Nigerian women protest sectarian violence that is spreading throughout the country. Sectional and religious strife has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Grief, fear reign in Plateau, Nigerians mourn victims
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 00:00 From Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin), Chukwu Muanya (Lagos), erhemba Daka, Lillian Chukwu and John Okeke (Abuja) News - National
State assembly flays FG, security agencies over attacks
Ministry to conduct autopsy on the deceased
NMA, PSN, others seek probe of killings
RESIDENTS of Jos, the Plateau State capital and the rural communities were gripped with fear yesterday as grief-stricken Nigerians mourned the victims of the weekend killing of over 100 persons in two local councils by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Commercial activities were almost grounded in the metropolis and other major towns as some banks and companies ordered their workers to stay at home.
Speculations of possible reprisal attacks forced parents to keep their children away from schools while traders did not show up in some major markets until late afternoon.
The curfew imposed in the violent-prone areas also affected movement of people and commercial activities in the communities. The Plateau State house of Assembly, which lost a member, Mr. Gyang Dan-Fulani on Sunday during gunmen’s attack on mourners at a mass burial for the victims of Saturday’s invasion of Maseh community in Riyon Local Council, declared that the Federal Government had failed the state in protecting the people and their property since 2010 when it assumed responsibility for full security on the Plateau.
After an emergency session of the 23- member House yesterday, the Deputy Speaker, Johnbull Shekarau, who presided at the sitting, said “it is with deep feelings of pains that we converge for this emergency sitting.”
The lawmakers, who were all dressed in black, commenced the day’s business by observing a minute silence in honour of the victims of the attacks and their departed colleagu (Dan-Fulani) as well as Senator Daylop Dantong.
Shekarau said: “Since the beginning of this political dispensation in 1999, we have never experienced what we are going through today. One of us in this House, representing Barkin Ladi constituency died in an attack when he went to bury members of his constituency, who were killed in an earlier attack.
“More worrisome to us is the fact that one of the three senators representing the state in the National Assembly also died in the same attack. These are too heavy for us to bear, they are more than a tragedy. The incident is a calamity of immense magnitude and I believe the best honour we can do for our slain legislators is to put our heads together to review the state of Plateau State.”
Istifanus Muansat, member representing Pankshin South constituency said: “I fear for Plateau State, I fear for Nigeria, I fear that we are going the way of the Republic of Mali, where rebels have taken over parts of the country. It is high time the Nigeria Police and the military confess to all Nigerians that they are incapable of securing them. The loss of lives to terrorism in Nigeria is increasing daily and something urgent must be done by the Federal Government to stop thetrend.”
In his own contribution, Timothy Golu (Kanke constituency) said: “We are finding it difficult to console our people all the time, our people are fast running out of patience. It is obvious the Federal Government has failed us in this state. The Federal Government intervened and took over the security in Plateau State from the state governor, but so far, we have been experiencing more devastating attacks with the use more sophisticated weapons and more killing of our people than before. If the Federal Government cannot secure a state like Plateau and most states in the country, what is that government doing in Darfur, Sudan? This is a shame of a nation, terrorism is consuming us,” Golu stated.
Gondina Musa Sambo from Pengana constituency called on the Federal Government to own up to its weakness and withdraw its soldiers from the state.
Sa’adat Garga of Kantana constituency said: “The Federal Government and its security agencies are aware of an armed deport in a Fulani residence in Barkin Ladi Local Council but refused to take action. Now the arms are being used to kill our people en-mass. I think the House should hold President Goodluck Jonathan responsible for the ethnic-cleansing in Plateau.”
Zaina Dogo (Langatang North constituency) called on the National Assembly to summon Jonathan to its floor to tell Nigerians and the international community why he had failed to protect the citizens of the country.
Other members spoke in the same tone but the Deputy Speaker summed up the debate thus: “The violence in the state and in the country is getting to its climax. Is the Federal Government just there to supervise the killing of its citizens everyday?
“We have resolved as a House that the President owe us explanation and he should tell Nigerians what is going on. We have also resolved that this House is demanding for a state police because it is obvious the federal police have failed. We are also demanding immediate withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Plateau and the return of the responsibility of securing citizens to the governor who is the chief security officer of the state.” Governors, lawmakers, and professional groups, who reacted to the killings yesterday, said it was one incident too many and appealed to both the government and the governed to unite against the wanton killing of armless Nigerians.
Among the victims of the separate attacks on Saturday and Sunday in the state were over 50 persons burnt to death at the Church of Christ in Nigeria, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Gyang Daylop Dantong, who represented Plateau North and the Majority Leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Gyang Dan-Fulani. The lawmakers were killed in Kakuruk in Barkin Ladi Local Council alongside others by gunmen at the mass burial of victims of Saturday’s attack in Maseh.
Unofficial report put the casualty figure from the attacks at over 100.
The Federal Ministry of Health yesterday said it would conduct autopsy on the victims to establish the cause of their death. There were however speculations in some government offices yesterday in Abuja that Dantong and Dan-Fulani died of heart attack from the stampede that preceded the gunmen’s invasion of the venue of the event.
A source at the Health Ministry said plans had been initiated to conduct an autopsy to confirm the cause of Dantong’s death.
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele and President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Azubuike Okwor, have called for the immediate constitution of an independent panel of inquiry to investigate the death of the senator and others.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has condemned the unwarranted murder of innocent Nigerians in the Plateau, Dantong and Dan-Fulani.
In a condolence message issued yesterday in Asaba through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sunny Ogefere, the governor said it was high time the mindless killing was stopped in the country.
Former Governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, yesterday described the murder of Dantong and others as rude and shocking. He feared the emergence of a dangerous security trend in the country if urgent steps were not taken to tackle the current security challenges.
Through his media aide, Bamikole Omisore in Ilorin, Saraki said the death of Dantong in the hands of suspected armed Fulani had sent a strong signal to the nation that the present insecurity should not be the exclusive duties of the law enforcement agencies.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, also expressed sadness and pains at the orgy of killings and violence on the Plateau.
Ihedioha, now in Dallas, the United States (U.S.), said he was deeply saddened by the killings, which according to him, had assumed “very disturbing and dangerous dimensions and must be halted by concerted efforts from all well-meaning Nigerians without any further delay.”
Chukwu in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Dan Nwomeh, said the late senator had great plans to advance the Nigerian health sector under the National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP) and was a passionate member of the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication.
He said Dantong’s death came at a time he was most needed by the government in its current efforts to transform the sector.
Chukwu expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased, President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark, members of the National Assembly and medical practitioners.
Enabulele said NMA was in tears over the gruesome murder of Dantong and other innocent Nigerians.
In a press statement, the NMA boss said “it was with deep pain, great distress, shock and devastation that the leadership and members of the NMA learnt of the brutal, mindless, invidious and absolutely reprehensible murder of one of our most redoubtable members and a distinguished Senator Dalyop Dantong…”
The PSN challenged the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to unravel the cause of Dantong’s death and apprehend as well as prosecute his killers.
To check further spread of terrorism, inter-ethnic and inter-religious killings, the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Constitutional Review to insert provisions in the nation’s constitution to allow for the recall or impeachment of governors of violence-prone states for failing to protect their people.
In a statement it issued in Abuja yesterday, HURIWA said a referendum in the affected states could be conducted by a panel appointed by the Supreme Court on the recall of the governor. The group also sought the outlawing of security votes for governors and the President in the event of persistent security breaches as against the present situation where there is no law regulating the use of such money.