Caleb Mutfwang, the governor of Plateau State, has described the Christmas Eve attacks on villages in the state’s three local government areas as genocide.
The governor made the remarks as community leaders in the state called on the federal government to send more troops and military hardware to the state’s three unstable local government regions on Monday.
During the December 24 attack on 17 communities in the Plateau state’s Barkin Ladi, Mangu, and Bokkos local government areas by suspected terrorists, approximately 160 people were killed and properties worth millions of naira were destroyed.
Nanle Gujor, Secretary-General of the Plateau Initiative for Development and Advancement of Natives, told the press on Monday that the call for more troops was critical not only to prevent a repeat of the heinous incident but also to allow displaced people to return to their ancestral homes.
The secretary said, “At the moment, we are in a very difficult situation. We are not satisfied at all with the situation. The security deployed to the communities so far is grossly inadequate.
“We have been saying that the government knows the strength of these attacks, but they just send a very inadequate number of security agents, which will not be able to contain the situation. It’s very sad because, as far as we are concerned, we have not seen anything to believe that the government is serious about addressing the security challenge in the state, especially those of us that deal directly with the communities because we coordinate all the community activities in the state.
“Unless they are playing a game with what they claim to be doing; if not, they should know that security as we have it now is not enough. More personnel should be deployed.’’
Similarly, Kefas Mallai, Chairman of the Community Peace Observers in Bokkos Local Government Area, encouraged the government to deploy additional security officers in the LGAs, saying many citizens had heard the security chiefs’ pledges but had yet to see them fulfilled.
“The people, especially the displaced persons, are still stuck where they are and can’t go to the communities where they were attacked. Even here in Bokkos town, you see very few security personnel, and when they pass by, it will take more than one hour or thereabout before you will see another set.
“That is to tell you that there are not many. So, the government should listen to the cry of the people and solve this problem once and for all.”
In response to community leaders’ requests, the state government has called for the deployment of extra security agents in the state.
The state commissioner for information, Musa Ashoms, said in an interview with the press, “We have been calling for more deployment of troops and other security agents to the state, and we will continue to call for it until the issue is addressed. As a government, we will not rest until the security challenges confronting us in Plateau become a thing of the past.”
Meanwhile, the Plateau state government has set a seven-day mourning period beginning January 1.
The governor stated in his New Year’s broadcast that the attacks, like previous ones, were not the result of farmer-herder crisis.
The governor said, “While it is true that we ended the year 2023 on a sad note because of the many precious lives we lost, including but not limited to over 400 between April and June 2023, as well as the over 160 in the recent Christmas genocide, from small eruptions of conflict sometime in 2001, no one could have imagined that our dear state would witness such an unquantifiable bloodshed of innocent lives, some known and others unknown.
“It is quite grievous to my heart that Plateau State has today become the cynosure of the whole nation and indeed the world for the wrong reasons. These unprovoked and simultaneous attacks in different villages were premeditated and coordinated.
“These series of attacks on our people are a clear case of criminality, insurgency, and terrorism and must be seen and handled in that manner if we must succeed in halting this wanton destruction of lives and property.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is a misrepresentation of facts to describe these needless and unprovoked attacks on our people as a farmer-herder clash, as has always been the traditional narrative. Let us call a spade a spade; this is simple genocide!
“Let me use this medium again to commiserate with my dear Plateau people on these monumental killings, especially the affected communities and the families of the deceased.
“My heart goes out to you, and be assured that my family, the entire government, and I deeply share in your grief. We will not rest on our oars but will tirelessly collaborate with the Federal Government to bring an end to these tragedies and bring succor to affected persons and communities.
“As a mark of honor for the memory of the deceased, I wish to declare a week of mourning from January 1st to January 8th, 2024. During this period of mourning, flags will fly at half-mast.
“I urge all citizens to use these days for intense prayers to seek the intervention of the Almighty God in defending our territories and against wicked men that have risen against us.
“I wish to plead with our Muslim clerics to dedicate Friday, January 5th, 2024, and our Christian clergy to use Sunday, January 7th, 2024, as special prayer days for lasting peace to return to the Plateau. Monday, January 8, 2024, will be observed as our official state day of mourning.”