PLATEAU CRISIS… Military Passes The Buck, Blames Residents

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has put the blame for the renewed killings in Mangu local government of Plateau State on inhabitants of the area, describing it as self-inflicted.
It said the latest round of bloodshed was triggered by cattle rustling and the killing of a bicycle-riding Wangagu man by militiamen in defiance of efforts to keep peace in the area.
The military authorities, who were reacting to claims by a faith leader – that soldiers were biased and were aiding and abetting the marauders killing the natives in their communities, however, said troops were doing their utmost restore peace across in the affected areas and across the country.

The director of Defence media operations, Major General Edward Buba, who disclosed this during the biweekly update on military operations, said troops had neutralised 94, arrested 171 terrorists and rescued 29 hostages in ongoing operations.
He said, “The Mangu crisis of 23 January, 2024, was triggered by cattle rustling and killing of a Wangagu man by herders’ militia. The Wangagu man riding on motorcycle ran into the militiamen who killed him, triggering a reprisal from the locals. We witnessed burning of places of worship, giving a religious slant to the Mangu crisis.”
He said the troops of Operation Safe Haven on January 17, 2024, responded to information on large numbers of armed Fulani militiamen mobilising to attack a community in Bokkos local government area (LGA) of Plateau State.
He said the troops made contact with the violent extremists/Fulani militias and following a fire fight, troops neutralised 10 insurgents and recovered 10 AK47 rifles, 210 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition, five mobile phones and 29 rounds of PKT ammunition.
He said the troops also arrested suspected violent extremists/insurgents and Fulani militia gang leaders in Mangu and Wase LGAs of Plateau State.
He further related that troops again on 18th January, 2024, acting on credible intelligence conducted sting operations and arrested five suspected violent extremists/terrorists in Mangu LGA of Plateau State, recovering 168 assorted weapons and 2,757 assorted ammunition in the week under review.

He disclosed that the military high command had deployed special forces to some of the hotspots on the Plateau in order to conduct targeted operations, adding that several battlefield enablers had been deployed to enhance intelligence and strike capability on the terrorists in the state.
He therefore encouraged the warring factions to sheathe their swords.
According to him, the armed forces would destroy the cancer of terrorism that is ravaging the country and creating situations such as is ongoing in the Plateau State.
“The situation of insecurity that we are confronted with is self-inflicted by our own citizens. Nevertheless, it is our duty to protect the citizens and create a safe environment for them to have a prosperous future,” he said.
He said the military is aware that insurgency has contributed to make life worse for many citizens in the North East, North West, North Central and South East geopolitical zones.

Recently in the North Central, he said, tension broke out in Mangu on January 24 morning, escalated and resulted in the breakdown of law and order in Mangu town and adjoining communities.
He said the crisis which started from Gangaran Kwata escalated to other parts of Mangu LGA despite concerted efforts by troops deployed to the general area to restore normalcy.

“We are redoubling our efforts to ensure the citizens live in a peaceful environment and have a prosperous life. This is achievable and we are focused on achieving it,” he said.
While calling for citizens’ support, he said terrorists and their cohorts exist for the sake of war and must be eliminated for the sake of peace.
“All hands must be on deck, in our villages, communities and environments to ensure that the security forces are supported with necessary information to win this war. We also urge trusted voices by the people to use their voices for good and not for evil. There is a need to stop the bleeding and commence the healing,” he said.
The DHQ, however, denied reports of troops’ bias on the Plateau and cautioned religious leaders against making malicious statements against the military.

The acting director of Defence Information Brig-Gen Tukur Gusau stated this while reacting to a viral video of the chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Mangu Chapter, Rev. Timothy Daluk, accusing the military of supervising the killings in Plateau State.
He said the video aims to malign military personnel deployed to address the security challenges in the Mangu general area by what he termed “baseless and untrue accusations, claiming that the military is biased and supports a particular group against others.”

“We categorically state that these accusations hold no truth, are malicious and lack any reasonable foundation,” he said.
The statement recalled that there was a breach of security in the Mangu municipal area on 23 January, 2024, resulting in the government of Plateau State declaring a 24-hour curfew.
Consequently, troops of Operation Safe Haven were reinforced in Mangu to enforce the curfew and bring the situation under control, thereby preventing its spread to other areas.

He said the troops carried out their duties professionally and in accordance with the rules of engagement, adding that they successfully recovered weapons and arrested criminals involved in looting and burning of properties.
“It is deeply disturbing that a religious leader, who is expected to demonstrate high levels of moral judgement and truthfulness, has resorted to spreading falsehoods about the military and its personnel. “We want to reiterate that the military remains neutral, focused, professional and committed to its constitutional role of protecting the lives and property of law-abiding citizens. We will deal with anybody found disobeying the law, without bias or prejudice,” he said.

Police Warn Faith Leaders Against Escalation Of Crisis
Meanwhile, Plateau State Police Command has paraded 17 suspects in connection with the killings in Mangu and Bokkos local government area on Christmas Eve and the killings on Monday this week in some communities in Mangu LGA.
The AIG in charge of zone 4 Ebong Eyibio made the disclosure when he paraded the suspect before newsmen at the Police Headquarters in Jos yesterday.
Represented by the command’s public relations officer (PPRO), DSP Alfred Alabo, the AIG warned religious leaders against escalating the situation.

He said, “We call on the leadership of both faiths to call their followers to order and ensure total compliance with the government-imposed curfew. Both parties have promised to comply in the interest of peace in their communities. So far, over 10 corpses have been recovered from various locations, two injured persons are currently receiving treatment at the hospital, while one car and 10 houses were burnt down.”
The AIG said in order to strengthen the existing security architecture in Mangu LGA and ensure compliance with the curfew imposed by the government and prevent further escalation of the incident which is almost snowballing into an ethno religious crises, he ordered the deployment of additional Special Intervention personnel to Mangu LGA to be commanded by the area commander, Pankshin, to restore normalcy in that area.
“The command is grateful to inform you that the situation, as at today, is under control and, so far, nine suspects have been arrested. Exhibits recovered from them include dangerous weapons, such as machetes, kegs containing petrol, and other items. The area remains highly secured by security forces and strict compliance to the curfew is being complied with.”

The AIG said the command repelled an attack on villages in Mangu LGA on Wednesday after receiving intelligence concerning an attack which was targeted on the Ntam community and the ASTC Company, both in Mangu LGA.
According to him, the team of police officers from the IGP Special Intervention Squad stationed at the ASTC in conjunction with the Area Commander Pankshin and the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) swung into action and thwarted the attempted attack.
He said in a separate incident, an attempt by some criminal arsonists in Panyam District to set fire on some worship centres was prevented by the swift intervention from the police and with help from some elders of the community.

He further stated that a delegation from the Plateau State government led by the Security Adviser to the Governor, heads of other security agencies, and leaders from both the Christian and Muslim communities, gathered at the Mangu Township Stadium and the Miskam Mwaghavul Palace in Mangu to deliberate and chart a way forward to put a stop to the menace.
AIG Eyibio also disclosed that eight suspects were arrested from the December 24, 2023 attack and nine suspects in connection with the recent attacks in the state.
He urged the public to remain calm and cooperate with the security agencies as they are working tirelessly to maintain peace and order in the region.

Security Agents Not Proactive, Says Atiku
Meanwhile, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has bemoaned the recurring cycle of violence in Plateau State, saying the apparent lack of proactiveness on the part of security agents was a matter of grave concern.
Reacting to the orgy of violence in the north central state, the former presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said he was saddened by the violence and killings, describing it as a direct affront to the values of peace and unity.
Atiku, who took to his verified X (formerly Twitter) handle yesterday, therefore, called on security agencies to exhibit a higher degree of proactiveness, particularly in the light of the recurring incidents of banditry in Plateau State and across various parts of the country.

He wrote: “I am deeply saddened by the violence and killings in the Mangu local government of Plateau State despite the imposition of a 24-hour curfew. This heinous act of violence, where innocent lives are being brutally snatched away, homes set ablaze, and communities thrown into chaos, is a direct affront to the values of peace and unity that we hold dear.
“It is imperative that our security agencies exhibit a higher degree of proactiveness, particularly in light of the recurring incidents of banditry in Plateau and across various parts of the country. The apparent lack of anticipation and preventive measures against such crises is a matter of grave concern. It is high time that our security forces rose to the occasion, ensuring the safety and well-being of our citizens.

“Even as I call for peace, I stand in solidarity with the victims and their families during this difficult time. Let us all come together to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated. -AA.”

Nigeria Security Challenges Severe – Blinken

Also yesterday, visiting United States (US) Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said the challenges posed by insecurity in Nigeria are severe and requires a coordinated approach to address.

Blinken said this in an interview with Dr. John Momoh of Channels Television on Wednesday as part of the activities in visit of the top US official to Nigeria, who is on a four-nation tour of Cape Verde, Cote D’ Ivoire, Nigeria and Angola.

According to Blinken, the US-Nigeria security collaborations, especially in combating terrorism and regional instability, must be firm especially on building the capacity of the Nigerian security forces to combat the scourge so that economic and development efforts in Nigeria can thrive.

He said, “I think the challenge there is acute, and we can’t minimize it. But we’re also determined to proceed in partnership with Nigeria in meeting that challenge. Now, it has to be – and I believe it is – a comprehensive approach. Of course, there’s the hard security part of this. And so things that we’re doing in terms of building capacity in Nigeria among the security forces, the military, equipment, technology, intelligence, information sharing – all of those kinds of things are very important.

“But also important is taking a comprehensive approach if you’re really going to be effective, for example, in dealing with extremism or terrorism. The relationship between security forces and the communities that they are supposed to be protecting is critically important. Making sure that the forces are there looking out for the people, not enabling or doing bad things to the people – that’s hugely important.”

He also pointed out the importance of looking at some of the root causes that may be pushing people or driving people to take up crime or to engage in extremism or terrorism and the need to find ways to create more opportunity for people throughout the country, so that they can believe in the future and can put bread on the table for their families.

He described Nigeria as the largest economy and largest democracy in Africa, which are important factors in strengthening the partnership with the United States, adding that his country is interested in “investing in knowledge, in transferring knowledge, in sharing techniques, in sharing understanding.”

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