Witness: How Lalong’s Convoy Was Attacked by IDPs

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*Its an affront on the authority of the state, ays Govt

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos

A witness at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at Geo-science, Angulu-D, Zawan, where Governor Simon Bako Lalong was attacked on Saturday afternoon, Mr Francis Pwajok, has revealed how the IDPs initially murmured at the governor’s behaviour before pelting his convoy with stones.

Pwajok said that the governor, who had not visited the IDPs for three weeks after they were attacked and displaced from their homes, had made a stop-over on his way to Abuja.

He said: “My house is in the neighbourhood of the camp. So when I learnt the governor was stopping over at the camp, I went there to wait for him.

“On arrival, the IDPs began to murmur while the governor was addressing them; they initially did not throw stones. When the governor made a symbolic presentation of relief materials to the IDPs, some of them rejected it, saying ‘we don’t want relief materials; we want to go back to our homes. The Fulanis are now occupying our homes and grazing their cattle on our farms. We want government to chase them away so that we can go back to our homes; we are not comfortable in this place’s,” Pwajok narrated.

He said it was when the governor’s convoy drove out of the camp that the IDPs began to pelt it with stones, adding that hoodlums took over from there to attack the governor, damaging at least three cars.

Pwajok said the IDPs were particularly angered that Lalong had not visited them three weeks after they were attacked, and only had to make a stop-over on his way to Abuja on Saturday afternoon, describing the governor’s behaviour as ‘insensitive and irresponsible’.

The IDPs had alleged that since the incident occurred when Fulani herders attacked their villages and killed over 200 of them, the governor had not deemed it important to visit the camps to know about their welfare.

They also alleged that the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) seldom visited their camps where they delivered grossly inadequate ‎materials.

He said some IDPs have died in some of the camps due to hunger and poor medical care, “yet he only made a sharp stop-over yesterday while on his way to Abuja. Is that good?

“Individuals have visited, churches and other organisations have visited, yet the governor is only making a stop-over to see the people after three weeks”.

‎Meanwhile, the state government has condemned the attack on the governor’s convoy, describing it as an affront on the authority of the state.

A statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr Yakubu Dati, said: “The hoodlums, acting on the script of their sponsors, laid ambush on the highway and attacked the governor’s convoy with stones, rods and other unidentified objects, damaging vehicles in the convoy including those belonging to the press corps, security and relief agencies.

“The attack is coming at the heels of a similar invasion on the Plateau State Government House about two weeks ago, where government properties, vehicles of civil servants and visitors to the Government House running into millions of naira were destroyed.

“The government finds it regrettable that while its efforts at restoring peace are yielding results, certain unpatriotic elements are bent on returning our state to the sad era of bloodletting by instigating religious and ethnic hatred, for cheap political gains.

“The government views these attacks as an affront on the authority of the state and will therefore take appropriate measures to checkmate merchants of division and death.”

While thanking the security agencies for professionally carrying out their duties with restraint in the face of extreme provocation, Dati warned that “the IDPs must not allow those who do not wish them well to use their misfortune for ulterior motives”.

“We call on parents, religious and community leaders to counsel their children/members not to become willing tools in the hands of conflict merchants. Government has set machinery in motion to fish out and bring to justice all those conniving to present the state as unsafe by sowing the seed of discord among the good people of Plateau State,” he added.