There is a resurgence of killings in parts of Plateau state, with the bloody trend getting more horrid and worrisome, recently more than twenty were killed in separate attacks in Dong and Kwi. In a chat with UGAR UKANDI ODEY, Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Dan Manjang, blames ‘crises entrepreneurs’ and other sentiments for the dastardly killings.
Jos is in the news again because of attacks, killings, and burning of homes. How did we get back to this?
The causes of these killings and attacks are multi-faceted. It is like an octopus or a monster with so many faces. One, it is man’s inhumanity to man; and it has its history. Secondly, it is because of the prejudices that people have harboured over the years. And this, too, has its branches and dimensions such as ethnicity, religion, politics, and, above all, it has connotations of people I’ll call ‘crises merchants’ who benefit from these unfortunate acts in terms of monetary value, by engaging in arms trading from the local to the international level. You cannot always expect absolute peace and tranquility because such people would be out of business. It is an unfortunate thing; but I can tell you, outside this, there are other sentiments that are primordial. But the ones I have highlighted are actually a key factor in triggering these barbaric activities.
There was early warning before these recent. What steps did your government take to forestall them?
The steps that were taken are typical of what we do when we get such security report. The appropriate authorities – the Police, the Special Military Task Force, STF, the Local Government Chairmen as chief security officers of their areas and the community leaders. It was incumbent on the LG Chairman and the Security echelon at the State level including the Police and STF to be able to deploy their men. I can say with authority that this was done; and the communities and their residents were warned. Individuals too were called and warned.
You know, the peculiar nature of settlement in Plateau – that is sparse settlement – makes it easy for the attackers. Because the people are predominantly farmers, they settle in a manner that allows them enough space to carry out agricultural activities. Because of this sparse settlement, you wouldn’t know where exactly the killers would come from. However, in response to early warnings, they were told; and troops were deployed. You know, after the first day attack, the killers went back the second day. And this time around, I was told that they did not find it easy.
So what was the security response on this second day?
Security response on this day was better than the first day. Take note that already there is security presence in these communities. They were able to chase the attackers and killers. And I can tell you on good authority that three of the assailants were gunned down by the security men and in the process a Policeman lost his life also. Two of the killers were also wounded in the same encounter.
You see, the problem is that some of these communities harbor criminals. The ones that were injured were taken to a hospital in a neighbouring state. As I talk to you now, the DSS has been able to trace them to the hospital bed. Even the owner of the hospital has been apprehended and they were all brought to a hospital here in Jos where they are being treated; and they are already making confessional statements.
That is part of the proactive disposition of our security men which you should know.
The impression among the residents of Dong and Kwi where these attacks took place is that Governor Lalong’s response to the development was poor. What actually happened that the governor was not visible?
When people are aggrieved; when people are faced with such kind of challenges, they are bound to say things that are not correct. The context of the governor was such that none of them knew. They did not know the situation the governor was in. The more important thing is that a government delegation comprising myself and the secretary to the Government went to these communities; including chairmen of LGCs. For example, in Jos North, the chairman of Bassa accompanied that of Jos North to the community. In Kwi, the chairman of Barkin Ladi, which is a neighbouring local government area, accompanied the chairman of Ryom to the community that was attacked.
At that point, you can’t blame them! Even me, I could probably have thought that way if I were in their shoe. Even when our delegation got there, they still complained that we should have come earlier – very early in the morning! That is human nature. You know when somebody is faced with that kind of challenge, his thinking is affected; so, we don’t blame them. The more important thing is that the governor has been able to take proactive measures – and I say it with all authority and sense of responsibility that he has – that are immediate and long-term in nature. As I am talking with you, security meetings are being held, more are still going to take place, so that we can talk to community leaders, and put necessary measures in place to forestall intermittent collapse in communal relations. It is better to mediate and achieve something enduring than to give up.
Have the security services made any arrestswe?
Yes. But the onus of arrest is squarely with the security agents. As the State Commissioner for Information, I do not have such information now. I cannot claim that I have figures to that effect: may be later when I confer with the Police on this.
Some people have been displaced by these attacks, thereby worsening the problem of internally displaced persons in the state.
As at now, what is the overall picture of IDPs in the state?
Yes, some people have definitely been displaced because houses were torched. Some people out of fear ran away from their homes pending the return of normalcy; and as a result, people are displaced. Even though it is reported that local government chairmen are on top of the situation, I learnt some people are taking refuge in Primary Schools or with their relatives and friends. On the whole the situation is pathetic. Because it has not happened to me, I’ll not claim that it is not a humanitarian crisis. With the subsisting economic hardship, it is not easy for one to start thinking of resettling his family and meeting other up keep challenges, and inconveniences. So, we are working very hard in conjunction with the State Emergency Management Agency, to put certain things in place.