Plateau: 32 peace mediation groups condemn Christmas Eve attacks

A coalition of 32 indigenous peace mediation groups has condemned the Christmas Eve gorilla attacks in some parts of Plateau state that left many people dead, maimed, and others with varying degrees of injuries.

Recall that the calculated attacks on some communities in Mangu, Bokkos, and Barkin Ladi local government areas of Plateau state left several people, including women and children, dead in cold blood.

Reacting to the cowardly act that occurred at a time when Christians all over the world are celebrating Christmas, the group of peace-building organisations operating under the aegis of Coalition of Plateau State Peace Builders Forum expressed sadness that the peace recently achieved in the state Government and security agencies, especially Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) has been jeopardized.

The group, which described the renewed calculated and brutal attacks as barbaric, senseless, and without justification in any form, tasked the federal government and the security agencies not to let the killers escape, insisting that “those who committed this evil must be fished out, arrested, and brought to face justice.”

The coalition, however, commended the OPSH Commander and General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division Nigerian Army, Major General Abdulsalam Abubakar, and his team for their swift response and professional intervention, which it said did not only quelled the situation but stopped it from escalation.

The statement was signed by Amb. Melvin Ejeh, Executive Director, Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative (GOPRI); Dr. Peter Bot, National Coordinator, Community Action for Peace Initiative and Engr. Obadiah Muchen.

The coordinator of the Action Against Violence Initiative passed a vote of confidence on the OPSH Commander and his team for their commitment to their assigned duties.

The coalition flayed allegation of connivance leveled against the internal security outfit and its Commander, noting that contrary to the assertion, OPSH and its Commander have done well in not only securing the lives and property of people but also on a mission to restore permanent peace in the state.

The groups noted that before the renewed attacks on some communities, there was a total restoration of peace by security agencies, notably Operation Safe Haven.

The coalition advised those always in the habit of criticizing security agencies for channeling the same energies into supporting them and providing intelligence information.

The Coalition, which said it has since carried out an in-depth investigation of the crisis in the area, exonerated the internal military outfit and its Commander, telling rather than being blamed, that they deserve accolades for standing up to their professional callings, which they noted, were primarily responsible for the level of peace and tranquility the people of the state were enjoying before the renewed attacks.

 It said:'”As peace-building non-governmental organizations that have traversed the nooks and crannies of Plateau State to enthrone lasting peace in the state, we are saddened by the renewed attacks on some communities in Mangu, Bokkos, and Barkin Ladi local government areas, which left several people including women and children dead in cold blood at a time  Christians all over the world are celebrating Christmas.

“We condemn these callous, brutal, unwarranted, and senseless attacks in the strongest terms possible. We are saddened by this kind of heartlessness and barbarism displayed by some suspected criminal herdsmen, who take delight in perpetually making Plateau State ungovernable at a time when Governor Caleb Mutfwang and critical security stakeholders, notably Operations Safe Haven,  the military outfit, saddled with the internal security of the state have worked so hard to restore peace to the once troubled state. This madness is talking too far, and we must come together to stop it at once. “

The coalition, while noting that without the tireless commitment of the GOC and his team to their mandate, the state would have been in a very terrible state of crisis, said: “We want to, without any equivocation, pass a solid and unbiased vote of confidence on the General Officer Commanding GOC/Commander Operations Safe Haven, Major General AB Abubarkar and his men for their commitment to ending the circle of violence in Plateau.

“This was demonstrated by him and his men’s swift response to all the trouble areas within minutes of the attacks. Their prompt reaction led to minimal casualties and damage that the killer herders intended.

“While we must acknowledge that at a time like this, emotions will be high, people will play politics, and crisis merchants will take advantage of this, we, however, appeal to Nigerians to be patient and patriotic in their reactions, especially to our security agencies.

Instead, they should proffer possible solutions to end this circle of violence in a Plateau State.

“We are speaking as organizations that have visited the locality and have a good knowledge of the place.”

The coalition, which explained that while it was not trying to provide an excuse for Operation Safe Haven or other security agencies for the attacks, it noted that “the facts are that the terrains are not easily assessed with vehicles.”

“While not holding brief for Operation Safe Haven, as indigenous peace-building groups in the state, we will not sit and watch innocent persons be roped into the unfortunate situation in the state,” it said.

The coalition said: “We know that most terrains in the state have  poor communication network, bad roads, and high ground, which make it impossible for even any Army in the world to do magic when there is a need for an emergency response to the attack.”

“With available information at our disposal, we wish to say that due to the lack of workforce in the country, troops cannot be stationed in every village. It is not practical. 

“Most of the roads are unaccessible to vehicles; this practically makes it impossible for troops to respond with the speed expected of them,” it explained.

The statement further read: “We wish to state here that this smear campaign against the Commander and OPSH is calculated to tarnish the hard-earned reputation of the person of the GOC 3 Division and Commander Operation Safe Haven, who is a fine officer and a tested professionally, well known to have bravely and gallantly fought  in defense of our country, both locally and internationally without blemish.”

“We must, therefore, give him the necessary cooperation and support him to succeed and not resort to a cheap campaign of calumny.

“The desperation of these blackmailers shows that they have some sponsors somewhere. We, therefore, urge them to stop this madness immediately

“Security agencies cannot be in every community, and we should not expect the impossible.” The group claimed that “credible evidence from the field when our team visited some of these communities this morning suggested highly planned actions with International assailants among the killers.

“Five eyewitnesses who narrowly escaped death confirmed to our team that the assailants were speaking  French and other languages while killing and burning their houses, and they went straight to look for the homes of people from a particular tribe. 

“Our findings all revealed that the attacks have some political dimension as the assailants mainly target the houses of persons from a particular tribe where the state governor hails from. 

“We wish to commend the officers and men of OPSH for neutralizing some of the bandits, and our hearts go to OPSH  over the severe injuries incurred by some soldiers during the counterattack.

“We kindly appeal to those who earn a living from crisis to visit the communities and get first-hand information rather than quoting alarming figures.”