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How underground influences affected our committee’s work -Dasuki Nakande

What happened was that we had some challenges. The panel was inaugurated but did not start sitting on time because of some logistic problems. There…

What happened was that we had some challenges. The panel was inaugurated but did not start sitting on time because of some logistic problems. There are certain things that had to be put in place to enable the committee operate from an informed position so that we can advise the government adequately. For instance, we needed a functioning secretariat. The secretariat itself needed to have some basic information especially regarding some past information and findings of some former committees’ reports. This included reports from other state like Nasarawa, Taraba, Bauchi and Kaduna which are contiguous to Plateau State and have had similar challenges. These resourced documents will form the basis of guiding the members of our committee as we can pick up from there. That was one aspect of the delay.

Secondly,  in the course of our deliberations, so many complexities came in. Certain people felt that they ought to be part of the stakeholders in the committee and they started writing petitions and of course, with the support of the Plateau State government.  They went to Abuja and lobbied and at last, the president approved that they should be included.  Earlier on, we were 17 but the figure jumped to about 28 and finally 30.

Thirdly, the complexity of the assignment itself was another factor. This is because as we are carrying out our investigations other forms of conflicts, including killings were taking place in Jos. When I said Jos now, I am talking about Jos division that includes Jos North, Jos South, Barikin Ladi, Riyom and Bassa because they are all part of the Northern senatorial district and so is all  Jos.

These things kept creating a kind of digression for the committee. This is because we had to visit some of the places, we had to assure people, including sending circulars and announcements to the effect that people should be law abiding and continue their businesses. These are some of the challenges we were having in the committee that culminated and made the committee to elongate its sittings for so long beyond the prescribed period of two weeks.

I must say that in the course of the proceedings when we saw some of these challenges, we had brought a progress report to the president. While presenting the progress report, we had also sought for an additional time. And those challenges we found on ground had made it imperative for us to also, even though we are to advice the government, we had to extend our mandate by becoming peace makers. This is because we had to go and liaise with the Sultan of Sokoto, who is the grand patron of the Miyetti Allah Association in the country. We had to see the Lamido of Adamawa and also interact with all the governors of Northern states in the State House, here in Abuja on the advice and instance of the president. Even the 19 Northern states governors had to come to Jos to do a one day meeting – all aimed at finding amicable resolution to the crises in Jos.  

You made mention of challenges in the course of carrying out the assignment. Specifically speaking, can you mention some of the major ones?

No, the challenges are the challenges of the crises that were happening as the committee itself was sitting. This is because we had crises happening in various places. That was why, like I told you, we had to go and visit some notable individuals so that they can appeal to various communities that are staying within Plateau State so that they can help us maintain the peace to enable the committee continue  its work.          

Were you surprised by your findings?

It wasn’t an easy job. This is because somehow, there were some subterranean influences into the assignment of the committee, especially from the Plateau State government.  Even for some of the members of the committee who lobbied to be in the committee, at the end of the day, they had nothing to offer except to challenge and to try to cause distractions and confusion in the course of the assignment.

Of course, the Plateau State government too, through subterranean means, was also trying to influence the workings of the committee. On the whole, I will say that the report is balanced but certain things that were not supposed to be in the report are in the report. But I am sure the government will look into them. You know, the committee is advisory; we can only advice the government. And for any recommendations we made, I am confident that the Federal Government has more than 10 reports on any items we have had. Reports can come up on a daily basis or from the security agencies. We have the SSS, the police, the intelligence community, the military intelligence and so on would also come up with the report.

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 If you recall, during the January 2010 crises or even the November 28, 2008 between then and January; at least about eight different committees were set up for the November crisis. Most of those committees were security in nature.  I am sure that the government has all kinds of reports that it would merge with this particular report to be able to come up with something tangible. I am quite confident of the ability of the Federal Government to come up with workable solutions that will bring about lasting and sustainable peace in Jos and Plateau State in general.

It is my understanding that the first 17 members of the committee were picked on merit by President Jonathan. Talking about the 11 people who subsequently lobbied to be co-opted into the committee; how did their presence affect the credibility of the committee’s findings?

Yes, apart from the initial 17 members of the committee, the remaining 11 lobbied to be included into the committee and of course, they were influenced by the Plateau State government. And, I must add that their contributions to the general deliberations of the committee, is to say the least, very shallow.

Let u stalk about the controversial issue of settler-indigene dichotomy in Plateau State. What did you find out and what did you recommend to the Federal Government?

The issue of settler –indigene is neither here nor there. All these issue of indigenes and non-indigenes are mere diversions by the government of Plateau State to deny some citizens of the state their basic and fundamental rights in the state. That is just the issue. This stigmatization is only being used to just deny people their rights.  Of course, what the committee found was that, number one, it goes against the ethics of morality and even the letters and spirits of the constitution, regarding citizenship of this country.

One of our recommendations actually was that we had to go back and look for what the constitution said about this issue and also ensure that it must be enforced. In fact, as at the time we were sitting, the National Assembly was also sitting.  In our recommendations, we said that the Federal Government should hasten to make appropriate recommendations on it, so that it can be taken into account by the National Assembly committee on the review of the constitution. This is what we discussed in that regards. It is an old thing. And we have been used to it. It is also one of the major issues which made peace not to reign in Jos. But our prayer is that something would be done about it. And at the end of the day, it is the state that benefits from it.

Plateau State has several ethnic groups. But the recent cycle of crises seem to be involving a particular ethnic group, the Berom against the so-called settlers, notably the Hausa-Fulani. What did you find out in that regards?

What we did was that we looked at the situation from three angles. We looked at the issues that are political; we looked at the challenges that are religious in nature and also looked at the challenges that are social in nature. Also, we tried to find the ingredients that are part of those challenges and try to find solutions that will be made in terms of advice to government so that government could take appropriate action.

For example, if you look at the economic side of the situation. The incidence of unemployment is prevalent in the state, especially in Jos.  For most people in Jos North, there is high rate of unemployment. And therefore, there is high rate of poverty.  Our recommendation is that the government should do something about it by reducing the poverty rate affecting the youths in the state.

There is also the issue of exclusion. Certain people in the state are excluded totally from the scheme of things in Jos. Therefore, if you are making any recommendation for peace, you have to also address the issue of justice.  Only then the people will have a sense of belonging and can be able to support government programmes and policies.

We even looked at the imposition of candidates from the political angle. For instance, during the crisis that engulfed the local government, especially  Jos North during the 2008 elections, the candidate who won the election was pushed away and the candidate who was said to have won the election was imposed even though he wasn’t from the local government. You can even see that from tribunal cases that happened for the local government elections in the state, about six local governments had been taken away from those who supposedly won the elections because they did win the elections. And of course, if other parties had taken their cases to court, I am sure they would have also won their cases.

What are those recommendations included in your report that were influenced by the Plateau State government?

These are issues that are not supposed to be raised totally.  Let me give you an example. They said that there should be landscaping of Jos as well as issues of slums and so on. That particular aspect of recommendation, I am sure that the Federal Government will throw it away. This is because it was put there just to create additional crisis in the state. That particular area was taken from the Justice Ajibola report (established by Governor Jonah Jang).

The idea of landscaping said that they were going to demolish Gangare, inhabited by the Hausa-Fulani.  They are going to demolish Unguwar Rogo and Unguwar Rimi. They are also going to demolish Rikkos. They would tell you that they are going to create roads and so on but all these are smokescreens. That particular recommendation was vexatious and it shouldn’t be there in the first place. It was just smuggled into the report because it had no basis being there. It was not that as if we didn’t oppose it. We argued and argued against its inclusion. These are some of the subterranean influences that were put into the committee.  

Did the committee discuss the issue of resettling these people who now live in Unguwar Rogo, Gangare, Unguwar Rimi and Rikkos if these areas are demolished?

That is what we are waiting to see. These challenges include the issue of compensation, rehabilitation and like you rightly said, resettlement. In fact, they just want to create additional problems to the existing ones.  I am sure this recommendation won’t see the light of day.

There is this issue of alleged culpability of the Plateau State in most of these crises that ravaged the state. What did your committee find out and what was your recommendation?

You see, our committee was not a panel of inquiry. It was an advisory panel. Of course, we will find certain things but we didn’t have the locus to carry out in-depth investigations about this or that. But because the panel itself is unique, because this is the first time that you would have all the stakeholders  who are indigenes of the state to sit down and find workable solutions that will aid government to find a lasting solution to the problem in the state. It is assumed quite rightly that all of us in that panel are all from the state and abreast with the situation on ground and therefore, in a better position to proffer solutions.

For instance, while we were sitting, there was another crisis in Dogo Na Hauwa and it was alleged that it involved the community there and the Fulani. As a result of that, Miyetti Allah had to nominate two members to be part of the committee on that regards. But the utterances of the officials of the Plateau State government didn’t help matters during the course of our deliberations. They were an anti-climax of the effort the committee was putting to come out with workable solutions that would aid government in finding a lasting solution to the problem.

Can you give us any of such instances?

I told you that there was problem in Dogo Na Hauwa and the entire Plateau State government machinery was mobilized to that place and was already pointing accusing fingers without any benefit of an investigation. Not only that, they were inflaming passions and creating conditions, particularly, through the Plateau State Television (PRTV) that are a bit conducive for peace. It was the intervention of the Commissioner of Police that saved the day because there were so many exaggerations as to the number of casualties from one side. This was done without any recourse to the number of casualties from the other side of the divide to the extent that the Commissioner of Police had to come out clearly and squarely to tell the exact number of casualties involved in the crisis.

The government also, was continuously deriding the Nigerian Army that was sent to maintain peace in Jos. It is an open secret that the presence of the military had in no small measure contributed to the maintenance of peace and stability in Jos and in Plateau State in general.

The other ethnic groups in Plateau are accusing the Hausa-Fulani of dominating them. Are they really dominating them?  

This is a laughable situation. In the first place, how do you dominate, let us be modest, when you are 99.9 percent excluded from the scheme of things? With all our numbers in Jos North, which is over a million, I cannot count five people who are gainfully employed in the Plateau State Civil Service. If you are excluded 99.9 percent how do you dominate? What instruments of power do you have that would give you the wherewithal to dominate somebody? We are not dominant in any scheme of things in the Plateau. In fact, we are victims of the tyranny of the majority. That is what we are.

As a stakeholder and former minister, why do you think that the elders and statesmen in Plateau State couldn’t nip most of these crises in the bud?

Going from experiences of past crises, the elders in Plateau had done their best to stop the crisis from escalating from the Jos division to other parts of the state. I believe that there are leaders at various communities and no single community outside the Jos division was involved in the last crises. But I believe that no matter the efforts people put quietly, there is still need for them to come and speak publicly against injustice.    

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