July 12, 2012 by Editorial
LAST weekend’s gory attack that claimed the lives of two high-profile politicians alongside more than 100 others in Plateau State was another in a series of condemnable visitation of violence on innocent Nigerians. A serving Senator, Gyang Dantong, and the Majority Leader in the state House of Assembly, Gyang Fulani, had their lives rudely snuffed out in an attack that once again exposed the futility of relying on the existing state security apparatus for the protection of lives and property in the country.
The details are sordid and distressing. Before the Sunday outrage, over 60 people, mostly children, women and the aged, had been reportedly killed by heavily armed assailants, then suspected to be of Fulani stock. In a coordinated attack that lasted for hours, the marauders had descended on nine villages in the dead of night, killing at will. But what made Sunday’s attack more gruesome was that the victims were actually mourners who had gathered for the mass burial of the more-than-60 victims of the previous day attack.
By the time the dust settled, more than 100 people had been wasted in both attacks. The Miyetti Allah Fulani Herdsmen Association denied any involvement of the Fulani herdsmen in the attacks, saying, “This is the usual propaganda used on our people, but we are not the ones that attacked the villages in the area.” Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for the reprehensible act.
The two-day carnage signals a near breakdown of law and order. As usual, President Goodluck Jonathan has lamely ordered the arrest of the murderers, but nobody is deceived. The security situation in Plateau State has lingered for too long and has continued at a great human and material cost to the nation. In 2001 over 1,000 people were killed in a clash between the Hausa/Fulani settlers and the Jos indigenes, followed by an eruption of further violence in Yelwa that left 800 people dead in 2004. Between December 2008 and March 2010, over 1,850 people died from attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen donning military uniform.
In the long season of anomie, the security agencies have equally been seriously battered. A serving Deputy Inspector-General of Police, John Haruna, lost his life in the course of seeking peace for the people of the state. For a place that is so heavily militarised, the frequency of attacks and the ease with which they are carried out have become really baffling. And Nigerians are yet to see the first set of people to be arrested and successfully prosecuted for these killings, which can best be described as crime against humanity.
Life has become very cheap in the country and it appears the government has ceded power in certain areas to the forces of terror and other hoodlums, who strike at will. Reviewing the security arrangement has become more compelling now as the people appear to have lost confidence in the men of the Special Task Force set up by the Federal Government to check the momentum of the shadowy marauders. In what seems to be a recurring incident, the STF members were nowhere to be found when the Saturday attack was going on, even though distress calls were reportedly made to them. There are reports that even some security agents may not be completely neutral in the conflict.
The claim by eyewitnesses that the assailants were dressed in military uniforms, complete with bullet-proof vests and sophisticated weapons, is something that should be thoroughly investigated. How true is it that the attackers crossed into the country from a neighbouring country? Whatever is the nature of the attacks, they have exposed the vulnerability of the country to external aggression. A situation where gunmen can descend on a village and fire indiscriminately at a group of mourners suggests either complicity on the part of those charged with the security of the place or a total lack of capacity to cope with the job.
The latest attacks undermine the already bleak security prospects in the country. Those who appear to have been compromised should be fished out and redeployed, while bringing in fresh hands with a special mandate to root out troublemakers in the state.
President Jonathan should note that all over the country, the mood of the people is grim. Everyday, Nigeria appears to be a country tearing itself apart. Yet, Nigeria’s appalling rulers remain ever clueless. Even though Plateau State has slipped from a once peaceful abode, coveted by Nigerians and Europeans alike for its clement weather, into a killing field, what happened last weekend still raises questions about the handling of security in the volatile state. When will the frequent bloody eruptions on the Plateau end?
If the STF must continue to operate in Plateau, despite its abysmal failure, then it must be completely overhauled. The appalling situation in Plateau has gone too far. The killings have to stop.
New York Times
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