Death and Destruction in Jos: Hundreds of People Have Been Killed in Yet Another Round of Inter-Ethnic Violence in Nigeria's Plateau State, despite the Availability of Intelligence That Could Have Forestalled the Tragic Deaths

By Obayiuwana, Osasu | New African, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Death and Destruction in Jos: Hundreds of People Have Been Killed in Yet Another Round of Inter-Ethnic Violence in Nigeria's Plateau State, despite the Availability of Intelligence That Could Have Forestalled the Tragic Deaths


Obayiuwana, Osasu, New African


THE POLITICAL AND ETHNIC tinderbox that is the Northern Nigerian city of Jos erupted in another deadly round of violence on 7 March, leaving 500 people dead, according to Plateau State government officials. It is the third time in 16 months that death and destruction has been wrought in the once sedate city, after the carnage of November 2008, which left 350 people dead and over 1,000 cars and houses destroyed.

The latest round of conflict, between the indigenous Berom people of Jos, mainly of Christian stock, and the Muslim Fulani settlers, started in Dogon Na Hauwa village, on the outskirts of the metropolis. Marauding Fulani cattle herders attacked the village at about 2.30am, whilst the people slept. The carnage reportedly lasted--according to the villagers--for about two hours, with the killers using guns and machetes on their victims. The mayhem spread to the nearby Ratsat and Jeji villages, and those who attempted to flee were caught and burned alive.

"The shooting was just meant to bring the people out of their houses and when they did, the assailants cut them down with machetes," Peter Jang, one of the residents of the village, told Reuters. Eye witnesses described how the villages were strewn with decapitated bodies, which had to be given a mass burial. Many relatives of the dead were unable to identify their loved ones before burial.

The deaths did not escape the attention of the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, during his weekly general audience in faraway Rome on 10 March. Describing the deaths as "atrocious", the Pope poignantly observed that "defenceless children" were also casualties of the massacre.

Ikechukwu Aduba, the Plateau State's acting commissioner of police, has said his men have since arrested a number of people who have confessed their involvement in the killings. "We arrested 49 Fulani people immediately after the attacks," Commissioner Aduba disclosed. "In their statements, they have confessed that they were on a revenge mission [for the death of Fulani people in a previous conflict]. They will be charged with conspiracy and culpable homicide." But Aduba put the official death toll at 109 killed, in contrast to the Plateau State government's figure of 500.

As hundreds of mourning women from Plateau State, all dressed in black, marched to Nigeria's National Assembly on 11 March, to demand justice for their murdered husbands and children (a similar march was organised in Jos), the Plateau State government and the army commander in Jos were engaged in a war of words over alleged security lapses that failed to nip the attack in the bud.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Jonah Jang, the governor of Plateau State, accused the Nigerian Army of failing to act on the warnings he had given. Jang, a retired air force officer and a former military state governor, received reports of sightings of armed people moving about the villages at about 9pm on 6 March.

He claimed he notified Major-Gen Saleh Maina, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the Nigerian Army's 3rd Armoured Division, in expectation that he would deploy troops to the trouble spot.

According to Jang, Major-Gen Maina told him he was going to move some troops there. "And because it is near where I live," Jang continued, "I even saw a tank pass by my house and I thought it was going towards that area. Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call [saying] that they had started burning the villages and people were being hacked to death. I tried to locate the commanders, but I couldn't get any of them on the telephone. The massacre could have been avoided if they had acted on my report."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Maina, aware that Jang's statement could land him in deep trouble with the federal government, wasted no time in denying the governor's claim. He said he received no communication from Jang and the telephone text messages that his men received, which they subsequently acted upon--without disclosing the origin of the messages--were "misleading". …

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Death and Destruction in Jos: Hundreds of People Have Been Killed in Yet Another Round of Inter-Ethnic Violence in Nigeria's Plateau State, despite the Availability of Intelligence That Could Have Forestalled the Tragic Deaths
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