• Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Plateau killings: matters arising

Despite curfew, killers overrun Plateau community

The cold-blooded murder of over 200 people by terrorists in Plateau State on Christmas eve continues to dominate headlines and discussions across the nation, but the federal government appears too lethargic to confront the killers. Pope Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for the victims and survivors. ‘’May God free Nigeria from these horrors’’, the pontiff said. Stunned, the Senate has invited the security chiefs, including the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the DSS for a briefing.

The legislators would be interested in finding out how the DSS and the Police, which have offices in every local government area in the country, could not pick up any intelligence on these killings. Senator Simon Lalong, the immediate past governor of Plateau who has just been sworn in as a senator, will help in providing background briefings to the lawmakers. I ask the senators to go beyond the security chiefs and government officials, and talk to the survivors of the attacks and other villagers in order to get to the bottom of this bloodbath.

While the international community is apparently worried and senators are scrambling to unearth the truth, the federal government continues to pussyfoot around. President Tinubu has not directly spoken about the tragedy. His 15-minute New Year address did not mention a single word about the massacres. Admittedly, the address was recorded days before the attacks, but the severity and magnitude of the killings were enough to warrant a new recording or an insertion of new paragraphs into the old one. The omission gave very wrong impressions of the administration’s capacity to respond to unexpected events and questions its ability to rise to serious challenges and its sense of empathy.

It is also worrisome that, for some strange reasons, the Nigerian authorities have not identified and mentioned the perpetrators of this crime by name. Are they Fulani herdsmen, Islamic Jihadists, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram or ISIS? What are their main objectives? The Commander of Operation Safe Haven who is also the GOC of 3 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General A. E. Abubarkar, who visited one of the communities soon after the attacks, said it was the devil that carried out the act. That was the most unprofessional thing to say by a senior army officer. I question his leadership abilities. Both Gov. Caleb Mutfwang and Vice President Kashim Shettima have refused to tell us who the killers are.

The inability or unwillingness of the government to properly identify and disclose the identity of these criminals (either individually or as a group) is a clear lack of capacity or determination to confront them. It’s a huge tragedy and a departure from the past. In 2010, the government identified Boko Haram as the major terrorist group ravaging the North East region, and in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan publicly hinted that there are some persons in government who are in support of the terrorist group. A few years later, the government and the military fingered IPOB (indigenous peoples of Biafra) as the major menace in the Eastern region that was instigating violence and killings in the region.

The Nigerian government’s delay in identifying and addressing the perpetrators of violence in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, and Southern Kaduna States may stem from various factors, including ongoing investigations and potential political considerations. While swift action has been taken against certain individuals like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho, the handling of other cases raises questions about the government’s approach.

Comparisons to international responses, such as the prompt identification of Al Qaeda by the US post-9/11 and Israel’s swift action against Hamas, highlight the contrast in addressing domestic threats. The demand for consistent and effective measures against all forms of violence and terrorism within Nigeria remains a concern, prompting citizens to question the government’s commitment to ensuring security and justice.

During Gov. Muftwang’s hospital visit to attack survivors, one victim identified a killer who invaded his home, revealing that the assailant lived in their village. This reinforces suspicions that authorities know the murderers but hesitate to act. President Buhari’s reluctance stems from shared ethnicity with the culprits, and there’s speculation that the current President fears upsetting his North-based political base, prioritising political survival over people’s safety. The unsettling question arises: can a government prioritise its political survival over the security of its citizens?