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‘I blame Jang for the Plateau crisis’

There has been yet another crisis in Jos that claimed many lives. What do you feel about it? I’m sad. The new round of crisis…

There has been yet another crisis in Jos that claimed many lives. What do you feel about it?

I’m sad. The new round of crisis fills me with despair. While speaking at the House of Representatives the last time this happened  I said my heart bled and now I still say my heart bleeds. It’s my constituents that are affected. They and all they have  are being destroyed. This orgy of violence and killing does us no good.

What do you think is behind this recurring crises in Jos?

The major problem is intolerance. There is extremism fuelled by inability of the authorities to act promptly. There is even the possibility that the authorities encourage it. This last crisis, like the one before it, couldn’t have spread by the mere disagreement between two individuals fighting over a property. Officials of government indulged in provocation by what they said when the crisis erupted.

Are you faulting the Plateau State Government and perhaps the state commissioner of police?

I fault Governor [Jonah] Jang and the Commissioner of Police, Mr. [Greg] Anyating for failing to stop this criminal violence. When the crisis blew up, it showed signs of abating and the commissioner for information and that of justice and attorney general visited the commissioner of police and discussed more than two hours. They came out of that to announce that there was going to be a press conference by the police commissioner. They invited journalists for that press conference to be addressed by the police commissioner. Relevant questions are these: how was it that it was the agents of the state government that were inviting journalists to attend a press conference to be delivered by the commissioner of police who is a federal agent? Secondly, doesn’t the commissioner of police or the police command in Jos have a police public relations department staffed and equipped to handle this kind of press conference? Three; how come that in the midst of a crisis, a commissioner , instead of coming out to issue a press statement to pacify the warring factions, decided to come out with inciting statements to add fuel to the fire? Four; why is it that the Plateau State-owned radio and television continued to broadcast this statement every 30 minutes? To me, these are not trivial questions.

What role did the governor play that you find unacceptable?

The governor as the chief security officer of the state ought to have appealed to his people to lay down their arms. He never called the traditional leaders of the affected areas to call these rampaging youths to order.

What steps did you take to address the situation?

I am a lawmaker. When this violence broke out, I was about to leave for Abuja but I changed my mind and came back to see to it that we assisted our constituents. We worked with the military because the police command showed that they were biased. One, we went to the places of violence and made certain that we separated the warring factions; two, we ensured there was military presence in vulnerable areas. We kept communicating and I remember that I received thousands of text messages of distress from different communities, from both Muslims and Christians. We worked with the GOC, the garrison commander and the area commander to send military personnel to many places that they did not even know. We also ensured that relief materials were brought by identifying refugee centres which were initially 18 but later reduced to 14 and then to 11, each having 250 persons to 5,000 or even 7,000, like the Bukuru Central Mosque and surroundings which were housing 7,000 refugees. So, we were able to compile relevant statistics and identified individuals who were the leaders within these refugee camps to help us channel assistance, basically food, clothing, and mats to those affected. The issue of medicine was being handled by the common platform of Red Cross and other relief organisations, so we were not handling medicine. We thank God and the military for having secured peace in the areas. The next thing now is to investigate the roles of individuals and organisations in this crises and to ensure that the culprits are punished. Fortunately for us in this crisis, unlike in previous crisis we have evidences, credible evidences of persons who took part in this violence. We will work to ensure they are properly prosecuted. We have evidences and witnesses – persons who saw what happened. For example we have witnesses in Kuru and we have witnesses in Gero and they know the persons who did these things and we have photographs and we are ready to move ahead to bring them to justice. The second thing is the issue of compensation.  We are working with key officers of the National Assembly to table a motion in such a way that significant amount of money is built into the budget of 2010 to ensure that for the first time the Federal Government comes to the aid  of individuals or organisations whose properties have been damaged to rebuild it as a bases of resuscitating them through what they have gone through but ultimately there is need to know and address the root causes of this violence so that, as the Vice President said, this will be the last crisis.

Will this not be like previous times when panels were set up which submitted reports that were dumped?

Really, if you want to punish persons you have the police with the primary responsibility to fish out individuals and take them to court. Panels usually come up with social and political solutions. After the last crisis, we petitioned the commissioner of police asking him to cause investigation into it. Until today he has not done it. In the same vein today, the police have the statutory responsibility. Forget about the people they have been arresting from the streets. It is the people who have been instigating people to burn people’s houses and kill people that ought to be arrested. The issue of compensation: it is the responsibility of the National Assembly to put it in the budget and ensure that the Executive implements it and this is what we intend to do during the 2010 budget session which is going on. It was not done before but this time, we are ready to follow a new path.

What do you say about calls for international trial of those involved in the killigs?

I strongly support it. In fact, I am participating with a group of individuals from London and they have asked us to nominate a lawyer from Nigeria to ensure that persons who took part in this genocide and ethnic cleansing are properly prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, as a signatory to the ICC convention the Federal Government has the primary responsibility under the convention to request the ICC to exercise its jurisdiction, to come and investigate and prosecute individuals found to have been involved. It is only when the Federal Government fails to do this that individuals can make sure the ICC comes in.

What do you make of calls for a declaration of state of emergency in Plateau state?

At the height of emotions there will be calls for a state of emergency. A state of emergency is good if it would sufficiently address the cause of this crisis. The previous state of emergency did not address the root of the crisis. I was a participant in the Peace Conference convened for the purpose of addressing the state of emergency. One of the root causes of this violence is the branding of individuals as indigenes and non-indigenes. Now, the state of emergency the Federal Government imposed when Joshua Dariye was governor did not produce the desired effect. I don’t support any state of emergency. What I will support is impeachment of the governor for a more suitable person. Then, let the ICC investigate his role in the crisis. State of emergency is a temporary measure which does nobody any good.

Let’s talk about partisan politics. There have been defections from the ANPP; prominent personalities from your party have defected…

Give me an example.

There is the former Minister of State for Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande, there is the party’s flag bearer in the last gubernatorial election, Hon. Victor Lar, and then Alhaji Aminu Baba. These are three prominent people…

Three prominent people having three votes when it comes to general elections…

They carry a lot of political weight.

When they moved, they moved alone. Aminu Baba moved alone, Victor Lar moved alone. So they left as individuals, three of them.

Why did they leave?

They are free to move to any party they want.

 Nakande said the ANPP has not been standing up for its people.

He is entitled to his opinion. I can’t judge him. I can’t judge Victor Lar. I can’t judge Aminu Baba.

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