Nigerian interreligious body wants securities, others quizzed as violence spreads in Plateau

3 min read
Rev. Prof. Pandam Yamsat and Emir Mohammed Sambo are leaders of Plateau State interreligious committee formed in May, 2021

Jos, 18 Jul. 2021: A Nigerian interreligious body formed to solve conflicts between predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen in central Plateau State says Government should hold securities to account for attacks on villages.

Violence by militants spread from two Local Governments in May to four in June, claiming over 80 crop farms and multiple lives, Governor Simon Lalong said, Saturday.

The threats are projected to spread further in few weeks, Lalong said through Secretary to the Government of the State, Prof. Danladi Atu at a meeting of the Plateau State Interreligious Council in Jos, the capital of the State.

In his words, “Within the period under review – basically June and July, the major security trend relates to agro-pastoralist clash which is commonly referred to as farmer-herder conflicts.

“This is visibly spread across four Local Governments. In June it was just two Local Governments, now it has gotten to four Local Governments namely; Bassa, Jos South, Riyom and Barkin Ladi.

“Now the trend is likely going to continue in view of the fact that we are within the raining season where farmers are actively involved in their farms.

“As of last week, the report we’ve had is that up to about 84 farm crops have been destroyed so far. And Government feels that it is important for deeper engagement across these Local Governments otherwise we will continue to find the spreading of this conflict.”

According to the Governor, the attacks could cause food shortages if not curbed. The State is budgeting over N2billion (4,866,180.05 USD) to arm hunters and vigilantes to guard villages, he said.

“In some cases some of these issues are being foiled at the point of action. Not through the formal Security actors but the informal security actors like the Vigilante, the hunters and the rest. Which have been highly helpful to that effect.

“So far we have trained 3000 vigilantes and hunters that will complement the efforts of the conventional security agencies.

“The cost of equipping them will run into about two point something billion (naira) because we need to equip them with pump action, that is the guns they use. Because it is permitted for you to get license for them, equip them with the kits and some other things. The idea is for them to complement and if for anything, to delay them (assailants),” said Lalong.

The announcement comes as over 500 women and children staged a peaceful walk in the northwestern part of the State to protest alleged complicity and human rights abuses by local military.

Prof. Pandam Yamsat, Co-Chairman of the State Interreligious Council called for the trial of the military over attacks.

“Government must hold securities, religious and traditional leaders accountable for the destruction of lives and properties in their communities,” Yamsat said.

“Frantic efforts must be made by our security people to identify the real men in army and police uniforms and disarm them,” he added.

More than 100 cases of violations by Government Forces have been reported in the State in the last three years. Operation Safe Haven, a local military task force has denied the allegations. But its Commander, Major General Ibrahim Ali on July 13 publicly apologized to a victim of a 2013 shooting by personnel of the Task Force – Mr. Gyang Dachollom.

Dachollom, a civilian health worker was shot in Fang village of Riyom County on 7th February 2013 at a military checkpoint. According to him, four other civilians shot along with him died instantly, while he escaped amid severe gunfire, with fatal injuries.

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