This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Plateau Prepares for 10,000 Visitors Expected At Lar's Funeral

Given the huge number of mourners expected at the funeral of the pioneer Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and first civilian governor of Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar, the state government has concluded plans to tighten security network in the state during his burial.

It is estimated that over 10,000 people are expected in Jos, the Plateau State capital, this weekend for the burial rites of the late politician.

The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Yiljab Abraham, disclosed this yesterday at a press briefing in Jos where he said the whole security apparatus in the state have been mobilised, with heads of security agencies, under the Joint Security Committee, coming together to ensure the security of lives and property during the occasion.

The state government has declared a three-day mourning period and also set aside Friday as a work-free day.

"Governor Jonah Jang is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring a total security cover for the people and dignitaries coming in for the funeral activities.

"He is determined that Plateau State should not only be safe during this event, but throughout the remaining part of 2013.

"For this reason, the whole security apparatus in Plateau has been mobilised, with heads of security agencies under the Joint Security Committee drawing up and adopting an operational order," he said.

Yiljab stressed that the public might experience some inconveniences due to the tight security arrangements, "but this is unintended."

He appealed to residents and visitors to bear with the government during the period. "We ask the people of Plateau to remain at their highest level of alert, avoid panic and rumour mongering and pass information on security-related challenges to security personnel for prompt action," he added.

The state government had set up a funeral committee headed by a former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana, with membership drawn from the presidency, Plateau and Nasarawa State Governments, the national secretariat of the PDP, the Lar family, the church, the Taroh community, the media and close associates and friends of the deceased.

Yiljab further said: "Jang had earlier announced to the family and the nation that Lar would be given a state burial, and in consultation with the presidency, his Nasarawa State counterpart and the family approved a full one-week of activities that will usher in the funeral itself.

"The funeral programme of events as drawn up and released by the National Planning Committee is being diligently executed.

"Two more special programmes are expected to hold in honour of the late Lar in Abuja on Monday at the Lady Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotel, where his friends, associates and admirers would hold a memorial lecture and tributes in his honour.

"Then on Tuesday, Chief Lar, having been a former member of parliament, would be honoured in a special session in the morning by the House of Representatives.

"That same day, the body will be conveyed to Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State, where it will lie in state and a special programme held in his honour (as governor of the old Plateau State) whose emancipation made a huge impact on the lives of the people - then and even now. "The Lafia event will now usher in a series of activities that will take place in Plateau, beginning with the journey of the hearse to Langtang, his home town. There, his kinsmen will on, Wednesday, December 11, pay their last respects to their son, mentor, father and leader, culminating in a church service at the COCIN Central Church, Langtang from where the corpse will be transported to Jos .

"On Thursday, December 12, there will be three major activities in Jos: a valedictory session at the Jos High Court premises at 11 am, a lying-in-state for the public at the Government House Chapel in Rayfield, at 1p.m., and a service of songs by the family at the COCIN Headquarters Church at 3p.m."

He said the peak of the activities would be on Friday when a state funeral service would be held at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium at 10am.

According to him, "The state is expecting to host over 10,000 people, dignitaries from far and near and the masses, who had always been the primary concern of this emancipator. Thereafter, the corpse will be taken from the stadium to its final home journey to Langtang for interment."

In order to ease the movement of people during the funeral, he said Jang had approved the rehabilitation of over 200 kilometres of roads - stretching from the Plateau-Nasarawa border to Shendam, and from Heipang to Langtang.

The road rehabilitation project, according to him, has attained about 80 per cent completion and would be ready by Tuesday.

He said: "In all the nine venues where funeral activities would be held, there is massive renovation work going on - from the high court premises to the Rwang Pam stadium, and the church, all in Jos. And also to the stadium in Langtang, the personal residence of Chief Lar, the church and the graveside.

"Indeed, for the grave which is located in the family burial ground in Kwallak village of Langtang North, government is building a mausoleum with sufficient security safeguards.

"Also the high court premises are being prepared to carry podiums and bear newly restructured conveniences. The chief judge of Plateau State would lead both state-based and outside-Plateau judges, retired and serving on the valedictory session.

"The COCIN headquarters church is being readied to accommodate about 5,000 worshippers, while the stadium renovation is going on and will be decorated with the national and PDP colours."

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