Written by Isaac Shobayo, Okey Muogbo and Soji-Eze Fagbemi:
ANOTHER tragedy hit Jos, the Plateau State capital, in the early hours of Sunday as no fewer than 500 persons, made up of children and adults were killed in Jos South Local Government area of the state by people suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.
This is just as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the security forces to hunt down those behind the crisis.
The incident happened barely 24 hours to the meeting of former heads of state at the instance of Elaigu Institute, to dialogue on the incessant Jos crisis.
Three of the former heads of state, including Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Yakubu Gowon and Chief Ernest Shonekan arrived in the Plateau State capital on Sunday.
Nigerian Tribune learnt that the Fulani herdsmen, in large numbers, stormed three villages, namely Dogo Nahawa, Ratsat and Jeji, in Jos South Local Government Area of the state at about 2.30 a.m. on Sunday, in a commando-like operation and carried out what could be described as organised killing of the villagers.
One of the survivors named Dalyop Gyang told the Nigerian Tribune that the Fulanis, who sneaked into the villages, positioned themselves at different entries into the villages while some of them who entered, shot sporadically into the air and set houses ablaze with the intention of smoking the occupants out of their houses.
He stated that they were caught unawares and majority of them, including children ran out of their respective houses only to be ambushed by the waiting Fulani men who had positioned themselves at different strategic parts of the area.
Some of the bodies seen by the Reuters witness — including those of women and children — were charred, others had machete wounds across their faces. Aid workers said some had been shot.
“The shooting was just meant to bring people from their houses and then when people came out they started cutting them with machetes,” said Dogo Nahawa resident Peter Jang, women crying behind him.
Four days of sectarian clashes in January between mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Jonathan deployed hundreds of troops and police to quell January’s unrest, in which community leaders put the death toll at more than 400. Official police figures estimated the death toll from the clashes two months ago at 326.
Yenlong said the state government might consider extending a dusk-to-dawn curfew still in place after January’s unrest.
Speaking with newsmen at the Dogo Nahawa village, the chairman of Jos South Local Government, Honourable Moses Dalyop, said the incident was a terrible blow to the council and the entire state based on the act of callousness exhibited by the invaders.
According to him, the incident claimed so many lives, mostly children and women, adding that majority of those killed were either butchered or died of gunshots, adding that some were also trapped in their respective houses and burnt to death.
The chairman said the information at his disposal revealed that the Fulanis gained access into the affected villages from the neighbouring Jos East and Barkin Ladi Local government areas of the state.
Honourable Dalyop, who said the cause of the attack was yet to be ascertained, said that investigation had commenced to get to the root of the incident.
When the Nigerian Tribune visited the affected villages in Jos South, it was confronted with the gory sight of close to 50 children, between the ages of two and ten, who were lined up, waiting to be given a mass burial while other dead bodies littered parts of the areas.
Apart from this, no fewer than 75 houses were burnt and many vehicles set ablaze by the night marauders.
Prior to this, there had been a series of attacks on some villages in Riyom Local Government Area of the state by some people suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, who also sacked some of the villages due to frequent attacks in the night.
It will be recalled that a Northern-based newspaper last week published an advertorial listing the names of the Fulani that were killed in the recent Jos crisis, fueling the belief that the latest incident was a reprisal attack.
Meanwhile, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has placed security agencies in Plateau State on red alert following the fresh outbreak of violence in the state.
A statement from the Presidency on Sunday said the country’s security agencies were adequately handling the crisis.
The statement, signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media/Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, said, “the country arose this morning to news of a renewed crisis in Plateau State. Reports reaching us indicate that marauding bands launched a flurry of attacks on certain communities in the state, causing considerable death and injury.
“While it is too early to state categorically what is responsible for this renewed wave of violence, we want to inform Nigerians that the security services are on top of the situation.
“This afternoon, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, briefed the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on the situation in Plateau. Dr. Jonathan is also billed to meet with the leadership of the country’s security services on urgent strategies to rein in the violence.
“In the meantime, the acting president has placed all the security services in Plateau and neighbouring states on red alert so as to stem any cross-border dimensions to this latest conflict. He has also directed that the security services undertake strategic initiatives to confront and defeat these roving bands of killers.
“He calls on all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law- abiding, since violence only begets further violence. He also sympathises with those who have lost relatives and friends in these attacks, asking the Almighty to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Plateau State government has condemned the killings.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Honourable Greg Nyelong, said the invasion by those suspected to be Fulani herdsmen was a big surprise to the government and people of the state, more so that peace was gradually returning to the troubled parts of the state.
According to him, majority of those killed by the marauders were children, women and men who were caught off guards in the early hours of Sunday, adding that many of them were burnt beyond recognition.
Hon. Nyelong said the more than 500 people killed would be given mass burial yesterday and, therefore, appealed for calm, adding that the state government was making effort to get to the root of the matter.
The commissioner said the invaders attacked the people in the night and snuffed lives out of them in a barbaric manner.
He called for the arrest of the Secretary of the Myetti Allah Cattle Rarer Association, Alhaji Saleh Bayeri, who, he claimed, incited the Fulani against the people over the recent crisis in the state through a press conference he addressed in Kaduna recently.
At the time of filling this report, the police were yet to issue a statement nor react to the development. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Lerama, could not be reached on the phone throughout Sunday.
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