to IGP, Ibrahim Idris: “To attain the UN ratio requirement of one police officer to 400 citizens of a country, the Nigeria Police Force needs to recruit 155,000 to police Nigerian population of approximately 182 million.” Besides, even with the number we have, only 20 per cent of the nation’s police strength of 350,000 is engaged in core police duties of protecting lives/properties and ensuring peace in the country. The remaining 80 per cent, representing the lion’s share, “are just busy providing personal security to some prominent people on guard duties”. That is, according to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Zone 5, Benin, Mr. Rasheed Akintunde.

The third significant factor is to critically analyze and find lasting solutions to the recurring, raging war over land ownership between the natives and the herdsmen. To do so, we need the Root Cause Analytical Approach, RCAA. It would be recalled, that Mario Machungo, in his poignant piece entitled: “Good Leadership Counts” presented at the 1999 Kampala Conference for Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA) had focused on the imperative of strengthening internal security. He stated that the inter­related problems of security, stability and development must be solved through home grown methods.

And most important, we must do away with the cruel, callous and crass culture of impunity. All those found to have killed innocent souls must be fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law. Only this would send a warning signal that no Nigerian, no matter his social/political status, ethnic or religious colouration can kill a fellow citizen and got Scot free!


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