By Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
WHILE Democracy Day was being marked on May 29th nationwide, residents of Shonong village in Plateau State were facing attack by some unknown gunmen, who burnt down no fewer than 250 houses to displace about 1500 of the villagers. The unknown gun men were about 500. Although no life was lost in the attack, all the residents escaped to take refuge in a nearby village
Again, yesterday it was reported that the gunmen came round to the same village with a view to attacking the remaining residents who ran away but expectedly returned to the village. They were, however, disappointed when they met empty village except the fouls and other domestic animals. The villagers are now taking refuge in Riyom, the headquarters of Riyom local government of Plateau State.
The three – pronged attack took place on Thursday, Friday and climaxed yesterday when they met an empty village, which rendered their mission futile The gunmen were known to have targeted the villagers as from 9.00pm each day but changed their tactics yesterday by coming at dawn.
According to a member of the community, Isaac Kahwun, who escaped and taking refuge in Riyom, “The gunmen came as usual and started shooting sporadically to announce their presence, this made residents run out of their houses and finding a way to escape.
Narrating the ordeal of the villagers, he said, “We sent a distress call to the Special Task Force (STF) in charge of the village, the task force only succeeded in driving the gunmen away. “The security agencies then advised the villagers to quit their houses and run to safer ground because the security agencies express fear they don’t have the arsenals to confront the gunmen if they come back at night”.
Continuing, he said: “Given this scenario, all the villagers left their houses and took refuge in neighboring villages. On Thursday night, the gunmen returned and set all the residential houses ablaze. The houses where relief material were kept to be distributed to victims of the earlier attacks were also looted by the attackers, while they set the remaining ones ablaze. Now more than 1000 residents who fled their homes are sleeping in primary schools in neighbouring villages.”
It was learnt that the village of Shonong was attacked early last year, and about 36 of the residents, especially women and children were killed by some unknown gunmen.
The local government has made efforts to help the victims rebuild their burnt homes and resettle again. But in the last Thursday attack, all the rehabilitated houses and those not burnt in the last attack were all razed by the gunmen.
The chairman of Riyom local government, Mrs. Josephine Piyo who had wanted to visit the village to see the extent of damages was turned back by the security agencies as they could not guarantee her safety in the affected village.
The angry council chairman said in anger, “In the past two months, more than ten villages in my local government have been attacked, several of them have been killed and the security are here watching without doing anything to defend the people or arrest the gunmen.
The council boss promised to mobilize people of the local government to stage a protest in Abuja so as to draw the attention of the government to the plight of Riyom people.
But the STF insists they are in control of the situation in Shonong as well as every other village in the state.
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