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Day herdsmen ‘had more ammunition than soldiers’

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Plateau State has been in the news over recurring killings, allegedly by herdsmen.

The state House of Assembly in March this year was forced to set up a six-man committee to investigate the incidents, even as the lawmakers blamed security agents for not doing enough.

During a sitting, the member representing Rukuba/Iregwe Constituency, Hon. Simon Kudu, was reported as saying: “It is no longer news that some parts of our state in the last two months have been under siege.

People are being killed daily, houses are razed and properties worth billions are destroyed.

Thousands of people are rendered homeless, becoming refugees in their own land. People can’t go their farms any longer for fear of the unknown.

If nothing is quickly done, everybody in this state will be killed.”

In an indication the storm was not abating, two groups of protesters stormed the House of Assembly complex on Thursday, April 12, 2019, stalling proceedings. They had come to express their displeasure over the continued attacks by herdsmen.

But there have been accusations and counter accusations. Plateau indigenes are quick to point fingers at the Fulani herders as perpetrators of the crimes.

They say the cattle destroy their farmlands. The indigenes, on the other hand, have been accused of rustling the herdsmen’s cows. The herdsmen eye grass-rich fertile grounds.

These can be found in places like Dong, Bassa and Bokkos. It is interesting to note that the incidences have not spread to Jos/Bukuru metropolis. The reason is not far-fetched: there are no green pastures, as every acre has been taken over for commercial purposes.

The crisis has also left a trail of arguments between the people and the security forces. The indigenes say the personnel, despite receiving information of impending attacks, do nothing, and only become hyperactive after the deed has been done.

The operatives, especially those of the Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), of course, disagree, often blaming their inability to access hot spots on difficult terrains.

According to the National President of Irigwe Development Association (IDA), Hon. Sunday Abdu, the herdsmen have massacred some 130 Bassa people since September last year.

Helplessly, the former member of the State House of Assembly said he was looking only to God for divine intervention, as appeals to the state government and security agencies have failed to stem the tide.

Activist and community leader in the state, Evangelist Jerry Dattim, has been keeping a tab on the killings. He estimates 215 people instead have lost their lives within the period, stressing that records detailing the names of the victims are available.

Dattim believes security operatives have not done enough to curb the murders.

He said: “Since they will not protect the people they were meant to safeguard, the best thing for Defence Headquarters to do is recall them to the barracks because they have become partisan and biased in their operations.

On one occasion, after an attack, we asked the OPSH operatives to escort us to the bush where the dead bodies of our people were.

They refused and stayed back, relaxing under the trees where their Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was stationed. It was the State Police Commissioner who later sent mobile policemen to escort us. The OPSH has outlived its usefulness in the state. They should be replaced with mobile policemen.”

The state governor on Wednesday, March 14, imposed a curfew on Bassa Council, where the herdsmen allegedly killed four OPSH soldiers, two mobile policemen and a member of the Civil Defence Corps. Ten residents also lost their lives in the clash.

Dattim said: “I was with the military during the curfew while they were trying to repel the Fulani attackers. The soldiers were in one corner. They heard the sounds of gunshots from the Fulani and they returned fire.

The ammunition of the soldiers got exhausted. They called persistently for reinforcement, but it never came. The whole thing is very annoying. It is unimaginable that Fulani herdsmen have more ammunition than the regular and professional military.”

OPSH spokesman, Major Adam Umar, however, dismissed the allegations against the squad, saying: “We should know that we are in a democracy where anybody can go ahead and say what he likes.

I am not aware what you said took place. You people should understand that our troops are in remote areas combing the interior.

And again, where they are, there is always the problem of network. There is no network there. Our troops are busy carrying out their patrol business. Our personnel are fully in control of the situation.

There are foot patrols, vehicle patrols and military fighter (aircraft) hovering around.”

Analyzing the situation, Mr. Sunny Amone Ajila, a journalist, said: “Some of these crises were offshoots of events that happened in other places and were then imported into Plateau State with dire consequences to the citizens.”

The Guardian reporter noted that though security personnel continue to carry out routine patrols, no unknown gunman or alleged killer herdsman has been arrested or prosecuted.

He added that the only persons that have been arrested were local youths armed with sticks and Dane guns to defend themselves and their communities.


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