By Elizabeth Archibong:

The leadership of the Nigerian Army in Plateau State should be blamed for last Sunday’s massacre of hundreds of villagers in Jos, the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, said yesterday in Abuja.

Mr. Jang, a retired Air Force officer, accusing the military of nonchalance, told journalists after the National Economic Council meeting at the presidential villa, that the tragedy could have been avoided if its leadership had heeded his call for intervention.

How it happened

The governor, who narrated the sequence of events on the tragic day, said the state government and security officials were all caught unawares and that the much vilified Fulani were not really involved as some reports have suggested.

“Yes, we were caught unawares about the present attack. I don’t know why it happened, but what was written in Daily Trust today tried to justify it as a reprisal attack for what happened in Kuru Jenta on January 17. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think Fulanis were involved in what happened in Kuru Jenta,” the governor said. “Kuru Jenta is a tin-mining camp and houses were burnt there. I mean everybody who lived there was involved. You could not say it was one-sided, because the houses that were burnt cut across, which means the killings cut across. But some people moved Aljazeera (a foreign-based television station) there, and then covered dead bodies and started labelling them. When you cover dead bodies and start labelling them, who knows who you are covering? And then today, Daily Trust was saying it was because of what happened in Kuru Jenta, because Fulanis were killed in Kuru Jenta. Fulanis don’t live in Kuru Jenta.

“And so, to say it was a reprisal for what happened in Kuru Jenta was a distortion of facts. We know that what happened was that some people came across the border to Plateau State and started attacking villages. Nobody within Plateau got to these villages and started attacking them.”

Mr. Jang said he received reports at about 9pm in the evening that some movement of people with arms was seen around those villages, and he reported the intelligence to the commander of the army in the state.

“He told me he was going to move some troops there,” Mr. Jang said. “And because it is near where I live, I even saw a tank pass through my house and I thought it was going towards that area. Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call that they have started burning the villages and people were being hacked to death and I started trying to locate the commanders, but I couldn’t get any of them on the telephone. The massacre could have avoided if they acted on my report.”

The helpless governor

The state’s chief executive also said it was regrettable that, despite the fact that he is governor and chief security officer of the state, he is incapacitated security wise, since he cannot issue any security order.

“You are asking what am I doing?” He asked. “I have said it several times that state governors are highly incapacitated. You are the chief security officer of a state. You don’t command even a fly. What do you use to stop anything? Security report that I gave, I didn’t even get that security report officially. It was the villagers themselves that saw the movements and reported. I didn’t receive any security report about what was going to happen. So the security people should have to double up their efforts, particularly the army that said they have now taken over security in Plateau State because the police are unable to cope.”

Mr. Jang then suggested that the army should leave the state. “I expect that the army should live up to expectations and stop the carnage in Plateau. If they cannot, then they should as well get out of the place,” he said.

A joint exercise

Asked to react to this, Chris Olukolade, the army public relations officer noted that the operation is not that of the army alone, emphasising that is a joint exercise involving the army, the navy and the police.

“Because of the nature of the exercise, it is only the defence headquarters that can comment,” he said.

Calls and text to the director of defence information, Muhammed Yerima, were not picked up.

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