• Friday, May 24, 2024
businessday logo


Bokkos’ decades of unprovoked killings: Where is the government?

Bokkos’ decades of unprovoked killings: Where is the government?

The tranquility of Bokkos is shattered by a grim reality. For over 10 years, the area has been plagued by sustained killings, resulting to the death of hundreds of people and the destruction of houses and farm lands, leaving a trail of devastation and despair in its wake. The root causes of the violence in Bokkos are deeply entrenched in a complex web of socio-economic disparities, ethnic tensions, and historical grievances. Competition for land and resources fuels deadly clashes between herders and farmers, exacerbated by poverty and unemployment. Suspected attackers vary from armed militias to criminal syndicates, operating with impunity under the cover of darkness. Allegations of collusion with powerful interests cast a shadow over investigations, hindering efforts to hold them accountable.

The socio-political ramifications of the attacks are far-reaching, fracturing communities along ethnic and religious lines and eroding trust in public institutions. Fear and insecurity pervade daily life, driving families into isolation and deepening social divisions. The human toll of the sustained killings is immeasurable, with hundreds of lives lost and countless more shattered. Each victim leaves behind a legacy of grief and anguish, their voices silenced by the brutality of conflict.

The sustained attacks on Bokkos over the past decade have had far-reaching implications for the areas socio economic activities, leaving a trail of devastation and disruption in their wake. The once-thriving economy of Bokkos has been decimated, as businesses shutter their doors and livelihoods are destroyed amidst the chaos and uncertainty. Farmers are unable to tend to their crops, herders fear venturing into the fields with their livestock, and market traders struggle to make ends meet in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

The ripple effects of the attacks extend beyond the economic sphere, permeating every aspect of daily life in Bokkos. Schools stand empty as children are kept at home, deprived of the opportunity for education and a brighter future. Healthcare services are strained to the breaking point, with hospitals overwhelmed by the influx of casualties. The social fabric of the community is frayed, as families are torn apart by loss and displacement, and trust in public institutions erodes in the face of perceived ineffectiveness and indifference.

The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Plateau State, Musa Ibrahim Ashoms while answering questions on Channels Television program ‘Lunch Hour Politics’ to discuss Plateau Security issues noted that it was wrong for anyone to think that the conflict was politically motivated stressing that it was a case of terrorism “Ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and annihilation”. he said that the insinuations that the attacks were “mismanaged political crisis” is misleading and doesn’t tell the true position of the matter.

He added that more than 90% of the members of the APC in Plateau State were in PDP and that anytime they were dissatisfied with their party they crossed over to another party and nothing more.

“In Plateau, our political crisis has never led to the mass killings of women and children in this magnitude,” he added.

He called for the establishment of State Police so that communities will have the capacity to defend themselves and prevent these attacks from recurring.

Read also: Plateau: 10 lives lost as herders strike Bokkos despite security presence- community leader

The most recent attack is the gruesome murder of 10 people in the area where Farmasum Fuddang, Chairman, Bokkos Cultural Development Council (BCDC) Vanguard, told BusinessDay that “on the night of April 12, our community Bokkos, in Plateau state faced a horrific attack resulting in the senseless slaughter of at least ten of our members. Despite the presence of security forces, including the DSS, army, and Police, the perpetrators, identified as Fulani terrorists, were allowed to carry out their heinous acts with impunity”.

Fuddang asserted that “Under the cover of darkness, more than fifty armed terrorists descended upon the villages of Mandung-Mushu and Kopnanle all in Bokkos LGA targeting innocent, unarmed, and peaceful residents as they slept. The assailants set fire to homes and a place of worship, mercilessly gunning down fleeing civilians while nearby soldiers failed to intervene effectively.”

He said: “The brazen attack, which predominantly targeted children, appears to be part of a calculated effort to instill fear and perpetrate further displacement within our communities. We condemn the act of terror, which we believe is aligned with a broader agenda to impose sharia law and seize control of our lands,” he asserted.

The Cultural leader explained that Just hours before the tragedy unfolded, BCDC Vanguard submitted a petition to the Department of State Services (DSS), challenging a leaked memo that falsely accused the people of planning violence against Fulani residents. According to him, they unequivocally stated that the intelligence behind the memo was fabricated and defamatory.

He added that despite the efforts to rectify these falsehoods, the security apparatus failed to protect the community from the very threats highlighted.

“Just hours before this tragedy unfolded, BCDC Vanguard submitted a petition to the Department of State Services (DSS), challenging a leaked memo that falsely accused our people of planning violence against Fulani residents. We unequivocally stated that the intelligence behind the memo was fabricated and defamatory.

“Despite our efforts to rectify these falsehoods, the security apparatus failed to protect our community from the very threats we highlighted. We are appalled by the apparent prioritization of the lives of Fulani residents over our own and demand answers from the authorities.

“The timing of this attack, following closely on the heels of the DSS’s erroneous warning of an impending assault on Fulani communities, raises serious concerns about collusion or deliberate neglect. We refuse to accept such injustice and demand immediate transparency and accountability.

“This is more so that advance notices of attack in the area were published and circulated at least a week prior to the so-called DSS intelligence. The DSS ignored these warnings and instead chose to implicate the victims despite acknowledging in their memo that the Fulani were responsible for the six-day attack that claimed over 300 of our members last Christmas.

“We wish to put on record that the DSS alert is synonymous with the age-long strategy of the Fulani terrorists who often raise false alarms to intimidate residents and/or justify planned attacks. And unless the DSS clears its name on this, we reckon that it is complicit and compromised.

“Should the authorities fail to provide satisfactory explanations within the shortest possible time, we are prepared to pursue legal recourse. Enough is enough—we will not allow our people to be targeted and vilified while those responsible for our safety turn a blind eye.”

The accusations leveled by the chairman of BCDC echoed the sentiments of many in the community who had long felt abandoned and betrayed by those meant to safeguard their lives and livelihoods. Many questions swirled in the minds of the people demanding answers that seemed elusive in the face of the ongoing crisis.

His account sparked renewed calls for accountability and justice. As the spotlight turned once again to the security agencies tasked with maintaining peace in Bokkos, the people await with bated breath, hoping for concrete action to stem the tide of violence that threatened to engulf their community.

Read also: Group offers support for 19,000 Plateau terrorist attack victims

All hands must be on deck to stop the killings – CSOs

Civil society organisations play a crucial role in amplifying the voices of the victims and demanding accountability from those responsible. By shining a light on the atrocities committed in Bokkos, they strive to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

A civil society practitioner, Godwin Okoko told BusinessDay in Jos that “It is a sad situation that up to this point in time, the communities are still experiencing attacks, killings and destructions of lives and properties. It is unacceptable and condemnable in all sense of it. There had been a lot of efforts by non-governmental organisations and government institutions to ensure normalcy in Plateau. Yet despite all those concerted efforts by state and non-state actors, this communities have been experiencing very sad and ugly situation. I cannot really tell you tentatively, these are the root or remote causes of the conflict in those localities in time pass. I can tie some of them to our natural resource usage, I can tie to point of incompatible goals over one or two disagreements that can be managed, addressed and resolved nonviolently. But in recent times you cannot tie it to issues of conflict, but rather it is criminality in nature and should be treated from that point of view.

We can see that women, children and young people have lost lives and properties. When we talk about the future of this great country it is the children, but many of them have died in the crisis. Mothers who have spent so much time on livelihoods, going to farms and all that have also lost lives. Today, homes are destroyed, livelihoods are destroyed and the people who lived in their homes as landlord, as owners of their properties are taking shelter in a very uncomfortable environment.

Government and all of us must put our hands together. We must sit on the table of dialogue and have honest conversations among ourselves. We have seen a lot of effort by the Nigerian army and other security sector to ensure protection of lives and property.

We cannot say it is beyond us as a people, we can collectively address these things and deal with those ugly, evil doors. The president has made a lot of assurances, the governors have made a lot of promises, the local government chairmen have made a lot of promises at different levels. Senators, House of Representative members have come to the aid of these people but the ugly incidence still lingers. We need to redouble our efforts,”Okoko said.

Read also: Plateau killings: Governor Mutfwang fumes, urges security operators to hunt perpetrators

COAS ordered troops to be more aggressive

In January this year when the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja visited the troubled areas on the Plateau, he ordered the troops of the 3 Division Nigerian Army and the Joint Task Force, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) to adopt more aggressive posture and decisively stamp out terrorists causing mayhem in Plateau and contiguous states.

Director Army Public Relations, Major General Onyema Nwachukwu who disclosed this in a press statement said that the Chief of Army Staff, Lagbaja handed the stern order while addressing troops during an operational tour to Plateau, following a recent disruption of peace in some areas that led to the Christmas eve killings of over two hundred people in Mangu, Bokkos and Barkin Ladi local government areas of the state.

According to the Army Chief, “Go hard on those disturbing the peace of the Plateau, neutralise any terrorist annihilating people and burning or destroying property and other economic valuables”.

The COAS, who had earlier been briefed on the security situation by the General Officer Commanding 3 Division and Commander Operation Safe Haven, Major General Abdusalam Abubakar, acknowledged that the security dynamics on the Plateau are complex due to its political background, interwoven with cultural and economic sentiments.

He assured that he is confident that the troops will be more resilient and leave no stone unturned in ensuring that peace and tranquility is restored on the Plateau and other troubled parts of the country.

He intimated that a marching order has been handed down to troops to sternly enforce law and order and to be decisive in tackling the security situation on the Plateau. He concluded that peace must reign on the Plateau and other troubled parts of the country.

The Nigerian Police Force, NPF, on their part, recently paraded about 17 suspects in connection to attacks and killings of innocent citizens in communities of Mangu, Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State where lives and property were destroyed.

Read also: Plateau State University mourns slain student in fresh Plateau attack 

Despite marching order, Killings continue unabated

Despite the Chief of Army’s stern directive for troops to crack down on the perpetrators of violence on the plateau, the bloodshed in Bokkos continues unabated. The order, intended to quell the escalating crisis and bring the killers to justice, seems to have fallen short of its intended impact as the area remains engulfed in turmoil. With each passing day, the death toll climbs higher, leaving a trail of devastation and despair in its wake.

Even with the heightened presence of troops and increased efforts to restore peace which resulted to the killing of two soldiers and a police inspector, the killers in Bokkos remain undeterred, striking with impunity and sowing fear among the local populace. The failure to effectively curb the violence underscores the complexities of the conflict, rooted in longstanding grievances and fueled by deep-seated animosities. As the authorities grapple with the seemingly intractable crisis, the people of Bokkos are left to wonder when, if ever, they will find respite from the relentless bloodshed.

The Plateau State governor, Caleb Mutfwang had never doubted the capability of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in delivering on their constitutional mandate.

He clarified during COAS visits that the civil populace has a role to play in enhancing security on the Plateau. “As a government, we know that we have a responsibility to motivate them. The recent breach was totally avoidable and people must work harmoniously to regain peace and harmony,” Governor Mutfwang asserted.

Governments at all levels must prioritize security and address the underlying grievances driving the violence in Bokkos. By addressing issues such as land ownership, resource distribution, and marginalization, they can help foster a more stable and peaceful environment for all.

Socio-political fallout from the sustained killings threatens to undermine the fabric of society in Bokkos, deepening divisions and perpetuating cycles of violence. It is imperative that all stakeholders work together to address the root causes of conflict and build a brighter future for the people of Bokkos.