Kalu Okoronkwo argues that the incessant violence is due to failure of governance

The recent spate of killings in Plateau State and especially the Christmas eve bloodshed that left several people dead points not only as ugly evidence to the fragility of peace in the once peaceful state and by extension the country as a whole but, more critically, as a clear indictment of governance failures at all levels.

Plateau State has tragically become a recurring scene of bloodshed and despair. The loss of lives, displacement of communities, and the deepening ethnic and religious fault lines underscore a systemic breakdown in the very fabric of governance.

Media reports had it that the attack on about 28 communities in Mangu, Bokkos and Barkin Ladi Local Council Areas of the State left over 185 innocent people killed in their sleep by heartless invaders while about 221 houses were burnt down and more than 10,000 persons currently displaced.

The mayhem unleashed on the affected peaceful rural communities is the worst according to reports since 2018.

It is even more regrettable that the attack according to reliable community sources was said to have been carried out even when notice of the impending disaster was announced through a letter dated November, 15 and sent to the communities by the perpetrators of the dastardly act.

The question that readily comes to mind is: what did government at various cadre do to protect the lives and properties of the vulnerable communities? Could these barbaric acts not have been stopped if leadership at all levels were responsible and proactive? According to His Eminence  the  Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III, “Why can’t we be proactive and stop such attacks before they happen?” The Sultan as a retired officer in the Nigerian Army is well positioned to ask such a question knowing the place of intelligence in crime prevention. 

The ongoing tragedy on Plateau State is not just a consequence of isolated incidents but a manifestation of the collective failure of leadership, accountability, and the responsibility to protect citizens, ultimately pointing to the urgent need for a radical reassessment of governance structures and security architecture. 

The history of killings and bloodbath in Plateau State, is deeply rooted in a complex interplay of ethnic, religious, and socio-economic factors. The state, situated in the North Central region of Nigeria, has experienced cycles of violence that have claimed numerous lives and led to the displacement of communities. The conflicts are often characterized by clashes between various ethnic and religious groups, primarily the Berom, Fulani, and Hausa, as well as Christian and Muslim communities.

Once celebrated for its ability to harmonize the coexistence of diverse ethnic and religious communities, the recent outbreaks of violence in Plateau State reveal a failure in the basic duty of the government to ensure peace and security. The escalation of conflicts and the inability to prevent recurrent clashes indicate a lack of effective peace-building strategies and crisis management.

Causes of escalating violence in Plateau state are diverse and difficult to narrow down to a particular factor.

Plateau State is a diverse region with a mix of Christians and Muslims, as well as various ethnic groups. The intersection of religious and ethnic identities has played a significant role in the conflicts, with tensions often escalating along these fault lines. Places of worship, homes, and entire communities have been targeted based on religious and ethnic affiliations.

One other major reason for violence in Plateau State is related to disputes over land and resources. Competing claims for fertile land, grazing areas for cattle, and access to water sources have fueled longstanding conflicts between indigenous farming communities and nomadic pastoralists.

The effectiveness of the security response to the conflicts has often been questioned. Critics argue that security forces have sometimes been ill-equipped or slow to respond, allowing violence to escalate. In some cases, allegations of bias and complicity have further eroded trust in security institutions.

While responding to the recent attack on communities in his domain and leading to lost of lives, the governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang frowned at the incident  and  condemned the attacks  vowing  to bring the perpetrators to book.  He however linked the recent Christmas attacks  to criminality while describing the perpetrators as dare devils in human flesh.

In his words “This has indeed been a very gory Christmas for us. We have had to celebrate with a heavy heart. Just when people had finished preparing for Christmas celebrations, unprovoked attacks were unleashed on several of our communities. As I am talking to you, in Mangu Local Government alone, we buried at least 15 people. So far this morning in the Bokkos Local Government, we were counting not less than 100 corpses. I have yet to take stock of that of Barkin Ladi. Most of the communities affected in Barkin Ladi share a border with the Bokkos Local Government”.

In an emotion laden voice, the Governor further lamented that no fewer than 64 communities in the state had been displaced by terrorists who were occupying schools in the local government area.

“As I am talking to you, in the Riyom  and  Barkin Ladi Local Governments, schools have been occupied by these terrorists for almost a number of years now. We have not less than 64 communities that have been displaced and their lands have been taken over by these terrorists.”

The persistent violence in Plateau state and by extension the country as a whole brings to the fore the question of the effectiveness of the security  architecture  in the country and raises concerns about the adequacy of intelligence gathering, the responsiveness of law enforcement agencies, and the capacity to quell violence swiftly.

The failure to provide a secure environment for citizens not only undermines trust in governance but also perpetuates a cycle of reprisals and counter-reprisals. The deep-rooted nature of the conflicts suggests a failure in addressing underlying issues related to governance structures. Whether it be issues of resource allocation, land ownership or historical grievances, the government’s inability to implement effective policies that address these root causes exacerbates tensions and leaves communities vulnerable to exploitation by those seeking to fuel unrest.

To an average indigene of plateau, the attack is one too many and government is not also doing enough to protect lives and properties. Most if not all the people see these unwarranted attacks as a concerted move by forces within and outside the state to kill, displace and take over their ancestral lands. It is an expansionist agenda. The lackluster approach to dealing with the crisis aligns with the peoples’ perception. Since 2002 when the Yelwa/Shendam crisis was birthed, Plateau State has not  known peace and has been in the news for wrong reason. Those in government pay lip service to the crisis and consistently engage in mere rhetoric.

While previous and the present administrations have continued to condemn every attack, it seems the barbaric killings  on the Plateau have defiled every reasonable solution. It does not seem human lives matter anymore on the Plateau and in Nigeria.

The circumstances surrounding attacks and senseless killings has remained the same ever since. Twenty-eight communities were attacked for two days and there was no intervention of government or security agencies until the deeds were done?  It is unbelievable to assume that all the security agencies lacked intelligence on the planned attack. The government of Plateau State and relevant security agencies as usual  bandied with figures of the dead as if they were dead chickens from an epidemic. We have indeed lost our humanity as a people.

Every opportunity available for the assailants to unleash mayhem, they grab. Governor Mutfwang mentioned schools in Mangu as residents of these killers for years. Others say Mahanga areas provide cover, yet, the government at both state and federal levels have done nothing to fish out the terrorists even when their locations are well known.

 Not much has changed in the security architecture of Nigeria since 2015 except for change in personnel. Moreover, it appears that those in charge do not understand what the problem is or are part of it. Killing people and worse still, in their sleep, is extremely wicked. The Nigerian government should show reasonable interest to end the carnage.  Much more force or fire power against these assailants is required. The best honour to the dead is to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to book.

It could rightly be said that since 2002 when crisis became evident on the Plateau, there have been no sign of the political will, strong determination or decisive action taking by government against murderous groups causing mayhem on the region.

Plateau people are angry, tired and frustrated. There is a limit to their patience and endurance. They should not be left with the option of relying on self-help as a survival instinct. New strategy for peace is desirable without further delay. Politically, culturally or religiously motivated crisis with obvious political answers should not be left alone in the hands of security agencies to resolve.

Communities who are victims of the heinous attacks should be actively involved in finding lasting peace. The attackers themselves should also be involved in the peace process by making known their own position, intents and grievances, if any.

The security challenges confronting plateau has once again brought to fore the conversation around the need for state police.

When the states are given direct control over the coercive powers and resources to confront security challenges under the constitution, it will be very easy to restore peace, order and deal decisively with terrorists or any destructive elements like the ones plying their destructive trade on the plateau.

The absence of accountability for those responsible for orchestrating or participating  acts of violence contributes to a culture of impunity. The failure to bring perpetrators to justice not only denies closure to the victims but also sends a disheartening message that those who instigate violence can do so with impunity.

Communities affected by the violence often find themselves not only grappling with the immediate aftermath but also with long-term neglect. The failure to implement effective rehabilitation and development programs exacerbates the socio-economic conditions that often contribute to the cycle of violence. Education, healthcare, and economic opportunities are essential pillars of stable societies, yet their absence perpetuates a cycle of deprivation and vulnerability.

The carnage on the Plateau is not a random occurrence but a symptom of deeper governance failures that demand urgent attention. It highlights the need for a comprehensive and strategic overhaul of governance structures, emphasizing peace-building, conflict resolution, and the protection of citizens’ lives and property. As the nation mourns the lives lost on the Plateau, it is incumbent upon leaders to move beyond mere rhetoric and take decisive actions to address the root causes of these conflicts.

Only through accountable, transparent, and inclusive governance can the Plateau reclaim its status as a symbol of harmony and diversity, free from the shackles of violence and despair. The time for transformative leadership is now, before more lives are needlessly sacrificed on the altar of governance failures.

Okoronkwo, a leadership and good governance advocate writes from Lagos and can be reached on

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