Nigeria Report Introduction: For the past 20 years, Plateau State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region has been the site of increasing religious conflict, and especially of violent attacks on local Christians. Over the past several years, Muslim Fulani militias have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing against indigenous Christian groups in the area, such as the Berom, the Afizere, Anaguta, Irigwe, Rukuba, and the Buji. Despite the Nigerian government’s deployment of a special peacekeeping mission, called “Operation Safe Haven,” these attacks have only intensified in 2021. Since July 30, hundreds of Christians in many villages have been killed by Fulani raids, with the government apparently helpless to stop the bloodletting. However, after some Fulani travelers were killed near Jos City on August 14 in an apparent revenge attack, the Nigerian government reacted swiftly to punish the alleged perpetrators. In the statement below, a group of Christian leaders from Plateau State break their silence to respond to the government’s blatant preference for the aggressors.
IN COMMEMORATION OF 20 YEARS OF UNENDING ATTACKS ON THE PLATEAU
BY THE CHRISTIANS IN POLITICS PRAYER PARTNERS
7 September 2021
Fellow citizens, gentlemen of the press,
Greetings in the name of the Lord and soon coming king Jesus.
The Christians in Politics Prayer Partners is a group propelled by a deep desire to see righteousness thrive in the political terrain of Plateau and find expression in the leadership and governance system of the state. This group has obtained grace to have tarried in the presence of the Lord, weekly and consistently, for a period of over four years. Out of convenience and inconvenience we have remained on our knees for Plateau and have genuinely borne the burden of the land, people and government on our shoulders. Though we have maintained silence through this period of time and have kept mute before the public, we however have constantly been in touch with denominational heads and church leaders on the Plateau and beyond.
It is no longer news that Plateau has been in the eyes of the storm for two decades now. Since the unfortunate incident of September 7th, 2001, Plateau has not had a single year’s rest without trending in the global news over one unfortunate event or the other. This sad occurrence has threatened the admired and appreciated slogan “the Home of Peace and Tourism”. These events have portrayed the people in bad light, dealt a big setback to the economy, and presented before the world a narrative of a people not accommodating. However, with this press statement we make bold to say that the world has been so lied to, that Plateau has been lied against, that most often our story has been told from the perspective of the enemy of the state. It is a globally known fact that with the discovery of tin on the Plateau, between 1902 and 1904, there was a high influx of immigrants from the south, north of Nigeria and from neighboring west African countries into Jos. The friendly disposition of the host communities comprising the Berom, Afizere, Anaguta, Irigwe, Rukuba, Buji, among others, towards all created a warmth and peaceful environment for all to earn a living regardless of tribe, religion, or nationality. This and some many other attributes earned Plateau the much-admired slogan “The Home of Peace and Tourism.” There has always been so much to be desired of on the Plateau, ranging from the cool weather, beautiful rock formations, high and greenish mountains, waterfalls, and caves, with diverse cultures, a reflection of our multi-ethnicity amongst many others. This homely and peaceful nature has made Plateau a choice destination for many historic activities, nationally and internationally.
Since the unfortunate event of September 7th, 2001, that claimed the lives and properties of many, the security of Plateau has continued to deteriorate rapidly, with the spate of killings, destruction of homes and farmlands, kidnappings, burning of worship centers and business. Insecurity is at its peak, and our people are daily made to live in fear and in suspicion of one another. However, while we have always thought the ceaseless wicked attacks on the Plateau communities was due to incompetence, lack of capacity and cluelessness on the part of the government both at the state and national level, the recent incident of Saturday, August 14th, 2021, on Rukuba road proved otherwise. The biased manner with which the governor, president, the military, police and other security agencies treated this ugly event became a matter of great concern to Plateau citizens and the church, who have remained victims of many attacks with very little and most of the time no intervention from the government.
It is important for the global community to know the prelude to the Rukuba road incident of 14th August. Consistent daily attacks were carried out on the natives of Irigwe in Bassa LGA and the Beroms of Riyom LGA over the period 30th July -13th August, with so much outcry from the people but without intervention from the government or the security forces at all levels. Lives were lost in alarming figures, farmlands destroyed almost at harvest, many were wounded, houses were burnt, and communities were completely vacated by the wicked Fulani herders, rendering about six thousand persons homeless from over 26 villages.
Through this distress, the best the people got was a conspiracy of silence from the government and security agencies notwithstanding the very close proximity of the Irigwe community to the Rukuba military barracks of the Third Division. Even more worrisome, an attempt to reach the Plateau State Governor by the member representing Rukuba/Irigwe in the Plateau State House of Assembly, in company of the Honorable Speaker, was turned down on the basis that the Governor was sleeping. Sleeping to the detriment of the lives and properties of the people he swore an oath to protect, sleeping on the sleeplessness of women and children rendered homeless in the cold of the rains, a case of the leader taking the side of the oppressor. Within the two weeks no arrest was made from amongst the Fulani herdsmen/militia by the security agencies.
The reason for the complacency of the security forces in curbing the menace is that they were not given directives, the same narrative which is heard at all times, even the most recent. However, the swiftness with which the security agencies reacted to the killings of Fulani said to be travelling to Ondo on the Rukuba road, on the directive of Mr. President, generated so many questions in the minds and lips of Plateau citizens. Mr. President couldn’t eat, the Plateau State Governor suddenly woke from his sleep of over two weeks, the IGP deployed a special response team to Plateau, the G.O.C. who doubles as the commander of Operation Safe Haven, became active, and the arrest made in matter of hours of 33 youths sends a signal of conspiracy.
We therefore can rightly say that the abandonment of the Irigwes of Bassa LGA and the Beroms of Riyom LGA in the last three weeks, and by extension other Plateau communities in recent times, was never as a result of incompetence on the side of government and the security agencies, but can best be described as intentional for whatsoever agenda. All this happened in the face of the Plateau State Governor holding on to a myth called peace without any attempt to deliver justice in the six and half years of this administration. While we condemn the killings of the Fulani travelers, the event of 12th July 2012 that led to the death of two legislators during a mass burial as a result of similar invasion remains fresh in the minds of all Plateau citizens. Hence it will be difficult to divorce the gruesome murder of the Fulani travelers from suspicion arising from similar experience. While we acknowledge that such attacks are not justifiable, we however note that the government remains the biggest culprit, her indifference in the face of much outcry over a long period of time paved the way for the reprisals, thus the saying, when injustice becomes a law, rebellion becomes a duty.
We also want to address the threats and needless intimidation in Plateau, as has always been the case, once again. While patriots sought to find ways to forestall disorder, Sheikh Dahiru and his likes were calling for “diyya” compensation and the kind of intervention by the government that is satisfying to them. Those threats are being carried out on the Plateau on a daily basis from that 14th of August until today. Students are being killed, more communities in Irigwe are still suffering attacks, Mangu LGA has suffered attacks, and the most devastating is that of the Yelwa Zanga of Jos-North, which saw the killings of thirty-five persons in one night on August 25th, with many burnt far beyond recognition. All this is happening when the IGP special response team is still operating in the state, and a dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed by the Governor. The latest attacks gave credence to the bias of Mr. President in combating crime, and his systematic pattern of injustice, hence the silence from the presidency after the Yelwa Zangan genocide, as no statement was made by the President or from the Presidency condemning the attacks.
While we seek for a peaceful Plateau to live and thrive, it is important for the government to remember that no society in history has achieved peace without delivering justice. The rebellion we see today is fueled by the injustice of the government whose deliberate actions and inactions over the years have forcefully turned our other cheek to our oppressors.
If compensation is anything to go by, the government should begin with Plateau State, from the Dogo-Nahawa genocide to the most recent. Mr. President should also redeem the Ten Billion compensation pledge made to rebuild Gindi-akwati, near Barkin-Ladi, over the June 2018 genocide carried out by the same Fulani herdsmen.
The government has woefully failed in her constitutional obligation to protect the lives and properties of Plateau’s citizens as captured in section 14(2)(b): “the security and welfare of citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.” We ask the government to stop harassing and intimidating citizens from benefiting from the constitutional right to self-defense. Section 33(2). “A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary (a) for the defense of any person from unlawful violence or for the defense of property.”
We in strong terms support the recommendation of the elder statesman Gen. T.Y Danjuma, CAN Plateau State, and the Plateau State legislature, for citizens to defend themselves.
Plateau is worth fighting for. No price paid, no sacrifice made for her to redeem her place of glory as a home is considered too much. The Christians in Politics Prayer Partners will continue to remain on our knees in prayer and also speak to the conscience of the government. We acknowledge and are thankful for the efforts of PIDAN, Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders, Plateau State House of Assembly, Federal Legislators, Media, Civil Society Organizations, international communities and friends of Plateau at home and abroad who continually speak out on the wickedness and injustice over the years.
The Honorable Zakka M. Akos
Reuben Agoh Apatak (Kishitito)