By Ralph Madugu
‘We are not unmindful of the determination of some merchants of crisis to perpetuate unrest’- 3rd Div. Reacts
Church leaders drawn from the 12 denominations that make up the TEKAN/ECWA bloc of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have said they lost confidence in the ability of the current Commander of the Operation Safe Haven, Major General M.S Ali as well as the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Bassa Division, James Yakubu and demand for their removal.
Making their position known during a press conference in Jos, Plateau State, the Church leaders led by Rev. Dr. Moses Ebuga said the GOC “has not live up to expectation.”
“We wish to state that recently Plateau State had lost the relative peace we started enjoying. The GOC of the third (3rd) Armored Division of the Nigerian Army who doubles as the Commander Operation Safe Haven, in the person of Major Gen MS Ali, has not lived to expectation.
“The Military Barracks being and situate in the self-same Bassa LGA and within a few Kilometers radius lie under attacks for long hours and days without any response and protection from the Army – this leaves much to be desired any reasonable man would have expected that Irigwe Chiefdom would have enjoyed more protection and security presence by their proximity and neighborliness. As a result of these spade of insecurity, we have lost confidence in his ability to handle the security situation in Plateau State and therefore call on the Nigerian Army Headquarters to relieve him of these responsibilities forthwith and strongly advice that no one officer should again be made to hold these dual responsibilities.”
On the position of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Bassa Division of the Nigeria Police, James Yakubu whom the Church leaders said “We have received several reports and complaints about the disposition and conduct of the said DPO in Bassa LGA, James Yakubu which seemed to be bias and partisan during the unfortunate incidences in Bass LGA and this has necessitated us to as well call for his immediate removal as our people, and indeed, the Church have lost confidence in him; more so, that there is no assurance of any security under his command.”
On what they described as “operation of killer Fulani Herders and Militia in Plateau State, the Church leader expressed worry that some LGAs in the state have the hub of the operation of a “syndicate Fulani Herders and militia” who are usually comfortably referred to by the Government and security operatives as “unknown gunmen.”
These unrepentant marauders they clerics said. Engage in kidnapping, attacking and killing farmers in their farms, waylaying farmers and commuters on the to the farm or church or markets as well as burning of houses and displacing communities and land grabbing and also occupation of houses of slain and displaced community dwellers.
“The local governments that have heavily come under these incessant attacks include Mangu, Bokkos, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Jos East, Jos South, Jos North and Bassa. This is not to mention the approvals and open media support given to these criminals by prominent Islamic Clerics and Miyetti Allah leadership both locally and nationally who seem to have the backing of the powers in the state and nation as they have practically become untouchable even with their pubic messages in video and audio records.”
While calling the attention of the Plateau State Government and Security Agencies to rise to their responsibilities and appropriately respond to the security challenges within the State, the clerics stated that the security of the lives and properties of the people on the Plateau has continued to degenerate rapidly with the spade of killings, kidnappings, destructions of farms, thefts of farm produce, burning of places of worship, raping of married women, widows and minors adding that that the efforts of security personnel “has been bleak and largely soiled with gross suspicion of sincerity of purpose and large scale accusations of conspiracy of silence or abatement of the attacks.”
They added that as a Bloc with the widest spread across the State, it is no longer news that their members and other Christian faithful are paying the supreme price because of their faith in Christ.
On the recent attacks on communities in Bassa LGA, the TEKAN/ECWA leaders said the recent attacks in Bassa LGA, especially in Irigwe Chiefdom, where houses and places of worship have been burnt, with several people killed, farms destroyed, crops stolen and a number of people displaced are just incidences in one Chiefdom not to mention those of other parts of Bassa LGA such as Rukuba and Pengana Chiefdoms where reported cases of raping of married women, aged widows, destruction of farm lands and other unspeakable activities are taking place. They added that the unprovoked attacks by the Killer Fulani Herders and militia in our communities in the various LGA has become increasingly worrisome, even as same are being recorded in other LGAs in the State.
“With the raising cases of insecurity, we are calling on the government and the security agencies as a matter of urgency to answer this clarion call and be responsible to their duties as the security and protection of lives and properties are the primary responsibility of every government.
“We are also calling on our churches and members to defend themselves from the killer Fulani herdsmen squad in our efforts to complement the effort of the security personnel.
While calling on both the state and federal government to intensify action in this in securing the lives and properties of the citizenry, the leaders said while they await the response of the government, never again would they fold their hands and be killed in our houses like common animals.
“Christians and especially our Bloc on the Plateau cannot remain silent while its members and properties are destroyed by the Killer Fulani Herders and Militias, with no or less efforts by the government to stop these evil acts. we call on our members to t remain peaceful and law abiding as they have always been, but should remain watchful to be able to defend themselves from anyone who is committed to not only destroy your properties, but to kill you and render your lands desolate.”
On incessant threats against Christians on the Plateau, the Church leaders reiterated that there was no time the Church on the Plateau had instructed, nor will ever instruct any of her members or group whatsoever to attack or kill anyone, rather, the Church has always encouraged and restrained her members from such unlawful acts, encouraging them to abide by the teaching and doctrines of the Christian Faith.
“Before and after the unfortunate incidence of the Rukuba Road in Jos North LGA where some commuters were killed and same is still under investigation, we notice that some prominent Islamic Scholars have openly confess their intention to retaliate and attack the Christians on the Plateau.
“While we call on the security agencies to undertake credible investigation and bring every culprit to book, we are calling on the state and federal government to forthwith apprehend these clerics whose videos and audio messages are abundantly in circulation and ensure they are effectively prosecuted as there is no one higher than the law – or is the government perceiving and interpreting criminals separately and differently?
“Such provocative and inciting statements are fueling the insecurity and crisis on the Plateau and indeed in Nigeria and the world – in the events of any attack on the Christians on the Plateau by any group or person these clerics shall be held responsible and as a Church, we will make every effort to live in peace and defend its faithful.”
The leaders said they have also noticed the recent activities of tricycle riders and observed that the riders have been infiltrated by bad elements, who are engage in kidnapping, attacking, stealing, defrauding and in many instances killing of innocent passengers, they called on the government and security agencies to intensify their efforts in regulating the activities of tricycle operators.
Making a case for farmers and victims of the various attack in communities across the state, they TEKAN/ECWA leaders commended the Plateau State Government for paying state visit to the Ondo State Government over the unfortunate incident at Rukuba Road and reminded the State Government that the presence of the Government has not been felt in the spate of attacks and crisis in the State especially in the affected communities and LGAs. They however, advised the government to “replicate same gesture to the victims of the Plateau onslaught especially, the people of Bokkos, Bassa and Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Governments and to also compensate the families of the victims including the affected farmers.”
They also called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) ensure the supply of relief materials as done in other quarters stating that the intervention by the duo of NEMA and SEMA will facilitate the restoration of sources of livelihood and peaceful co-existence in the community and the state at large.
Meanwhile the Nigerian Army has reacted to the allegations leveled against the GOC 3rd Armoured Division Major General Ali Abubakar who doubles as the Commander Special Task Force in Plateau State.
The reaction contained in a press release dated 23rd August, 21 and signed by its Acting Deputy Director Army Public Relations, Major Eli Lazarus and made available to newsmen in Jos, said the issues raised in during the press briefing by TEKAN/ECWA BLOC of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State Chapter on the rising insecurity in the State was not the true reflection of what happened, but an attempt to mislead the gullible public.
“The GOC 3rd Div who doubles as the Commander Operation Save Haven (OPSH), an Army outfit set up to mitigate crisis in the state, Major General Ali Abubakar appreciates some of the concerns of the Christian bloc and appeals for calm as the Operation is working round the clock with the Government and critical stakeholders to maintain peace in the state.”
The statement however, added that the Christian body seems not to appreciate the frantic efforts the STF is making in ensuring the protection of law abiding citizens of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds on the plateau and ensure peaceful co-existence.
“We are not unmindful of the determination of some merchants of crisis to perpetuate unrest in Jos metropolis and its environs they are also bent on ensuring that the GOC and Commander OPSH does not continue with his mandate of ensuring sustainable peace in the state.
“The call for the removal of the GOC did not come to us as a surprise as the campaign of calumny against the person of the GOC started shortly after his assumption of the command as the series of attacks were indeed precursors to this latest call for his removal.
“While acknowledging some setbacks recorded initially, those challenges have been surmounted by more deployments, robust mobile patrols and increased presence of security personnel.
“We have also increased our engagements with critical stakeholders and citizens to build confidence and keep the channels of communication open. It is a fact that we have increasingly responded swiftly to distress calls to curtail crime and criminality in the state.
The Army statement reiterated that allegation that Maj Gen Ali has not lived to expectation in managing the dual responsibility of GOC and Commander Operation SAFE HAVEN is false.
The Army statement explained that Plateau State is one of the 5 states under the 3 Division area of responsibility and they have been well managed adding stating that military officers are deployed for appointments based on their competence, training, experience and capabilities.
“Additionally, the GOC is under oath to discharge his duties professionally and not to please individuals for their personal gains. The erroneous mention of the GOC’s initials as MS Ali is also indicative of the fact that the group does not even know the person of the GOC and Commander Operation SAFE HAVEN.”
The Army spokesman counseled the TEKAN/ECWA bloc of CAN to encourage her members to cooperate with the security agencies as they strive to restore peace and security in the state and not to resort to self-help by taking the laws into their hands.