By The Punch
Over 27 persons have been killed while asleep in Nkiedonwhro community, Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State by unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani militants.
The killings happened barely 48 hours after the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew by Governor Simon Lalong in the LGA.
The latest attack was about the third in the LGA since Friday when the governor imposed the indefinite dusk-to-dawn curfew.
As of the time of filing this report, the Plateau State Government was said to be in a security meeting, after which it would make its position on the killings known.
Our correspondent learnt that the gunmen stormed the village in the early hours of Monday, shooting indiscriminately.
While one account said 20 persons were killed in a classroom where they ran into for safety, an eyewitness said the villagers were killed in a classroom where they were evacuated to by security operatives.
A resident, who did not want to be quoted, said while some of the people killed had been given a mass burial, those injured were being treated at various hospitals in the Bassa LGA.
Reacting to the allegation of soldiers’ involvement in the killing, the Special Military Special Task Force, codenamed, Operation Safe Haven, deployed to restore law and order in Plateau State, promised to investigate the alleged involvement of soldiers in the killings
The Commander of OPSH, Maj. Gen. Anthony Atolagbe, made the pledge on Monday evening when he went for an on-the-spot assessment of the attack in the village.
He said, “Soldiers have been sent to the headquarters of the OPSH for a proper investigation on how the attack took place in the village under their watch, especially when curfew was imposed in the village and there was supposed to be restriction on movement.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said the “madness” in Plateau State which led to recent killings of at least 20 people has gone too far.
He has, therefore, instructed the military and the police to bring the violence to an end.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement.
The statement read partly, “President Buhari believes that this madness has gone too far. He has instructed the military and the police to not only bring the violence to an instant end, but also to draw up a plan to ensure that there are no further attacks and reprisals by one group against the other.
“President Buhari is devoted to the sanctity of Nigeria’s unity, and he encourages Nigerians of all groups to learn to live together in peace and harmony.
“He commiserates with the governor and people of Plateau State, and with those who lost their loved ones, friends and family: May God comfort them as only He can.”
However, the National President of Irigwe Development Association, Sunday Abdu, in an interview with journalists, indicted the soldiers attached to the Special Military Task Force codenamed, ‘Operation Safe Haven,’ claiming that the soldiers gathered the villagers for the Fulani to kill them.
According to him, the soldiers gathered the victims in a primary school in the village to protect them from attacks in the area, adding that while the soldiers occupied the classroom which they used as their operational base, the women and children occupied the next classroom.
Abdu said, “How then did the attackers come and kill the women and children without the soldiers knowing? It is either that the soldiers colluded with the attackers to annihilate our people or they ran away and left our people to their fate. It is even more worrisome that the same LGA is placed under curfew by the state government.”
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria (Northern Region), in its reaction, condemned the attacks in Plateau State.
The Chairman of the Northern CAN, Pam Yakubu, in a statement, expressed concern that people who had lived peacefully with one another in the Irigewe chiefdom had taken up arms against one another leading to the killing of innocent persons in the locality.
He said, “The present administration of Governor Simon Lalong has worked round the clock since it came on board to bring lasting peace to parts of troubled communities on the Plateau in the last two years and must be supported by all concerned to bring about peaceful co-existence among all ethnic groups.
“Plateau is home to millions of Nigerians from all walks of life and I call on all warring groups to lay down their arms, embrace dialogue and the mechanisms put in place by the state government towards peaceful resolution of all issues of conflict in the troubled parts of the state.”
He challenged the Plateau State Government to do all it could to set machinery in motion to unearth those behind the recent attacks in Bassa and Barkin Ladi.
Also condemning the attacks, a former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, who is now a lawmaker representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, said he was sad to hear about the “incessant violent killings going on in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen who have become the usual suspects in this kind of coordinated attacks in the state and others in the Middle-Belt.”
Also speaking, a former Commissioner for Information in Plateau State, Yakubu Dati, said Monday’s attack was condemnable considering that Lalong had taken several measures, including the establishment of the Plateau Peace Agency and deployment of resources to empower security agents to carry out their duties effectively.
“We can only call on the state government to reinvigorate the process that is already on the ground,” he said.
A member of the House of Representatives, Suleiman Kwande, representing Jos North/Bassa federal constituency, called on the Federal Government to investigate the killings.
Kwande, in the statement, described the attack as unfortunate, particularly at a time when peace had returned to the state after decades of violence.
He said, “The new turn of killings of innocent people in Bassa LGA in recent times is very unfortunate and disheartening. The native of the locality in the last few weeks have suffered unprovoked attacks that resulted in the killing of innocent people.
“I call on the Federal Government to set up a committee to investigate the fresh killing of innocent persons, including children, women, men and the aged in a primary school where they were taking refuge.”