By Gift Habib and James Abraham
…as UN demands probe
Invaders have threatened fresh attacks on a community in Plateau State on Friday (today), barely four days after they killed 195 persons in 17 communities across the state.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Middle Belt Forum, Stanley Kavwam, in an interview with Arise Television on Thursday, said the terrorists had sent a letter of an imminent attack to the Pushit community in the Mangu Local Government Area, where he hailed from.
When asked about the impending attack on the Pushit community, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Alabo Alfred, told The PUNCH that the command was aware of the threat.’’We have intelligence, but we are working on it “the PPRO assured.
Also, some residents in Pushit, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Thursday, said the villagers were aware of the threat letter by the terrorists.
According to them, since the information of the impending attack spread, the residents no longer sleep at night.
Villagers beg govt
One of the villagers, Joshua Bukat, in an interview with The PUNCH, said “ Here in the village, we have been living in fear since the news spread that terrorists are planning to launch a fresh attack in our community. From the letter, the terrorists said we would be running in the street with chicken and Christmas rice in our hands.
“As a matter of fact, we hardly sleep because we don’t know when they will come. This is not the first time they would send such letters of their plans to attack and on several occasions, they had carried out their threat. So, please help us to tell the government and the security agents to come to our rescue. They should act quickly to save lives and not take the threat for granted.”
The shocking revelation is coming as the United Nations demanded a probe of the Christmas Eve attack in which 195 persons were killed in 17 villages in the Barkin Ladi, Mangu, and Bokkos local government areas of the state.
The PUNCH reported that the well-coordinated attacks also displaced over 10,000 persons, many of whom were presently taking refuge in churches, mosques, schools, and private residences.
The Chairman of Community Peace Observers in the Bokkos Local Government Area, Kefas Mallai, on Tuesday, said over 150 persons were killed by the gunmen.
Mallai also said information indicated that the gunmen were still attacking some villages, adding that over 10,000 people were displaced by the attacks.
On Wednesday, there were reports that the death toll had increased to 195.
The incident attracted strong condemnation by President Bola Tinubu, prominent groups, and individuals including northern governors and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas.
In an interview on Channels Television on Tuesday, state Governor, Caleb Mutfwang, disclosed that no fewer than 64 communities in the state had been displaced by terrorists who were occupying schools in the local government area.
The governor noted the flaws in the state’s security architecture, which he said required some tinkering.
President Bola Tinubu, in a statement, condemned the attacks and ordered a manhunt for the killers.
Describing the incident as a “primitive and heinous” attack, Tinubu said, “These envoys of death, pain, and sorrow will not escape justice.”
Speaking in an interview on Arise television on Thursday, the Middle Belt Forum Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Kavwam said the terrorists were planning to launch an attack on his village, Pushit, on December 29 (today).
Kavwam claimed the military was aware of the identity of the attackers and their hideouts, adding that the security agencies knew that an attack would be launched before the Christmas Eve massacre.
He stated, “While driving down from Jos to this place, I received a call. A letter was sent to my village by the terrorists that the attackers were going to invade on the 29th of this December (today).
“All the attacks that were orchestrated, there were letters to that effect that were dropped by an anonymous person, intimating the residents of the Mangu LGA that there would be attacks.”
Kavwam added that the military was informed before and during the Christmas Eve attacks.
“They received about 37 distress calls, that is ‘Operation Safe Haven’ or the Joint Task Force. About 37 distress calls!! Yet nothing was done,’’ he stated.
He added, “They know where they orchestrate the attacks from. The autonomous community called Manga is at the foot of Bokkos hills, bordering Wamba in Nasarawa State to the south; It’s this autonomous community from where these attacks are orchestrated from, just the same way we have in the Mandara hills in Borno State.
“Section 14B of the 1999 constitution as amended stipulates that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. These attacks could last for as long as 12 to 24 hours and there is no security presence whatsoever.’’
When asked to name the community the gunmen threatened to attack, he stated, “Pushit community in the Mangu LGA of Plateau State; A letter was sent today (Thursday) to Pushit that they are going to attack on the 29th.”
He added that despite President Bola Tinubu’s directive to service chiefs to intensify security in the affected communities, “nothing has changed and the attacks are still going on and there is no response from the security authorities.”
The MBF deputy publicity secretary further stated, “General TY Danjuma alleged that the military colluded with these insurgents or terrorists to unleash terror on unsuspecting innocent citizens. The entire Nigerian space was caught up with a lot of, I mean, all manner of accusations, name-calling, and all of that. Are we not seeing that happening today?’’
“Let me give you a classical example. How could a community be invaded, the inhabitants dislodged, and that community is renamed and they still inhabit that community and the security agencies do not do anything about that?’’
He added seven communities in the state had been renamed by the attackers.
Kavwam lamented that his people were being hunted and massacred in cold blood without any official intervention to halt the attacks.
Illustrating his claims, he explained that the number of displaced persons had exploded due to frequent attacks on hapless communities.
He said, “In the Mangu Local Government Area, for instance, the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps keep exploding. With what? With internally displaced persons who come to those camps. There is no psychosocial support whatsoever. Imagine the trauma of losing your means of livelihood, losing your children, and everything that perhaps you depend on.
“Yet, there is no rehabilitation whatsoever, no psychosocial support. They can hardly even feed some of them. They have wards in school and they had their education cut off. And at the end of the day, the government should ordinarily realize that we are all citizens of this country and we should be treated equally.’’
The MBF official accused the security agencies of not doing enough to stop the attacks arguing that the insurgents often give warnings.
“There is no way the security can absolve itself from liability because they (insurgents) do announce before they come. They come in thousands. How could 1,000 people invade the local government area? And there are security agencies in all of those areas. How do they manage to pass and how do they acquire their weapons?’’ Kavwam asked.
Responding to the alleged plot by terrorists to attack the Pushit community, the state Commissioner for Information, Musa Ashoms, said he would inform Governor Caleb Mutfwang about the threat for possible action.
“I will draw the governor’s attention to it right away,” the commissioner stated.
But the UN human rights chief, Volker Turk, reinforced the urgent need for an investigation into the incident.
Turk in a statement Thursday said the global body was deeply alarmed by the recent killings in Plateau State.
He called on the Nigerian authorities to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“I am deeply alarmed by the series of attacks by gunmen on multiple rural communities in Plateau State.
“I call on the Nigerian authorities to investigate this incident promptly, thoroughly, and independently, consistent with international human rights law, and to hold those responsible to account in fair trials.
“The cycle of impunity fuelling recurrent violence must be urgently broken. The government should also take meaningful steps to address the underlying root causes and to ensure non-recurrence of this devastating violence,” the AFP quoted him to have said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has vowed to track down the perpetrators of the Christmas Eve killings in the state.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, said this in a statement on Thursday.
Gaidam said, “The loss of innocent lives is a tragedy that touches us all, and we stand united with the people of Plateau State during this difficult time. In line with the directives of Mr President, we will leave no stone unturned in apprehending both the collaborators and prime suspects involved in this crime against humanity. Our collective resolve is to ensure that those responsible face the full force of the law.
“We also pray for the quick recovery of the injured citizens and security agencies who bravely worked to secure the affected villages. It is our firm belief that by standing together, cooperating with security agencies, and providing vital information, we can assist in arresting these callous criminals who are currently on the run.”
Continuing, he said, “We understand the gravity of the security challenges facing Plateau State and the entire country, and we assure you of our continued collaboration with other stakeholders to address these issues.
“Despite this tragic incident, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ongoing reforms within the police, aimed at enhancing professionalism and the delivery of top-notch service to the Nigerian people. We will not allow such incidents to deter us from our mission.”
- Additional reports by Solomon Odeniyi and Abiodun Sanusi