To arrest the drastic drift to chaos and anarchy, particularly in the embattled Plateau and Benue states, North-Central axis of the country, the Tinubu-led government must act swiftly. That should be done by holding a series of more broad-based meetings with the security chiefs, traditional rulers as well as the political and religious leaders in the shortest possible time.
The patriotic and life-saving goal is to identify the root causes of the recurring killings, to rein in the masterminds of the inter-ethnic crises that have snowballed into unabated blood-letting over the recent years.
Political officeholders should be reminded that the primary purpose of setting up a government is to protect the lives of the citizens and provide for their welfare, as patently enshrined in Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
A retrospective look at the newspaper headlines of the gory tales of killings in 2023 alone would, perhaps, paint part of the life-decimating, horrendous picture.
For instance, on May 23, 2023, the media was awash with a heart-rending piece of news. In Plateau state, “About 130 people were killed and 1,000 buildings burnt with 22 villages affected!” Expectedly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) condemned the barbaric acts and called for thorough investigations. But the massacres continued!
On June 12, 2023, another terrifying report stated that: “21 killed as gunmen attack Plateau communities.” And on June 18, 2023, 13 other people were killed in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area.
On July 9, 2023, over 100 people were murdered in Mangu and Riyom local councils of Plateau state by terrorists.
In response, political representatives from Plateau state have declared to their constituents that “It’s lawful to defend yourselves against attacks.” If that statement does not indicate the low level of confidence reposed in the police by the people of Plateau state, what else would?
As far as the indigenous people of the once acclaimed Food Basket of the Nation, Benue state, are concerned, the government as a protective father figure is more surreal than real. And there is sufficient evidence to justify their position.
For instance, on April 9, 2023, former President Muhammadu Buhari lamented the scary orgy of violence, as 400 people were brutally sent to their early graves in three weeks! As usual, he urged the DSS, army and the police to go after the perpetrators. But many months later, concerned Nigerians are still waiting for the outcome of that directive.
On March 13, 2023, the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (BSEMA) revealed that over 5,138 defenceless citizens were killed in the state by armed herders in seven years!
In another orgy of violence on July 8, 2023, an unknown armed gang killed 27 people, including mourners in Adogo Ugbaam, Akpuuna and Diom communities of Benue state, before razing down some markets!
On the eve of 2023 Christmas, Plateau state was revived as a killing field, as over 150 residents were brutally murdered by suspected herdsmen. The killing spree in Mangun, Bokkos and Barki-Ladi Local Government Areas left over 10,000 villagers displaced in one fell swoop.
Our deep concern in all of these preventable tragedies is that the previous Buhari-led administration turned a deaf ear to several pleas from the then Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue and his traumatized people not only to declare the gun-toting herders as terrorists but also get them prosecuted.
Rather, the former president routinely watched on as defenceless citizens were wantonly wasted in their farmlands by the armed herders in order to forcefully take over their land. Thereafter, ex-President Buhari would shed crocodile tears! This must not be allowed to continue.
The Tinubu-led government should muster the political will to call for a holistic investigation into the killings and the prosecution of all those involved. Any herder, indeed any citizen, caught with AK- 47 or any prohibited weapon must be promptly arrested and prosecuted. The federal government must end the macabre culture of complicit silence and appeasement of the gun-toting herdsmen, who have ravaged the entire landscape of the country in recent years.