On 25 November, 20 people killed during violent clashes in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, earlier in the week, were given mass burial.
The burial was supervised by a councillor in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Mr. Pam Choji Pam, whose four children were killed during the violence. Only stern-looking security personnel were seen around, as the area was under a 24-hour curfew ordered by the military Special Task Force (STF).
The state governor, Jonah David Jang, through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Pam Ayuba, expressed sadness over the killings, especially after the state government and various other stakeholders had made sustained efforts to achieve lasting peace in the area. The Chairman of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Hon. Emmanuel Loman, similarly condemned the violence.
Loman said: “This issue is worrisome particularly in Barkin Ladi LGA. Last week, we held a security meeting with the Police Commissioner, the Fulani elders, the Hausa representatives, the indigenes, the Yoruba and Igbo representatives from the LGA and we agreed that let bygones be bygones. We agreed that we were going to live together. I believe that some people are bent on creating havoc for others and I warn them to stop”.
On 15 August, 10 people were killed in early morning attacks on two villages in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, near Jos, capital of Plateau State. Among the casualties were seven members of one family.
According to the chairman, Barkin Ladi Local Council, Mr Emmanuel Lomang, the attackers stormed two villages around 12.30 am, shooting their victims.
He said seven people were killed at a village in Heipang, while three others were killed in Korot village, Foron district. He further said that four identity cards and a cap belonging to soldiers were found at the scene of the killings, suggesting the attackers may have included some military personnel secretly aiding their ethnic group in a local fight.
In an official statement, the Public Relations Officer of the military Special Task Force (STF) in the area, Captain Charles Ekeocha, confirmed that seven members of a family were killed in the Heipang attack.
The statement said in part: “At about 12.30 am on August 15, there was an attack at Heipang area of Barkin Ladi local government area. A house belonging to Mr. Nnaji… was attacked and seven members of the family were killed”. It added that when troops went in to quell the attacks, local residents opened fire at them. The statement said the soldiers returned fire, shooting a man who was armed with a rifle. It said the man later died on the way to hospital.
At dawn, local residents outraged by the incidents, blocked all roads leading to the area. The blockage left thousands of travellers stranded on the road.
One source reports that the renewed conflicts in parts of the state since the weekend had forced the newly constituted state executive council – comprising Governor Jonah Jang and his cabinet – to call off a one week retreat which they were billed to go for at the Obudu resort in Cross River State.
The city of Jos and the surrounding region lie in the so-called “Middle Belt”, a convergence zone between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south of the country. The region has also seen bitter disputes between the long-settled farming groups like the Berom and the later Fulani settlers, who are mostly herdsmen.
In recent years, it has been the theatre of numerous bloody clashes between various groups and communities, with hundreds killed. Efforts, especially by security agencies, but also by administrative authorities and civil society groups, had reduced the violence significantly in recent months. The renewed incidents of violence threaten to erase all the progress recently made towards resolving the region’s conflicts and building a durable peace.
Eye witnesses said the fire started around 9.55 a.m. from the ninth floor of the building. Before it could be brought under control, it had destroyed property worth millions of naira. The General Manager of the Jos zonal office, Chukwudi Okoli Ugbaja said: “All our cameras and entire studio equipment got destroyed in the inferno”. Mrs. Folashade Oshodi, a presenter who was on duty at the time of the incident told the News Agency of Nigeria that the station’s transmitter as well as the radio and the television studios were completely burnt. However, Ugbaja expressed relief that no life was lost, and commended the Fire Service whose prompt response saved the entire structure from being razed.
Governor Jonah Jang who was on his way home from Church service in company of his wife Ngo made a prompt visit to see the extent of damage. He expressed sympathy with the management and staff of AIT for the loss.
It will be recalled that AIT/Ray Power offices in Abuja, Lagos and Kano have been gutted by fire disasters in the past.
On 31 January, thousands of women staged a major demonstration in Jos, Plateau State, denouncing the continued presence of the military Special Task Force (STF) in the city. The protesting women asked the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, withdraw the soldiers from the state. They threatened to withdraw their support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election in April, if he failed to pull out the soldiers.
The women, mostly dressed in black attire, marched through the city to the Government House, accompanied by security agents. They waved placards, some of which read: ‘Soldiers have a hidden agenda in Plateau’, ‘Ninety per cent of soldiers here are Muslims. Why?’, ‘We want peace, not Jihadist soldiers’, ‘Soldiers are hired killers’, ‘STF pack your load and leave Plateau, stop killing us, go after the real trouble makers’.
After waiting for hours, they eventually got the attention of Governor Jonah Jang who said he commended their courage and urged them to remain steadfast in their commitment to peace. Jang said the federal and state governments were leaving no stone unturned towards finding a lasting solution to the crisis in the state.
Responding to the women’s demand for the withdrawal of the STF, the governor said there are bound to be good and bad people in every human setting. He urged the women to accept that not all soldiers were bad, and that there are in fact a lot of professional soldiers who carry out their duties diligently, without any ethnic, religious or other sentiments.