• President condemns incident, orders security forces to arrest situation
It was another moment of grief Monday morning in Nkiedonwhro village, Bassa Local Government Area in Plateau State when at least 27 people were massacred in their sleep by gunmen suspected to be cattle herders.
The latest is about the third in the wave of attacks on the local government area since the state government imposed an indefinite dusk-to-dawn curfew on the local government council last Friday.
By Monday evening, the remains of the 27 victims of the attacks had been given a mass burial amidst wailing and outpouring of emotions in the village.
The incident followed a similar deadly attack in the same local government area on Saturday, leading to the deaths of six persons.
Confirming Monday’s incident, the National President of Irigwe Development Association (IDA), Mr. Sunday Abdu, indicted the soldiers attached to the Special Task Force (STF), saying the soldiers had gathered the villagers for the suspected herdsmen to kill.
He said the soldiers had gathered the victims in a primary school in the village to protect them from incessant attacks in the area, adding that while the soldiers occupied one classroom that they use as their operational base, the women and children occupied the next classroom.
“How then did the attackers come and kill the women and children without the soldiers knowing. It is either that the soldiers are conniving with the attackers to annihilate our people or they ran away and left our people to their fate.
“It is even more worrisome that the same local government is under a curfew imposed on it by the state government,” Abdu said.
Reacting to latest attack Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari said he received with deep sadness and regret, news of the killings which have been described as a reprisal perpetrated by suspected herdsmen.
Buhari, in a statement by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said: “This madness has gone too far.”
Shehu said the president instructed the military and the police to not only bring the violence to an instant end, but to draw up a plan to ensure that there are no further attacks and reprisals by one group against the other.
“President Buhari is devoted to the sanctity of Nigeria’s unity and he encourages Nigerians of all groups to learn to live together in peace and harmony,” Shehu said.
The president’s spokesman added that the president commiserated with the governor and people of Plateau State, and with those who lost their loved ones, friends and family.
“May God comfort them as only He can,” Buhari was quoted to have said.
Also reacting to the attack, the senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Jonah David Jang, said he was sad to hear about the “incessant violent killings going on in Bassa allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen who have become the usual suspects in this kind of coordinated attacks in the state and others in the Middle-Belt”.
“The attack on Taagbe village, the failed attack on Nzoruvho village on Saturday, October 14th, 2017, and the most recent one on Nkiedonwhro in the early hours of yesterday (Monday), where more than 20 persons were alleged to have been killed, are condemnable no matter the justification.
“Notably, these attacks prove that the method of response adopted by the Plateau State governor is not working especially considering the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on Bassa Local Government Area on Friday.
“There is therefore the need for the state government to critically reconsider its strategy for the good of our people,” Jang, who is the immediate past governor of the state, said.
A former Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Yakubu Dati, added that the attack was condemnable, considering that the state governor had taken several measures, including the establishment of the Plateau Peace Agency and deployment of resources to assist the security agents to carry out their duties effectively.
“We can only call on the state government to reinvigorate the process that is already on ground,” he said.
Also commenting on the massacre, the member representing Jos North/Bassa federal constituency, Mr. Suleiman Kwande, called on the federal government to investigate the killings in the primary school while under the watch of the security operatives.
Kwande described the attack as unfortunate, particularly now that peace has returned to the state after decades of violence.
“The new spate of killings of innocent people in Bassa Local Government Area in recent times is very unfortunate and disheartening. The natives of the locality in the last few weeks have suffered unprovoked attacks that resulted in the killing of innocent people.
“I call on the federal government to set up a committee to investigate the fresh killings of innocent persons, including children, women, men and the aged in a primary school where they were taking refuge,” he said.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Tyopev Terna, said he could not comment on the attack, as he had not been briefed by his Divisional Police Officer in Bassa.
But the Director General of Plateau Peace Agency, Mr. Joseph Lengman, said the state government was slated to hold a security meeting Monday and would make its stance known after the meeting.
When contacted, the military Special Task Force (STF), codenamed Operation Safe Haven, said it would investigate the involvement of soldiers on duty at the Nkiedonwhro when the villagers were attacked.
The commander of the task force, Major General Anthony Atolagbe, who revealed this when he went for on-the-spot assessment of the school, said the soldiers were sent to the headquarters of the task force for proper investigation on how the attack took place in the village under their watch, especially since a curfew was imposed on the village and there was supposed to be restriction on movement.
Meanwhile, after the mass burial for the victims, the villagers called on the state government to vacate the curfew, as it was needless and had failed to serve its purpose.
They also demanded to know how the attackers found their way from the mountains to the village when there was a curfew and movement restriction.
THISDAY gathered that Governor Simon Lalong is slated to visit the area Tuesday to commiserate with the people. (ThisDay)