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Peace on Plateau: Barikin Ladi as black sheep

From Ado Abubakar Musa, Jos

In the recent past, incidents of killings and counter killings in Plateau State seemed to have ended. Even Jos North which was more volatile to violence in the past has relatively become peaceful.  This is because records of attacks and violence from many areas of the state have virtually reduced to the barest minimum.

Towards the end of last year and early this year, many people both within and outside the state had begun to express hope that the past ugly experiences of violence might be a thing of the past as the  condition of most parts of the state has been a bit conducive when compared to what happened a decade ago.

However, the recent attacks and killings particularly in towns and villages in Barikin Ladi Local Government Area of the state have become a cause of concern as lives and properties in the area were greatly lost within a period of   months.

Prior to the escalation of the current crises, the most violent areas in the whole of the state as of this year were those of Jos South, Riyom and Barikin Ladi, even though the situation is a bit calm in Jos South and Riyom with no records of attacks  in recent weeks.

But in Barikin Ladi the situation is worsening day by day with lots of terrifying stories of killings and attacks coming out from towns and villages of the said council.

Even the newly-redeployed STF commander, Major General T C Ude, had in a meeting with stakeholders last Thursday admitted that in just days many lives were lost in the crises.

At the beginning, the crisis was said to have been between Berom who are predominantly Christians on one hand and Fulani who are predominantly Muslims on the other. There have been several accusations and counter accusations by the two warring parties where Berom would often accuse the Fulani herders of grazing on their farmlands and fulani always accused Berom of rustling their cattle.

But the Plateau State Special Task Force (STF), charged with maintaining peace in the state had said in its several reports on the Berom-Fulani clashes that the genesis of the problem especially the recent ones, is solely cattle rustling.

The crises in the entire region of Barikin Ladi were said to have escalated since after the 2015 general elections particularly in towns and villages like Dorowa, Besichi, Barin Ladi.

 

Looking at the recent occurrence, on 22 of last July, tensions virtually mired all commercial activities in Barikin Ladi town, following an alleged attack and killing of one person in the night. This was later confirmed to newsmen by Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Emmanuel Abu, at the state command in Jos.

In relation to the above attack, a source from the area told journalists that: “The perpetrators attacked the residence of Alhaji Auwal Tanko, who was nominated as a supervisory councillor with the intention of killing him but did not meet him.”

According to the source, when the perpetrators stormed the house they (gunmen) got two persons in the house and opened fire on them. One was killed (Hassan Salisu )and the other one was injured.

The surviving victim, Tanko Salisu Nasir, who sustained bullet wounds during the attack and currently at the Mainasara hospital, in Barikin Ladi town, alleged that: “I know the attackers. I know one by name. One is David Dokotrick, but I have forgotten the name of the other one, but I know him.”

In furtherance of that, on 4th of August, the Plateau Special Task Force (STF) through its Media and Information Officer, Captain Ikedichi Iweha , confirmed a  mosque attack by unknown gunmen in Anguwan Katako, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State during an early morning prayers.

Sources in the area accused Berom neighbouring community who arrived the area on foot and shot sporadically at worshippers where no one was killed but windows, walls and roof of the mosque were riddled by bullets.

An eyewitness of the mosque attack, Alhassan Suleiman who gave the account of the incident outrightly accused Berom youths of launching the attack saying the STF keeping peace in the area had visited and assessed the level of damage to the mosque. That attack raised much tension in the Barikin Ladi town and its environs which was eventually calmed down by security agents.

Various sources from Barikin Ladi town alleged that the incessant attacks on mostly Hausa/ Fulani might not be unconnected with the recent nomination of a supervisory councillor, Alhaji Auwal, who is of Hausa parentage, and which the Berom allegedly didn’t like.

After the above incident, on the night of Monday 4th August this year, no fewer than eighteen cattle were reportedly shot dead night in  Sho village, a Fulani Community in Barkin Ladi by suspected gunmen.

Muhammad Adam Muhammad, who is the Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Nigeria (MACBAN) in Barkin Ladi,  confirmed the incident, adding that the case has since been reported to sector 7 of STF in Barikin Ladi .

Within the same week, a similar attack was launched on the residence of a community leader, Malam Isyaku, in Barikin Ladi by unknown gunmen who shot severally at his residence.

Isyaku lamented that they have been facing intimidation and harassment recently in the area, calling on the government to intervene on the matter and bring an end to it.

Five days after the above attack, the crises further moved to Bisichi, a neighbouring community of Barikin Ladi town, where two persons were left dead in another string of attack following an alleged killing of eight persons who were of Berom parentage.

Ikramatu Musa, who is a resident of the area, gave the names of the deceased as Abdulahi Saidu 67and 65 years Iliyasu Samaila.

Alhaji Yakubu Abubakar, a youth leader in Bisichi, alleged that, “Berom youths have been attacking our people. Iliyasu  Ismaila, who was one of the deceased, was shot in his farm in the afternoon, while  Suleiman Ali was killed in Kassa, a Berom community on his way to the cattle market.

The incessant attacks have become problems to even innocent travellers who have no business with the state, so, the major highway leading to Plateau Central Zone and the new bypass are no longer safe.  Reports from those areas according to security and other sources, gunmen would always hide beside the road and open fire sporadically at travelling cars and they sometimes block the road and kill passengers. These developments have posed serious threats to the lives of travellers patronising the roads.

Last week, the Plateau State Police Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Abu, also confirmed the killing of three travellers in Kassa village of Barikin Ladi Local Government Area, adding that, “the private parts of the victims were removed by the perpetrators.”

The names of the deceased were given as Magaji Sirajo, Tukur Sirajo and Hassan Ibrahim; all of whom hailed from Saminaka in Lere Local Government of Kaduna State.

A day after the killing of three travellers from Kaduna, there were reports of another report from Bisichi of gun attack where six people were reportedly shot including a sub-sector commander. According to the STF in the state, the attack was later repelled by the security deployed to the area.

Just an interval of a day, the STF through its media officer, Captain Ikedichi Iweha,  also confirmed the interception by the hoodlums, of two transit buses belonging to Adamawa Sunshine and Gombe Line at Kara village of the embattled local government, adding that the buses were burnt but the passengers were rescued unhurt.

However, there has been widespread allegation that the escalation of the crises in the affected areas were attempts by the Berom tribe to sabotage Lalong ‘s administration having refused to vote for him during the last election.

But another version says Hausa/Fulani communities accuse the Berom ethnic group of a deliberate move to annihilate them with a view to taking over their properties.

The Berom on the other hand, have debunked the allegation of them being responsible of launching the various attacks on Hausa/Fulani communities, saying they did not have hand in the atrocities committed in all the areas attacked.

Member representing Barikn Ladi Local Government in the state assembly, Peter Gyenbeng a Berom, raised a motion on the floor of the House blaming the Fulani herders for the recurrent clashes.

But the Plateau State chapter of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam in its reaction to the crises accused Berom of the recent incessant killings. The group, which last week said this in Jos while receiving the new STF commander, also accused the past administration of Jonah David Jang of being silent on the crisis, adding that things would not have reached this level if proper measures were taken during his administration.

Peoples Daily Weekend further gathered that one factor that allowed the escalation of the crises is the availability of arms in the hands of civilians in the affected areas which according to stakeholders, unless they were mopped up, the trouble end may be far-fetched.

Moved by the incessant killings, the new Plateau State governor, Barrister Simon Lalong, set up a 14-man committee comprising members of the warring parties from the affected areas to proffer solutions to it.

The State Assembly also had two weeks back set up a peace process committee to meet with members of the affected areas to discuss the matter.

Likewise, the State Security Council met recently to find lasting solution to the problem. After the meeting, the council in a statement signed by the Director of Press to the governor, Mr Emmanuel Nanle, assured that government has mobilised security agents to the areas to protect lives and properties.

The governor also called on all communities involved to sheath their swords and embrace peace, urging religious and traditional leaders to talk to their individual members.

Various committees were set up by previous administrations to look into similar crises, which yielded no positive result as atrocious acts continue to occur whereby even individuals express lack of confidence in such committees. However, people in many parts of the state have questioned that with the new change and confidence in both the state and federal governments, would the steps being taken by the current government address the prevailing problems?

 

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