Native lands not forcefully occupied in Plateau – Government

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Central Nigeria’s Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong says reports of 50 farming communities forcefully taken over by herdsmen are untrue.

Many communities sacked during armed attacks have yet to be reoccupied by locals, but not taken over by herders, said Lalong, Sunday in Jos, the State’s capital.

But a report by Vanguard, citing a classified document says over 54 communities have been taken over, with many of them renamed by the “invaders”.

Some of the forcefully occupied communities according to Vanguard are “Rotchun (renamed Rafin Acha), Rankum (renamed “Mahanga”), Hywa (renamed ”Lugere”), Fass (renamed “Tafawa”), Chwelnyap renamed Nasarawa, Lyoho Dakar, and Angwan Dalyop.

Others are Janda, Darin, Shong I, Shong II; Rakweng; Dashugu; Diyan-Hei; Maseh (renamed “Lugel”), Kampwas; Kasa; Zere; Ninja-Hei; Seh; Nicha; Pwabeduk; Hyai; Kufang; Sharu; Dogo; Ningon; Rantis and Angio villages.

A rural community near Daffo, an attacked village in Bokkos area, Plateau State

According to the report published on 30th June 2018, “On the 26th of December, 2014, Shonong community was invaded and sacked. The surviving inhabitants had not returned since. So also were Rahol and Chikogo communities. Ranchol was attacked and occupied on the 7th of October, 2013. Nangam was overran on the 30th of April, 2014, as well as Kak and Dajak. Rarin was invaded on 30th August, 2015; Kujei on 2nd February, 2015; Attakar attacked on 14th March, 2014, as well as Nantwa and some parts of Bisichi.

“Rahol-Mazat was attacked and occupied on 14th April, 2015; Kai and Luk-Fei on the 19th February, 2014; Mallel, Bel between 8th and 9th of March, 2015. That of Rahei took place on the 3rd of April, 2015; Zim, Jong, Rabuk, Lobiring and Gwara Dadep on the 19th of June, 2015.”

Governor Lalong in a chat with newsmen at the Government House in Rayfield, Jos on Sunday however said “the facts might not be true”.

Lalong said, “In many of these settlements, it is not that anybody is claiming them. Your facts might not be true. How can people claim that it is their land? In many of these places where we’ve had conflicts, people are afraid to go back to them. Until you provide security, many of them are not going back.

Gov. Lalong addresses Journalists in Jos

“But for us, we have said we will provide security to enable them return. Because we don’t want to push people back and then they are attacked again. Like Gashish (District), the Federal government has agreed that we set up a mobile barrack. We are setting up a mobile police barrack there.

“But many of the people there returned home. It’s just that the houses are not adequate. Some simply took shelter with their relatives to be able to cultivate their farms. So the number you’re saying might not be correct because many of them that left their places, we have relocated them back.”

The Governor however asked for written petitions where it is established that native lands have been forcefully occupied.

“Where they go back and anybody tell them it is their land, let them report back to us and we will tell the person that the land does not belong to you.

“We have the law against land grabbing so if people have complaints that some people have taken over their land, let them write back to us. State government has already passed a law against land grabbing and we are going to address those issues in line with it. You (Journalists) too who have any information please supply us. We will handle it at the level of government,” he said.

But Journalists have always published reports on each attack and eventual takeover of communities in the State. Some have even been arrested for publishing such stories.

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