What started as a fight between a farmer and herder has snowballed into a deadly twist that claimed many lives and left hundreds of persons displaced in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
It was a market day and many women in Kantoma community were interacting peacefully when the attackers came. Invading the community with guns, they shot sporadically into the air and directly at people.
Deborah Samuel, a survivor and resident of Kantoma community said her father-in-law and four brothers-in-law were killed in the attack. She is currently taking refuge in Mangu Halle.
Within 24 hours, more than 30 villages were attacked last Tuesday, with many people, including women and children, killed. Security agents who had tried to engage the attackers equally suffered injuries in a nearby Fungzai and Kubat within the same local government area.
The chairman of Mangu Local Government Council, Minister Daput, had put the figure of those killed at over 150, but the police command in Plateau State, through DSP Alabo Alfred, said 87 people were killed while 39 were injured and receiving treatment in various hospitals in the state.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the attacks were coordinated although they occurred separately between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that while some villages were attacked at night when many people were asleep, others were attacked at dawn and afternoon while they were going about their daily activities.
Sources from the affected areas said those who attempted to escape on motorcycles and other vehicles, mostly children and women, were ambushed and killed.
Sources also said that several Fulani settlements were equally attacked. Many people and cattle were killed and houses destroyed.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that the last time Plateau State was engulfed in such magnitude of coordinated attacks was on June 23, 2018 when more than 200 people were killed in Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South Local Government Area of the northern senatorial district. It was during the June 2018 attack that Imam Abubakar Abdullahi gained international recognition for protecting over 200 Christians.
Mangu, located in Plateau central senatorial district, is one of the largest and most peaceful local government areas in the state. It is home to Plateau’s governor-elect, Caleb Mutfwang.
How the latest violence started
Prior to the latest killings, there were reported cases of killing and burning of houses in some communities, although it was not on a large scale. This paper had reported on April 17, how a crisis ensued between herders and farmers in Maitumbi community, a situation that led to killings and burning of the houses of both farmers and herders.
The director-general of the Plateau State Peace Building Agency (PPBA), Joseph Lengmang, said a farmer in Murshi community of Mangu Local Government Area had claimed that a herder destroyed his crops, an allegation the herder denied.
“Subsequently, the situation aggravated to killings and burning of many houses.
“We are deeply saddened by the ugly turn of events in Mangu Local Government Area, where disturbing reports indicate a deteriorating security situation in some parts of the locality that has led to the death of scores of precious human lives and property destroyed,” Lengmang said.
Condemning the attacks, the chairman of the council, Daput said, “As reported, it started between two people but has affected many individuals; many lives have been lost. It is not about religion or tribe, every life is important.
“People also lost their properties; hence a lot have been displaced. Many have become widowers, widows and orphans. Some are taking refuge in churches and others in mosques, while some are living with their relatives.”
He commended security agents, who he said put their lives at risk to rescue residents; and said there was the need to beef up security in the area so that residents could return to their communities.
The state chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Nuru Abdullahi, said the latest attacks and counterattacks could have been avoided if security agents had quickly responded to the first altercation between the two individuals.
Survivors narrate ordeal
The Reverend Jesse Joshua Jwanle of the Assemblies of God Church in Gaude village, one of the survivors of last Tuesday’s attack, who is currently taking refuge in Mangu Halle town, said the attackers came in groups in the early morning of that fateful day.
“As they approached the community, they started shooting sporadically and almost everybody started fleeing. Some were killed while others managed to escape.
“They burnt many houses, including mine. All my properties in the house were burnt; I escaped with only the clothes on me. They burnt all the Assemblies of God Churches. I also lost one of my church members. Many lives were lost. I fled to Halle town,” he added.
Abdulkareem Adam, a Fulani resident of Kombun, who is currently taking refuge at Gindiri, a community in Mangu, said he heard gunshots, and when he came out, he saw his neighbours’ houses being set ablaze.
“I and other family members fled to Gindiri. I lost my younger brother and some relatives,” he said.
Alhaji Koshi Dalhat, another victim of the attack, is now taking refuge in Kasuwan Ali.
Dalhat, who lost his grandfather in the attack, said two of his children were still missing. “We lost a lot of people. I can’t give you the exact number of cattle we lost, but so far, more than 200 were killed, while hundreds are still missing.”
Cause of crisis not known yet – Police
Speaking on what caused the latest killings, the state police command, through its public relations officer, DSP Alabo, said the cause of the crisis could not be traced by merely looking at those involved.
Alabo said only investigation would help security agents understand the true cause of the incident. “We cannot quickly give you the genesis of the problem. We have made some arrests and are interrogating the suspects. When we are through with the investigation, we would be able to tell you the cause of the problem. We will tell the public who were involved.
“Investigation is being done from two quarters—Operation Safe Haven and the police,” he said, adding that preliminary investigation pointed to the action of criminals, who he said were bent on disturbing peace in the state.