Tragic lockdown: Gunmen terrorise Plateau communities
ISAAC SHOBAYO reports that despite the lockdown order imposed by the government of Plateau State, gunmen had been attacking communities which had experienced incessant attacks from suspected terrorists.
WHILE the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and the fear of its exponential spread, gunmen terrorising communities in Plateau State seem not to be relenting as they are currently taking advantage of the lockdown imposed by the state government to step up attacks.
Bassa Local Government, one of the flashpoints of gunmen attacks in the state has been under constant midnight raids by suspected terrorists and herdsmen in the past one month.
In the last three weeks, no fewer than 30 people had been killed in Irigwe chiefdom of the local government area and many houses including other valuables had been destroyed by the marauders.
Prior to the latest attack, the gunmen had attacked Ngbrazongo village of Kwall district of Miango, Irigwe chiefdom of Bassa Local Government where six people were killed.
In the recent onslaught against the people of Hurrra village in the chiefdom, a pregnant woman and eight others were brutally killed by the gunmen, while victims remained at home observing the lockdown order.
Narrating the sequence of the attack, Mr. Sunday Habila who survived the attack by the whiskers said at about 9:20 pm penultimate Tuesday, residents heard heavy gunfire by gunmen who soon stormed Hurra village.
According to him, everyone took to their heels as the attackers released more gunshots into the air and went on a burning spree and in the process killed a pregnant woman and eight others persons while many others sustained fatal injuries.
Another eye witness, Mathew Danjuma, said the latest attack in Hurra village was more barbaric than the previous ones adding that the assailants were in their large number and blocked every available route to ensure that no one escaped from the village.
“It is like they had their target, certain families were deliberately singled out in the operation which lasted for about two hours. In a family, a pregnant woman and her daughter were killed at a close range and their bodies decimated beyond recognition.
“While all these were going on, we called on the security agencies especially the police and Operation Safe Haven in charge of security in the Plateau to come to our rescue but there was no immediate response. It was only the police that eventually came when the gunmen had left. Several houses were also burnt by the gunmen,” he said.
When Sunday Tribune visited the chiefdom, an agrarian community, it was deserted as a result of the attack. Farmers had also deserted their farms while many houses were in ruins.
The man whose pregnant wife and daughter were killed was still in shock when Sunday Tribune visited. Sunday Tribune met him lying on a bench unable to come to terms with the reality. Fear was palpable in the community.
A farmer who simply identified himself as Alexander said all the affected communities especially Ancha, Nkiedowhro, Chongu among others were the food baskets of the state.
“With this attack we can no longer access our farms. We have cleared our lands in preparation for this year planting season but we are scared (of going to farm). We are appealing to the government to come to our aid,” Alexander lamented.
Piqued by the latest onslaught against his people, the President Irigwe Development Association, Honorable Sunday Abdul, said it was unfortunate that such attack could take place when there was a total lockdown imposed by the state government.
“We woke up this morning to the cries and wailing of our people. When I enquired, they told me nine persons including a pregnant woman have again been killed by gunmen who raided Hurra village in Kwall district of Bassa Local Government Area. Several houses have also been burnt down before the attackers left the village.
“The situation is really hard to understand. Our people are on lockdown as directed by the state government and some other people who feel they can do anything and get away with it came and attacked them, killing nine of our people and setting their houses on fire. How do you explain this? “
The question on the lips of many is that why repeated attack on the local government especially Irigwe Chiefdom in the past one year?
A former member of House of Representatives and also former Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, Chief Lumumba Dah Adeh who is from the chiefdom said between January 1 and April 1, 2020, no fewer than 40 persons had been killed and eight injured in 19 separate attacks on 15 communities in Irigwe Chiefdom of Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State.
Lumumba said the recent killings and destruction of property appeared to be a continuation of the spate of attacks on the people of Irigwe chiefdom which started years back as some of the villages affected by the recent attacks like Rikwe Chongu, Ancha and Nkiedonwro have been repeatedly attacked.
The former lawmaker who berated the state and federal governments for abandoning the people said the Irigwes cannot reconcile in the heat of attacks, adding that no help had come the way the victims.
“Federal agencies like NEMA and others charged with the statutory functions of bringing succor to the people in such circumstances have been totally absent. The Irigwe people whose major occupation is farming have been made to suffer deprivation and colossal losses in the past three years following the persistent attacks perpetrated by suspected Fulani militias.
“Worse still, they are unable to go and cultivate their farms; and whenever they brave it and succeed in cultivating and nurturing the crops, the crops are destroyed at the nick of harvest.
“The persistent killings and destruction of barns, buildings and other properties like automobiles is worrisome and points at an agenda to weaken and subdue or annihilate the Irigwes,” he said.
Lumumba therefore called on the concerned authorities to put a stop the attacks saying if they continued it will affect the confidence of the people in the ability of government to protect them.
A cross section of those who spoke with Sunday Tribune in the area said attacks suddenly became more rampant recently when Operation Safe Haven withdrew its men from the troubled communities. Though both the Police Command in the state and STF were not willing to speak on the withdrawal, sources close to the two authorities revealed that the withdrawal was not unconnected with the recent killing of two STF operatives in the area.
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