Senator Gyang Dantong
• Death toll hits 104
•Curfew imposed on four LGAs
By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
With no let-up in the violence, which started on Saturday in Plateau State, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Gyang Dantong, and a member of the state House of Assembly representing Barkin Ladi Constituency, Hon. Gyang Fulani, were among scores of mourners killed yesterday in Matse village, Riyom Local Government Area by suspected Fulani gunmen.
The two lawmakers were reportedly killed when the gunmen invaded the village as they were attending a mass burial for 63 victims of Saturday’s attack in Karkuruk, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of the state.
Another lawmaker, Hon. Simon Davou Mwadkwon, a member of the House of Representatives representing Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency and Chairman of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Mr. Emmanuel Lomang, narrowly escaped death.
However, Mwadkwon is on the danger list at the Barkin Ladi General Hospital where he was rushed with injuries sustained in the attack.
The incident, which saw the unconfirmed death toll rise from the attack and the reprisal to 104, forced the state government to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew on four local government areas in the state.
Another 50 more bodies, linked to the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), were reportedly discovered in the house of a pastor in Matse.
The bodies were suspected to be those who ran for safety to the pastor's house as they were being pursued by the suspected Fulani attackers. But Fulani community leaders denied that their people had done anything wrong.
The Miyetti Allah cattle group dismissed the accounts as propaganda and said the military had attacked the herdsmen.
Although details of how the lawmakers and others at the mass funeral were killed were sketchy at press time, one account said they were ambushed and killed while in a convoy to the burial site, while another stated that the gunmen descended from the hills at Matse during the funeral and attacked the mourners.
Dantong, a two-term serving senator, had once served as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Jos South/Jos East Constituency, while Fulani hailed from Barkin-Ladi and was until his death the Majority Leader of the state House of Assembly.
Confirming their death, Special Adviser on Security to Governor Jonah Jang, Mr. Istifanus Gyang, said: “The serving senator and a member of the Plateau House of Assembly died following Fulani attacks on mourners at a mass burial of 63 victims of a Fulani attack on over nine villages the previous day at Gashish District of B/Ladi. An update on how they met their untimely death to follow later."
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, Mr. Emmanuel Abu, who also confirmed the incident, however, added that he had no details on how the mourners were killed.
Immediately the news of the fresh attack filtered out, youths blocked the Jos-Abuja highway, burning tyres, which were followed by gunshots.
On the new death toll in the Saturday attacks, THISDAY gathered that the victims, mostly women, children and the aged, had run into the pastor’s home for safety when they heard of the morning massacre in the neighbouring Barkin Ladi Local Government.
The attackers were said to have pursued them into the pastor’s house and set it ablaze. Many of the victims were trapped and died in the ensuing inferno, as their attackers were said to have stood by to shoot anybody that tried to escape.
The police were said to have evacuated women, children and the aged from the villages for fear of another attack as the gunmen were said to have threatened to come back.
The Special Task Force (STF), in a statement, said 14 indigenes were killed, while 21 of the assailants also died in a shootout between the STF and the gunmen.
STF spokesman, Capt. Salihu Mustapha, confirmed that the attackers, dressed in military uniforms, were heavily armed and wore bulletproof vests during the raid. Mustapha also confirmed that two soldiers were killed in a shootout with the gunmen.
Lomang, while confirming the dead bodies discovered at the church, before he was also attacked, told THISDAY that the victims were holed up in the building before they were attacked.
One of the residents of the attacked villages, who spoke anonymously, said the situation was so bad that the villagers are now living in fear of fresh attacks.
He said, “The situation is so terrible that it appears we don’t have a government or security. We are left on our own at the mercy of these invaders.”
In order to arrest the violence, the state government, in a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yiljap Abraham, said Governor Jang had ordered the imposition of curfew on four local government areas – Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom – with immediate effect.
“The curfew will start from 7.30 pm today (yesterday) to 7.00 am tomorrow (today) morning, while the curfew will start at 6 pm tomorrow to 7am till further notice,” he said.
A few hours before he was killed, Hon. Fulani had spoken on the phone with reporters, during which he had expressed regrets over the continued massacre in the area, a development that had made the government look helpless.
He had described the Saturday attack as genocide and ethnic cleansing aimed at exterminating his people.
“It was a very dark day for the people of Gashish, because terrorists numbering over 400 carried out a well-planned attack on the quiet people of Gashish District, in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau.
“The attack was first reported at about 6.30 am by the residents of the area who had reported that their villages had been surrounded by heavily armed attackers. The militants were dressed in army bulletproof vests and camouflage.
“I had some months ago on the floor of the Plateau House of Assembly called on the international community through the UN to provide protection for our people,” he had said moments before he was killed.