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By Marie-Therese Nanlong
After months of reprieve, violence has erupted in some communities in the Irigwe Chiefdom of Bassa Local government area of Plateau State as locals raise alarm over fresh invasion of their communities by night attackers.
The recent incidents have caused set back to the peace efforts in the area as the people say isolated attacks had been ongoing in the last two weeks.
It would be recalled that frantic calls were made by residents of Teigbe and other neighbouring communities on Thursday night about an invasion by people they say are Fulani herders but Saturday Vanguard could not readily confirm if there was any intervention by security operatives as all attention seems to be directed at the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State Police Relations Officer, ASP Gabriel Ubah on a social media platform told journalists, “Please I need to confirm, most of the communities don’t have a network. So it is not easy to contact the office on the ground to get information.
I will do everything possible to disseminate information as soon as I confirm. Operatives that were stationed there were asked to rush to the place immediately.”
But the President, Irigwe Development Association Sunday Abdu told journalists, “It has become pertinent to seek your help in raising our collective voice to the orgy of evil that has once more, visit our dear land, the Irigwe chiefdom. Recently, the land has not known peace owing to the wicked activities of herders who have continued to destroy farmlands in an attempt to weaken the economic life of our people.
“While our people have continued to remain indoors and law-abiding in the wake of the national outcry over the coronavirus, the assailant Fulani herdsmen have continued each day within the last two weeks to visit us with mayhem. On Wednesday, 1st April 2020, Ancha, one of our troubled communities was visited once more in an attack that left three people dead and various houses razed.
“On Thursday 2nd April, we woke up to bury six people burnt to death in Hukke from an overnight attack. Recently also, two young men were murdered in cold blood in Nkyiedongwro while returning from moulding bricks. There was also the killing of two mourners at Kpenrie village on 23rd March 2020, the same day three children were also killed at Gbra Zongu village. As we prepared this release today, 3rd April, the news came in that same Nkyiedongwro suffered another night attack, such that there may be no house left unburnt.
“The dastardly activities of the assailants did not only end on us, as even the security personnel stationed to protect us have tested their venom when two of their comrades were murdered in cold blood. When this happened, we expected a more robust activity by the Operation Safe Haven to apprehend the culprits and bring their activities to a halt. Unfortunately, this ugly trend has continued.”
Abdu noted that his Chiefdom has commiserated with the military over the loss of its men and expressed concert saying, “We are however worried by the recent withdrawal of men of the special security task force, Operation Safe Haven from our domain. When this happened beginning from 21st March 2020, we thought it was a routine military action, and expected to see another set deployed. But it has been over a week since that action was carried out, and here we are with a resumption of hostilities on our soil. We are confused and do not know what to make of this reality.
“That these atrocities have resumed, is the more reason we need security presence in our land. It must be noted that even in the northeast which has been the theatre of war with some losses incurred by the military, never is the army withdrawn. Why has our case been different? Are we to think that we are paying the price for a crime that the Fulani herdsmen committed by killing the two soldiers in question?”
He appealed for the State government’s intervention, maintaining without such, “Irigwe land would be wiped off even before the COVID-19 comes close to Plateau State.
His words, “We are deeply concerned about the obvious silence of the Plateau State government over this resumed hostilities on our soil. Is the government so concerned about the raging coronavirus pandemic that we are almost abandoned to the gruesome activities of the Fulani marauders? If the government does not rise up to tackle this challenge, Irigwe land would be wiped off even before the COVID-19 comes close to Plateau State.
“We want to appeal to the military authorities to please as a matter of concern and urgency, redeploy personnel to resume security duties in our land. If during their presence the assailants dared launched attacks on our communities, what more now that they are withdrawn. We are tempted to feel that this withdrawal of troops may have given impetus to the rampaging herdsmen to continue or escalate their campaign of bloodsucking.
“We are a people of peace and work daily to ensure it is sustained in our domain and the State as a whole. Unfortunately, our people are now homeless and helpless. As we go to sleep today, only God knows which community is next in this daily rampage. We are therefore suing for assistance in catering for our displaced, especially as this is coming at a terrible time of national emergency.”
The charred bodies of the victims have been given mass burial at Hukke where seven people were killed.
The Director-General, Plateau Peace Building Agency, Joseph Lengmang, whose office has been working to promote peaceful coexistence told Saturday Vanguard, “A team would be dispatched later in the day to the area for an on the spot assessment of the situation. I am not aware that the people have been buried, issues to do with security directly at with the office of the Secretary to the Government of the State. Our own is to promote dialogue but I will join the team later in the day for an assessment of the situation.”
Also, the Deputy Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Ya’u Idris reacting to the incident said, “I only heard what happened today. Some days back, on the 20th of March, some soldiers came and burnt our houses, killed 35 cows, killed one person and injured another. I learnt they’ve attacked Hukke, I don’t know that place but someone told me about the incident.”