By John Ameh, Ihuoma Chiedozie, John Alechenu and Hameed Shobiye:
Plateau State Governor, Mr. Jonah Jang, on Monday alleged that the army was guilty of complicity in the recent attack on three Jos villages which led to the death of about 500 people, mostly women and children.
The governor, a retired military officer, told journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that he got wind of the movement of armed Fulani into the Berom village on Saturday night and personally called the army commander to inform him of the development, and the need to take immediate actions to forestall any ugly incident.
The army has been in charge of security in Jos and other parts of Plateau State since the January 2010 episode of the crisis, which also resulted in the loss of many lives.
According to Jang, the army commander promised to move soldiers into the village to check the roving band.
Jang, who explained that he lives near the affected village, admitted that some moments after he made the call, he observed a tank, presumably belonging to the army, drive past his residence, moving towards the village.
However, Jang said that when he later received reports that people were being killed in the village, his efforts to contact the army commander were futile as his telephone lines “were unavailable.”
Other commanders of the army could also not be reached at the time the attack was going on, according to Jang.
Narrating his experience on the day of the attacks, Jang said, “I received reports at about 9pm that some movement of people with arms were seen around those villages, and I reported to the commander of the army and he told me he was going to move some troops there.
“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 had started burning the villages and people were being hacked to death. I started trying to locate the commanders but I couldn’t get any of them on the telephone.”
The governor said the attacks and the resultant deaths of innocent people could have been prevented if the security report he made available to the army that evening had been acted upon.
He said, “You are asking what am I doing; I have said it several times, 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? The 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.”
The governor said the army should immediately leave the state if it could not guarantee the safety of lives and property.
He said, “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.”
Jang also refuted reports that the attacks were retaliatory.
He said no Fulani was killed in January’s attacks in Kurujenta, a part of Jos.
He said, “We were caught unawares, the present attack I don’t know for what. But what was written in a northern-based national daily newspaper today (Tuesday) tried to justify it as a reprisal attack for what happened in Kurujenta on January 17.
“To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think Fulani were involved in what happened in Kurujenta.
“If you look at the houses that were burnt in Kurujenta (a tin-mining camp), 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 what happened there, some people moved Aljazeera (an international news channel) 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 Kurujenta, because Fulani were killed in Kurujenta – Fulani don’t live in Kurujenta.
“And so to say it was a reprisal for what happened in Kurujenta was a distortion of facts.”
Jang also alleged that the attackers were not resident in Plateau State.
He said, “We know that what happened was that some people came across the border of Plateau State and started attacking villages, because nobody within Plateau got to these villages and started attacking them.”
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Army Information, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, he referred him to the Army Public Relations Officer of the 81 Division, Jos, Lt.-Col. Galadima Shekari.
However, repeated calls made to Shekari’s mobile telephone lines last night indicated that they were either switched off or outside network coverages.
Attempts made by our correspondent to speak with the GOC 81 Division, Jos, Maj.-Gen. Faleh Maina, were not successful.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly on Tuesday passed separate resolutions condemning the violence and wanton destruction of lives and property in Jos, Plateau State.
While the Senate commended Acting President Goodluck Jonathan for the actions he had taken so far on the issue, the House of Representatives called for a thorough investigation into the incident and the punishment of culprits.
The Senate came out with an eight-point resolution after a three-hour session behind closed doors.
The eight-point resolution described the crisis in Jos as one too many. The Senate appealed to people of the state to eschew violence and learn to live peacefully with one another.
The Senate’s resolution was read by the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Anthony Manzo, on the floor of Senate after the session.
It reads “The Senate condemns the recent crisis in Jos that led to the loss of so many innocent lives. It is, in our opinion, one crisis to many. Our heart goes out to all those that lost loved ones during this recent crisis and indeed all previous crises.
“There can be no place for such barbaric acts in our democracy.
“Senate believes that the crisis is not religious and we must resist any attempt to give it any religious coloration.
“The Senate urges all Nigerians, especially leaders, to be calm and steadfast and should not do or say anything that will aggravate the crisis. The Senate further urges Nigerians to demonstrate greater respect for the sanctity of human life. The issue of internal security especially intelligence gathering must be taken more seriously.”
In its resolution, the House condoled with families that lost their loved ones to the violence, and advised the Federal Government to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to reconcile the various parties to the recurring Jos crises.
Also, the United States has condemned the Jos violence and asked that the perpetrators be brought to book.
A US-based news agency, Empowered Newswire, reported that the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had to set aside her meeting with a foreign Head of State for a while to condemn what she called the ”tragic loss of lives in Nigeria.”
She said, “We continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint and seek constructive means for addressing the cycle of violence in Plateau State.
“The Nigerian Government should ensure that the perpetrators of acts of violence are brought to justice under the rule of law and that human rights are respected as order is restored.”
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