5 October 2018

Nigeria: Stop the Killings On the Plateau Now

From Plateau State are gory tales of wanton killings that need urgent action from the powers that be. Each day presents a spectacle of lamentations over mindless bloodshed. The state is fast assuming a killing field where hundreds of lives are daily wasted by unknown gunmen. Hardly a week passes without reports of fresh attacks resulting in the senseless killings of a number of defenceless and innocent persons, especially women and children resulting in a growing number of Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs), across the state.

As one of the more cosmopolitan areas of the country with a flourishing hub of commerce, these satanic killings since 2001, however, has made the state an undesirable destination for many, especially tourists. In 2018 alone, the senseless killings has led to, at least, several rounds of bloodbath between the herdsmen and indigenous farming communities in the state, with religion, ethnicity and land disputes also playing their own role. This newspaper finds it utterly unacceptable that one of the most congenial parts of Nigeria and a veritable tourist destination should be allowed to degrade in this manner.

The regularity of the attacks and the high death rate only reinforce the growing impression that human life now counts for very little to law enforcement authorities. To many, what is happening in that state smacks of insensitivity and cluelessness on the part of those whose duty it is to preserve the sanctity and value of human life. Perhaps the most horrendous of these killings was the reported massacre of over 500 presumed Berom people in 2010 and the killings of about 400 persons at Barkin Ladi and Riyom areas of the state between January and July this year.

But none can be compared to what happened on September 29, this year. That day, no fewer than 15 persons were killed after some gunmen reportedly in military uniforms attacked houses on Rukuba road, in Jos North LGA of Plateau State. Eight members of a family of 10 were killed in the first attack; two residents of an adjoining compound also lost their lives in the onslaught. The government will always claim that it is on top of the situation and we have every reason to believe it considering the suspected politicisation of the situation. However, it is our opinion that more drastic measures ought to be taken not just against the marauders but, in particular, their sponsors who, we insist must be identified, exposed and punished according to the law.

At the root of the recurring killings is the nagging issue of the availability of land for farming and grazing. While the farmers have consistently accused the herdsmen of encroaching on their farmlands, the latter in turn claim that their cattle were rustled by the farmers or natives. They also accuse each other of initiating attacks which, more often than not, attract bloodier and more chilling reprisals. It is against this backdrop that we urge government to come up with permanent solutions as both the herdsmen and the farmers are important parts of the agricultural value chain. The security agencies must move in to check the criminals among the nomads and give the law-abiding ones the atmosphere to live peacefully with their hosts.

We recall that in the past, governments worked to end the killing spree in Jos by setting up several commissions but, as usual, reports of those commissions were never made public; neither were their recommendations implemented. It would seem, therefore, that there is a lack of political will to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion. Instead of talking tough about government's determination to root out the criminals, people arrested must be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to other would -be criminals.

It is a matter of regret that despite the incessant loss of lives and property, not one person has been prosecuted for these heinous crimes. We strongly feel that the time has come to put a permanent halt to these wanton killings. The federal government is constitutionally duty-bound to move in decisively and stop this carnage. Before these attacks and the following reprisals snowball into a national calamity, it is imperative that effective measures are put in place to calm frayed nerves and restore normalcy in areas of conflict. The time to act is now!

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