As a Corper on the Plateau, I just happened to be privy to this information on the Plateau Killings. It is really hard to move about here, record and take pictures.
Exactly one month ago, a fresh crisis erupted in Barkin Ladi, where shootings endured for hours, and after calling security agencies to no avail; broadcast messages became the means of communication among innocent corps members recently deployed to the state. Kuru was the next safest location as several people fled to lie in wait till the crisis died down.
Last week, it was a curfew that was placed on areas surrounding Barkin Ladi- Bokkos, and IPAN Airport alike where bikes were ordered to stop working from 5pm. This was after little swatches of crisis were perpetrated in several villages, and a curfew was called to help security agencies identify the messy trail of bodies left behind in the Fulani Herders crisis.
Instead of the crisis to abate, it escalated to several villages surrounding Gashish district, where more than scores were reported dead in 11 villages. Speaking to our correspondent in an eye witness report, Femi an eyewitness who was privy to some of the killings along the IPAN Airport road leading Barkin Ladi gave deeper insights into what truly transpired in the Plateau bloodbath, the Fulani herdsmen mode of operations and how he was able to escape the dreaded back to the state capital, Jos.
Femi happened to be in Jos before paying a visit to IPAN Airport, few kilometres drive from Barkin Ladi where he stayed from early Sunday morning till Monday afternoon. He was quick to note that he wasn’t at the scene of the killings but he stayed in the Airport for awhile.
Femi also did well to dwell into the crux of the matter, saying the issue is neither religious nor a Fulani Herdsmen issue. “It is not a particular fight he remarked, it is woven in the sense that everyone is fighting for his family member. By family member, I mean fighting for a tribe and fighting for religious group,” he said as a matter of fact. According to him, the fight is not a new battle but the issue had dragged on for long.
“Due to what I found, I noticed that these people began offending each other right from the outset. I learnt the Fulanis are the tribe that doesn’t forgive likewise the Berom tribe. Anytime these tribes offend each other they would definitely retaliate.” Femi noted that this is the crux of continuous unending bloodbath in the State which is made to look like fresh sets of attacks occurring all over again; meanwhile it was crisis unresolved that keeps opening up.
Read Also: Buhari lands in Jos for condolence visit
“The fight began due to a sale of cattle worth forty million naira by Fulani Herdsmen. After selling the cow, some locals attacked those Fulani Herdsmen, killed them and took the money alongside the cow. Apart from that, I heard that there a lot of people who kill Fulani herders and keep their cows for themselves.
If any of the Fulanis survives the massacre, they pass the message to their families and children to retaliate.” This continuous circle usually leads to retaliation on the part of Fulani herdsmen who always take revenge for the loss of their dead family members and cows, which is their property as well. Femi went to talk about the mode of operation of Fulani herdsmen. The ways Fulani herdsmen attack is in unison at the same time.
“They kill anyone leaving no stone unturned. If they are going to attack a village, they will divide themselves into groups and start the attack at the same time. If they will start at midnight, they will start once, exactly 12am making the killings massive. There is no way to escape, so if you are running out of this village or place, you are running into another place,” Femi said.
Femi agreed with the reports of the COCIN Church which stated that the Barkin Ladi attack was perpetrated at a Funeral procession where over 200 people were killed. But Femi gave another perspective. “It is true that there was a killing at Barkin Ladi. If a Fulani herdsman kills a Christian and knowing that that the Muslims are minority, they should naturally face the herdsmen to retaliate.
Instead of the Muslims to face the Fulani herdsmen, they will interpret it as an inter-tribal war and face the other tribe instead of the common enemy which is the bigger elephant in the room. Same thing goes for the Muslims as well. They interpret every attack as ethno-tribal.”
The Military are culpable in the on-going attacks. “The Military men are after money and can’t be trusted. The military people want the crisis to last because they are paid for as long as the crisis continues,” Femi told our correspondent. The military keep getting paid for security and do not take any proactive measures to stop the killing. The military continue giving wrong facts and statistics to make sure the crisis goes on, our correspondent gathered.
Femi used the opportunity to advocate for peace. He stated that religion was brought in by the missionaries. “Both Christianity and Islam came into being by the missionaries. Before now, Nigerians had their gods.” Femi blamed the missionaries for some of these killings as it is what has continued to persist in the Plateau State Fulani Herder crisis, refusing to agree whether the land is dominated by Christians or Muslims.
“The Christians might have a higher population in the land, but that doesn’t mean Muslims don’t have a right to stay. In the west, Yorubas are quite accommodating than this.”
“Christianity is just a religion and not a way to salvation. It is working in the love of God. The people of Plateau are Christians religious wise and Pastors support the killings. You can’t be losing members of your family and not retaliate, Femi added. A concerned Femi believed peace can be resolved. However he spoke of how ruthless the locals were to the Fulani herdsmen, saying some locals willingly kill the Fulani Herdsmen and their cattle and take the spoils.
“It is so glaring that these issues are very deep. Some people will go and kill Fulani Herdsmen and kill them and take their cows to sell. Femi went on, “if the Christians soldiers were paid to kill their Christian brothers in the land, they will kill them. However if it is the Muslim brothers were paid to kill their brothers indigenes, they wouldn’t.”
Our correspondent found out that Christians just play on the media, making it look like they are being made victim, but the death toll and attack is on both sides. However the bloodbath is a political game. Femi told our correspondent that some people fight Jihad by killing or supporting with money. “In the Muslim aspect, some people believe in fighting Jihad and they must kill in fighting any Jihad.
Apart from the culpable Christians, some Muslims in this land are fighting Jihad and some people have volunteered themselves. I saw some indigenes carrying guns with their hands and the military couldn’t stop them. They were going around in search of Fulani Herdsmen to kill them in retaliation, mobilising, volunteering themselves on bikes and other means of transport to kill people.”
Femi recounted that on his journey, he saw two trailers loaded with foodstuffs being burnt however, and they were quelled by fire. He also told our correspondent that the killings were done in the middle of the night and bullets rained all through the night.
“On Sunday in Church, we closed very early; this was due to the fact that the pastor’s wife urged the church to close early after hearing 63 people had been killed. Femi said several people who perpetrated the genocide had charms on. “They are not the ones that bullets penetrate their bodies, any trial to shoot them can return back to you. Some bullets go off target when shoot them.”
Femi said the real number of people that died was inexistent save for those on the scene of the attack and those that were on the scene as early as possible. It was also discovered that the Government of the state has been avoiding the media as regards the bloodbaths.
This was what most people concluded on the course of the attack. He made mention of the fact that the official number of two hundred people killed was wrong as more people were killed beyond that number being circulated officially.
Spending the night at the Airport was hellish for Femi as he admitted he couldn’t sleep throughout the night due to the gunshots he heard all through the night. “We couldn’t find any mopol or soldier but some were guarding the place. However I expected more soldiers to be deployed to the Airport, to at least secure the place.” In end, none came for either Femi or the person whom he spent the night with, hearing bullets shots till morning.
“All the policemen that were right in the Airport ran away. It was in the morning that I saw them,” Femi recounted. He said that the Muslim community close to him were responsible for the gunshots in the air as was the only way they could protect themselves from imminent attack by Fulani Herdsmen.
He also saw some cattle escape and run past the back of the airport. Some families were spotted coming into the Airport at the break of dawn which made the remaining people in the Airport, Femi inclusive to run for their lives. However Femi found out that they were families trying to migrate.
“They took a shortcut through the airport to migrate to other areas. One person told me that people were trooping and we needed to go.” That was the way Femi was able to escape from IPAN Airport at 8am and got to the roundabout close to Bokkos to travel.
Femi said a call came from the Local Government Inspector to direct all corpers to assemble at Mangu Camp, and he was brought to Town in a military van that safely ferried him to Jos North Local Government. All corps members were then told to assemble at secretariat while others were sent to home and others stayed in Jos.
The crisis has continued to occur on the city outskirts as the roads leading into the town from Maraba Junction has been blocked. Talking to our correspondent, a Redeemed Pastor who was scheduled to travel this Wednesday morning, June 27 said he couldn’t as most people have been attacked on the roads to Abuja.
He told our correspondent that retaliation was expected as several Christian Villages mistaking Muslims to be Fulani Herdsmen have a habit of stopping cars, dividing them into Muslims and Christians and killing the Muslims alone after letting the Christians on their way.
“I had to reschedule my meeting. So far deaths have been recorded on Bauchi road where I lost some friends to the same stop, search and kill massacre by agitated Christians maiming innocent Muslims on the Abuja road axis.” He urged safety first as the better solution to the crisis and warned residents and corps members not to travel anywhere for the time being. “Travelling now could be very bloody,” he stated.
At an event on Monday, a lady also mentioned escaping the Fulani Herders crisis by a hair’s breath. “I and my husband narrowly missed them,” She said. For people residing in Bukuru, they have reported several nodes of unrest as people have resulted to keeping indoors, suspecting the gunshots exchanged as a battle between security agencies and Fulani Herders.
At Abattoir, most residents couldn’t sleep as most communities stayed up watch with the help of the age grade and youth forums. The youths continued to keep watch as they closely inspected their border with the Muslims to prevent attacks from Dogan Karfe and other minority Muslims settlements in the areas.
From the midnight of 26 June 2018 till June 27, today, everyone were up guard till 4am with clubs and daggers in anticipation of what next would happen. Even though the Muslim community agreed to peace talks, saying there were keeping watch as well; there were suspicious movements of three scouts on the mountain close to Bilgalde High School.
Communities in Jos, Plateau have agreed to stay up watch, The Pastor of a Redeemed Church on a visit to Abattoir affirmed this. “Every area now has some vigilante and a night watch. In fact some attacks have occurred in town between last night and today” He urged everyone to cooperate and watch alongside to avoid inter-tribal clashes, after visiting one corper's lodge today.
Written by Joseph Olaoluwa.
Joseph Olaoluwa is an award-winning poet, prosaist, Journalist, script writer, ghost-writer and Social Media expert. He has a strong passion for arts, especially poetry. He currently writes Features for the Nigerian Standard Newspaper in Jos. He also freelances for the Nation newspapers and is a Pulse Blogger as well. Facebook name is Joseph Muyiwa, Instagram handle is @hollumuyiwah and twitter handle is @theminentmuyiwa