Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow compatriots, It have become necessary to address you once again on the sad occurrences in Plateau State over the last couple of weeks that necessitated the imposition of a 24 hour (for the 2nd time in 2weeks) as well as a dusk to dawn curfew in Jos North, Jos South and Bassa LGAs of Plateau State respectively. You will recall that on the 6th of August 2012, we lent our voices through a press conference on the horrendous genocidal killings, ethnic profiling, and cleansing of the Irigwes of Bassa LGA as well as the mindless continued attacks and cold-blooded murders of innocent citizens in Riyom and Barkin Ladi orchestrated by bands of free-ranging Fulani militia groups on farming communities in Plateau State.
While Plateau State was yet to get a grip on these mindless, and premeditated attacks, we were yet again thrown into shock and horror of another mindless bloodletting that has thrown the state into loud and deep despair and mourning. The sad realities of our existence remain a constant reminder that all is not well with our state and our government MUST wake up or QUIT!!!. We align, with all voices, condemning the attacks allegedly carried out by mischief makers and miscreants who took advantage of the mass burial procession for victims of the attacks in Miango and unleashed mayhem on a convoy of travelers leaving 23 persons dead and others with varying degrees of injuries. The Plateau Youth G17, notes with consternation, the consistent warning by Plateau citizens, who have expressed displeasure at the pedestrian and offhanded diagnosis of these incessant problems bedeviling the Lalong government which has resulted yet again in the recent Yelwa Zangam massacres as a direct consequence of a failed strategy by this administration. Collectively, we say that our hearts are pained as we join in prayers to the Almighty God for the repose of the souls of the departed; and comfort to their loved ones as well as with those who were injured, quick recovery.
Be that as it may, the forum notes with deep dismay, the rapid and high-level exploitation of the sad and ugly tragedy of Saturday, 14th August 2021, by eager conflict merchants, dangerous propagandists, and hate speech peddlers, on social and print media, as they fully exploited the sad tragedy to mobilize and orchestrate a “hate Plateau” campaign and the unleashing of mercenaries of death, in an open declaration of war on citizens of Plateau State.
Nigerians undoubtedly have unfettered constitutional rights to freely move in any part of the country, there, however, appears to be a few questions begging for answers with regards to the convoy of travelers that was attacked along Rukuba road, in Jos North Local Government Area. Therefore, in a bid to fully come to terms with the sad killing of these persons, it is necessary for law enforcement agencies and their personnel to thoroughly investigate so as not to be caught in the web of emotions and biased sentiments to get to the root of the problem. In doing this it is significant to remember that the said day – 14th August 2021, was a day of mourning for family, friends, entire communities across Bassa, Jos North, and indeed other sympathizers across the state who came together to mourn and pay their last respects at the burial of the victims of the horrendous killings of indigenous farmers in parts of Miango. The atmosphere along that axis was, therefore, naturally charged, making it necessary for anyone traveling through that route to be highly cautious and avoid any acts, movement, or appearance that can trigger suspicion or further inflame passions of the crowd gathered in the funeral procession. Many motorists turned away from the Rukuba road axis and used alternative routes as a mark of respect for the dead and also to avoid the difficult traffic condition created by the procession.
It is, therefore, curious that a group of persons would prefer to follow the same route when the tension, hurt, wounds, and grief of the mourners were still fresh and recent. We sincerely do not and are not being ruled by emotions but deep love and concern for human lives and therefore are inclined to ask why, a convey of mainly Fulanis would choose to go through a route where their presence alone, will not only inflame passions but be viewed with deep suspicion? The claim that they were traveling from Bauchi to Akere in Ondo State raises further questions because the Farin Gada- Rukuba Road – Miango – Vom bye-pass – Farin Lamba (approximately 35.5km) is not only longer and rough, compared to the smoother, well tarred, and popularly known route through the Bauchi Ringroad – British America junction – Dogon Karfe – Yakubu Gowon Way – Mararaban Jama’a – Farin Lamba (approximately 33.5km), but highly volatile due to the warlike atmosphere created as a result of incessant attacks by armed bands of Fulani herdsmen.
The above rather illogical choice of route opens to questions, the claims of innocence on the part of the travelers and lends credence to reports from multiple sources, making rounds on social and print media, suggesting that the angry mob who descended on the travelers became suspicious of the convey and carried out a stop and search operation which led to the discovery of a cache of arms in a coffin in the led vehicle (an ambulance). This part of the narrative has to be thoroughly and fully investigated because if substantiated, then the action of the mob at Rukuba road on 14th August 2021 might need to be viewed differently. The law will have to determine whether it was an unlawful mob action or a case of self-defense by a tortured and traumatized citizenry, fearful of yet another unprovoked attack on mourners at a burial like was the case in Riyom in 2012, where double tragedy befell mourners when murderous killer herdsmen opened fire on a funeral party leading to the death of a Senator of the federal republic of Nigeria and a member of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Gyang Dantong and Gyang Fulani respectively.
The Forum observes with dismay and utter shock the obvious double standards in the speed with which the Plateau State Police Command through its PPRO hastily, without evidence, issued a statement ethnically profiling and singling out Irigwe youths as perpetrators of the attack on the travelers in a cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic community like Rukuba road. This is in contrast to the Police (who for over a decade now) are still unable to properly identify perpetrators of the four days coordinated attacks, killings, maiming, and razing down of about 500 houses in 13 communities as well as the deafening silence on the identities of the murderous gang that stroke Yalwa Zangam, and therefore STILL refers to these deadly elements as “UNKNOWN GUNMEN”. This, to say the least, is ridiculous, highly provocative, unprofessional, and inciting, against the background of a volatile and highly charged atmosphere prevailing across the state, particularly in areas where the challenging ethno-religious fault lines of the State are must visible and pronounced. This police action has led Plateau citizens and indeed, Nigerians to wonder how, in less than 24 hours, so-called perpetrators had been arrested, while those who took 4 days to kill, maim and destroy, rendering nearly 30,000 persons homeless, are yet moving about freely and still killing till today, in communities across the state.
Equally surprising to Plateau citizens is the haste with which the Federal and the Plateau State Governments, took to calm the situation in Jos and its environs. While these moves, at face value, are highly commendable by all standards, Plateau citizens are bewildered and wonder why such urgency was never the case when four days of horror, death, and destruction were unleashed on the Irigwe people of Miango in Bassa LGA and even in the recent Yalwa Zangam attacks. This only means one thing; Selective Justice!. It is, therefore, regrettable the statement credited to the Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu who has never or rarely, commented or commiserated with Plateau people on the deadly carnage they have continued to live through in the murderous hands of his kinsmen; only to remember Plateau when the sad news of an attack on Fulani travelers in Rukuba road of Jos North Local government broke out. This paternalistic and openly nepotistic presidential reaction further exposes the Buhari-led federal government’s refusal or inability to be a force that unifies this country but rather deepens Nigeria’s ethnic/religious fault lines. It is therefore not surprising that many Nigerians viewed the presidential statement with scorn believing that it could have served the course of justice if the presidency swiftly and passionately condemned other attacks and killings, especially the four days of horror earlier meted on the Irigwes by killer herdsmen.
In the same vein, citizens are appalled by the seeming selective reaction of the Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong who took days, and only after an embarrassing level of insensitivity to the deaths and destruction in Irigwe land, when none other than a member, in the company of the Speaker of the House of Assembly were unable to have an audience with him after an hour of waiting because he was sleeping.
This is in contrast to the fact that he was one of the early callers at the Plateau Hospital, Bingham University Teaching Hospital, and other places to condole and sympathize with victims of the Rukuba road tragedy. While we do not refuse this act of love and humanity as every life is created by God and as such sacred, we are however troubled by the total disconnection between the government and its people and the one-sided response by the governor to the plight of indigenous communities when attacked by killer herdsmen.
This one-sided response by state institutions has no doubt mobilized northern supremacists groups like the so-called Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) who in their characteristic manner of distorting facts and trying to set one ethnic/religious group against the other, made unsubstantiated, armchair analysis of the sad events of 14th August 2021. While it is true that Jos has been in the news for the wrong reasons and there has been a reoccurrence of deadly highway attacks on travelers, what they fail to mention in their mischievous historical analysis, are the circumstances and prevailing atmosphere when each of those sad events occurred. Simply presenting or painting a picture of highway attacks and also attempting to shift attention to another ethnic group (the Beroms) when the current facts are at variance, is nothing but an attempt to generate multiple targets for their ethno-religious cleansing campaign as the tone of their evil press statement suggests. Where, if we may ask is the CNG in the case of the deadly night attack on Yelwa Zangam? Is there humanity and patriotism only limited to Muslims and Fulani interests? But let it be known and we shout it out with a loud and clear voice; that an injury to one Irigwe man is an injury to the Taroh man. So also it is to the Mwaghavwul man, Afizere, Rukuba, Tal. Ngas, Goemai, and every other indigenous tribe on the Plateau as indeed to all victims of the fulanization agenda being executed in Nigeria. The time is past when such resentful statements divided us widely and bought our traducers mileage. We are determined to remain United in our diversity and not even a so-called Coalition can UNDO the Plateau Spirit of conviviality that has remained with us since our forefathers.
This so-called, self-styled northern coalition betrayed their real intentions when they tried desperately to use the sad events in Jos to wipe up hateful sentiments against the revered Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Reverend Father Mathew Hassan Kukah, and the Governor of Ondo State, His Excellency, Oluwaritimi Akeredolu. This singular act makes nonsense of the group’s patriotic pretensions, and clearly shows their underbelly as eager conflict merchants with no regard for human lives who can descend so low to using this ugly and sad tragedy to whip up negative sentiments against those they considered enemies of the north.
As law-abiding citizens, the hospitality of the Plateau man has been taken for granted over the years. We are not going to stop being who we are because of some few bent on threatening the Peace of Plateau State but we will not fold our arms and seat idly by while calculated genocide, ethnic cleansing, land grabbing war is unleashed on our beloved Plateau. We make bold to say that this will be met with stiff resistance. We do not accept to be reduced to second-class citizens in a country we all are supposed to share.
We align with the thoughts and courage of the Governor of Katsina State when he reechoed what our Elder statesman, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma had earlier said when they said “Everyone Must Protect himself” as the citizens have lost almost all confidence in the security architecture of the Nigerian State. Such loss of confidence in a state apparatus in Afghanistan has resulted in the complete takeover of the country by the Taliban. God forbid!! That won’t happen here!!!It is because of the foregoing that we list out the following DEMANDS and suggestions in a bid to contribute to the search for lasting solutions to the prevailing security challenges and the enthronement of sustainable peace in Plateau State.
• We call on the Plateau State Government to reevaluate its existing security strategies and begin conscious funding and repositioning of OPERATION RAINBOW in line with the vision of the previous Jang administration to make it more proactive in its approach, than the mere reactive or non-existent role it is playing at the moment.
• We are also calling on all our representatives at the state and federal levels, to take advantage of the timeliness of the need for State Police Outfits in Nigeria and aggressively lobby to have this included and passed into law, as a panacea to the current horrific wave of terror groups across the country which has overwhelmed the limited number of legitimate state law enforcement actors.
• We demand an unequivocal apology from the Plateau State Police Command to the Irigwe nation and indeed, Plateau citizens for the hasty labeling of perpetrators of the dastardly carnage of 14th August 2021 by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), for his inciting ethnic profiling and unprofessional conduct that has added fuel to the already deadly conflagration of passions, negative sentiments and warlike readiness of communities across the state and country.
• We also demand immediate rehabilitation and reconstruction of communities and their properties as well as compensation for families that were affected by the carnage in Miango and other communities. We are equally calling on the Plateau State Government to take immediate steps at reclaiming land grabbed by herdsmen in Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Riyom, parts of Mangu, and Bokkos LGAs respectively.
• The silent killing of students from the University of Jos which has claimed not less than 6 lives since Saturday 14th August 2021, especially through the wicked connivance of Keke Napep operators must be stopped forthwith; security agencies must apprehend and bring to justice those who have been involved in the killing of these innocent souls. To this end, we are calling for increased security around the vicinity of the University, and especially along the Bauchi Road and Farin Gada axis as students easily fall prey due to the lack of safe alternative routes to the university.
• We note with utter dismay continuous killings in Miango and tensions in Dong and Dadin Kowa areas that have resulted in yet another act of annihilation of Plateau communities in Yelwa Zangam, even when the curfew hours were still in place. It was within this same period that about 8 staff of the Plateau Radio Television Corporation (PRTVC) escaped death by the whiskers at the Dadin Kowa area. This is unacceptable and a clear pointer that no one is safe in an atmosphere where there is a near-total breakdown of law and order.
• We lend our voices strongly to that of well-meaning citizens that have lost confidence in the Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong’s ability to lead the State and manage its robust diversities. The Plateau Youth G17 Peace and Progressive Forum, therefore, reiterates its earlier call to the Plateau State House of Assembly to immediately, without further delay, commence impeachment proceedings against the governor. This is not a sentimental thing for us, but a patriotic call of duty aimed at saving Plateau from being overrun and occupied by expansionist Fulani militia. We, therefore, call on all citizens to mobilize and support this patriotic call to action by ensuring that their representatives in the house of assembly do the needful and impeach the governor for gross incompetence and dereliction of duty as he has failed in the principal and primary responsibility of protecting the lives of the citizens he governs.
• It is evident that all societies have their fair share of the good, the bad, and the ugly individuals as such, No one has a monopoly of violence. We, however, call for restraint on the part of Plateau youths. Plateau citizens have been known for their peaceful conduct and we call on them to continue to live in peace with all men and women of good conscience. Peace is all we want. But anyone who won’t live in peace should be ready to live with its consequences.
• Thank you and God Bless you all