• State govt imposes dusk-to-dawn curfew
  • Saraki, Dogara, PDP condemn killings

By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and James Emejo in Abuja

The orgy of violence in the country persisted at the weekend as gunmen invaded three local government areas in Plateau State, killing over 100 persons.

The affected councils, Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South, were immediately placed under a dusk-to-dawn curfew by the state government that received soothing words of support from Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, both of who condemned the massacre in strong terms and asked the security agencies to up their game to end the wanton killings across the land.

Although the police put the number of deaths at 86, community leaders and eye-witnesses said between 100 and 150 persons were killed in separate communities in the three restive councils.

The gory incident forced the state Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, who was in Abuja to attend the All Progressives Congress (APC), national convention, to abandon the convention and return home to attend to the situation.

A statement by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Rufus Bature, said following the killings, the state government had imposed a curfew on the affected local governments.

The villages attacked were Gindi Akwati, Ruku, Kura, Rapps, Kinshan, Gengere, Heipang, and Gana Ropp.

Another statement by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said the government regretted the incident.

“The Plateau State Government wishes to commiserate with citizens of the state, especially Xland and Gindin Akwati communities of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, over unfortunate recent attacks,” Dati said, adding, “Government is deeply pained that despite concerted efforts which had led to the restoration of relative peace across the state, some unpatriotic elements are bent on disrupting the gains so far made.”

He appealed to citizens not to take the law into their hands but cooperate with security agencies to prevent further break down of law and order as they tracked the perpetrators of the evil act.

Speaking on the incidence, the President of Gashish Development Association (GDA), Mr. Francis Chung, said the attackers, who were masked, swooped on the communities at 11p.m. on Saturday night and shot sporadically at the villagers killing 139 persons.

Corroborating Chung’s claim, the lawmaker representing Barkin Ladi in the House of Assembly, Mr. Peter Gyendem, described the situation as worrisome, saying over 150 persons were killed.

An eyewitness who narrowly escaped death in Gana Ropp village, near Bethany Christian Academy, Mr. Joshua Gwom, said a clergy, Reverend Musa of the Assembly of God’s Church, his wife and granddaughter were all hacked to death by the attackers.

The Publicity Secretary of Berom Educational and Cultural Organisation (BECO), Mr. Sam Gordons, said over 150 persons were killed in about nine villages attacked.

Describing the killings as pathetic and an attempt at genocide and ethnic cleansing, Godons said President Muhammadu Buhari could stop the killings by the suspected Fulani herders if he really wished to do so, saying that the president as the Patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), could rein them in.

Some people, however, considered the attack as a reprisal, saying that the Fulani had on Friday lamented that five of their kinsmen travelling with cows from Kara market were missing after an attack.

The police command in the state said 86 people must have been killed in the pre-dawn attack in Barkin Ladi local government by unknown gunmen.

Its Public Relations Officer, Terna Tyopev, who confirmed the casualty figure late Sunday evening, said at least 50 houses were razed, eight hospitalised for various degree of injuries, while six suspects were arrested.

The Media Officer of the Special Task Force (STF) in the state, Major Umar Adam, said, “We are still at the scene of the attacks; we will get back to you on the actual casualty figure as soon as we are done.”

PDP, Saraki, Dogara React

In its reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the killings and urged the federal government to take its responsibility of protecting lives and property in the country seriously, telling it stop indulging in a blame game.

The party through its Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that the cardinal responsibility of any government is the security of lives of the citizenry, saying so far, the APC government had not only failed in this primary responsibility, but had also persisted in blaming others for the killings taking place all over the country.

“These killings are one too many. This bloodletting has become unbearable to Nigerians. So government should stop engaging in blame game but should take up its responsibility by protecting the lives and property of Nigerians,” Ologbondiyan said.

The PDP also called on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, to take drastic action by reinforcing the security apparatus in the crisis-prone areas, including changing the commanders in charge of the areas.

Also reacting, Senate President Saraki said the violence had to stop, adding that the security agencies must change their strategies to deal with the recurring bloodletting.

The Senate president advised the president to direct his security chiefs to immediately produce quick response measures aimed at tackling the spate of killings in the country.

Saraki, while responding to the killings in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in which scores of people were murdered in attacks by unknown assailants on some villages, said it is important for Nigerians to start having the assurances that the government is decisively responding to the current threat to lives and properties in parts of the country.

He said, “I am very sad to hear the news of the incident in Plateau State. This is very depressing and giving the impression that the country is not safe. The problem of Boko Haram in the North-east is well known to everybody but this killing by unknown band of assailants in Benue, Taraba, Plateau and Kaduna States is now giving another dimension to the crisis. Coming at the time we are getting ready for elections, we need to respond fast.

“If the plan is to develop some long term measures, we also request that the President should mandate the security chiefs to put forward an immediate short term and quick response measure which will restore confidence in the system and demonstrate to the criminals behind this killings the capacity of government to tackle the issue.

“We have to immediately device a plan through which the criminals behind the killings and their sponsors can be nabbed and made to face the wrath of the law. We have to also develop plans to mop up illegal fire arms in the hands of dangerous elements while also stopping the influx of these arms into the country.”

Saraki commiserated with the people of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area and the Government of Plateau State and prayed for the repose of the deceased

Speaker Dogara joined Saraki in condemning the attack and killings, saying it was further evidence of the failure of security.

In a statement last night by his spokesman, Hassan Turaki, he said it was reprehensible that people who gathered to bury their dead would be gruesomely murdered in that manner.

He said, “Our security agencies must rise up to the task of securing the lives of citizens of this country. The attack reportedly started from 1:00 p.m. on Friday and lasted till about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday. Where was the Police and other security agencies that they failed to respond to stop the killings?”

He said the rising level of violence and gruesome killings of innocent and hapless citizens posed serious threat to the country’s democracy and must be stopped.