By Moses Gbande & Akeem Oyetunji:
• Jonathan, security chiefs in emergency meeting
BARELY two months after hundreds were killed in a sectarian violence in Jos, Dogo Nahawa, a community in the Shen area of Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State, yesterday again erupted in violence.
When the Nigerian Compass visited the scene yesterday, the residents, including the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Buba Gyang, were shedding tears.
Yesterday’s clashes came barely 12 days after the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ogbona Onovo, alerted Nigerians that some youths were planning to attack remote villages in the North Central state.
Precisely, the IGP, who raised the alarm on February 25 at a meeting with top police chiefs, said the youth had encamped somewhere to sharpen their skills in guerrilla warfare.
Tasking his aides on the provision of security for lives and properties in the state, Onovo had said: “We are aware that some youths are now engaged in guerrilla war tactics to attack more remote villages. That one will be taken care off so that we can bring everlasting peace to Plateau State.”
He had assured that the Jos crisis would serve as a wake-up call to the Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB) in particular and the Police Force in general.
Onovo also reiterated the need to scale up the quality of police investigation and crime detection, adding that the present scenario left much to be desired.
He told his audience: “It should be borne in mind that the output from police investigation serves as the input to the criminal justice system, hence the need for change
“It will involve a thorough overhauling of the investigative section to ensure that the right quality of personnel is retained.
“The quality of police prosecutors is basically germane as many important cases have been lost to the dearth of experienced prosecutors.”
But, despite the assurances, several bodies piled up yesterday in the village of Dogo Nahawa.
Pam Dantong, the medical director of a state-owned hospital in Jos, showed reporters 18 bodies that had been brought from the village, some of them mutilated with machetes.
In his words: “Those who sustained various degrees of injuries are receiving treatment, but some are in critical condition. The ones with minor injuries are responding to treatment. We can only confirm 18 dead for now.”
Besides, the Hausa/Fulani nomads allegedly set houses ablaze, hacking down their victims with machetes, while shooting those trying to escape with bows and arrows.
Not even churches and the only primary health care centre in the community were spared as they were also torched.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mohammed Larema, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), confirmed the incident to newsmen on phone in Jos.
He said the police were aware of the attacks and that their men have since been mobilised to the affected area to restore normalcy.
Larema urged the residents to remain calm.
According to one of the villagers, Mr. Longyen Micheal, who narrowly escaped death, more than 1,000 attackers raided the community.
Saying that it was difficult to call for patience in the circumstances, the Gbon Gwom Jos, however, noted that there was no alternative to patience and, therefore, asked the people to exercise patience.
He promised to take the case to the appropriate quarters for necessary and prompt action.
He admonished the bewildered villagers not to lose hope in God and avoid taking the laws into their hands.
Reacting to the incident, the state government described it as most unfortunate, condemning the killing of children and women in what it called “a coordinated attack”.
It added: “It is ethnic cleansing directed at the Berom.”
The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Gregory Nyelong, traced the clashes to the press conference granted in Kaduna by the former secretary to the Plateau State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Saleh Bayari.
He called for his immediate arrest and prosecution.
According to the commissioner, who estimated the casualty figures at about 500, the dead were given mass burial yesterday evening in the area.
Another resident, Peter Jang, a resident of Dogo Nahawa, said: “They (herdsmen) came around 3.00 o’clock in the morning and they started shooting into the air
“The shooting was just meant to bring people from their houses and then when people came out, they started cutting them with machetes.”
In January, sectarian clashes which lasted for four days, left in its trail hundreds of people killed by mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes.
Hundreds were also killed in August 2008 in similar sectarian clashes in the hitherto peaceful city.
Meanwhile, the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday tasked security chiefs to come up with strategies to put an end to the violence.
Jonathan gave the charge when he held an emergency meeting with them at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ima Niboro, the Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonaya Onovo, had already briefed the Acting President on the situation.
While admitting that it was too early to state what was responsible for the renewed attacks which have claimed several lives and millions of properties destroyed, Jonathan assured that security agents were on top of the situation.
“In the meantime, the Acting President has placed all the security agencies 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,” the statement read in part.
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