The recent killings in Plateau State have evoked the outpouring of grief, anger, fear and concern both locally and internationally.
Official accounts put the number of the slain at 86 but other reports claim the figure is much higher at over 200, mostly women, children and the elderly.
This is the latest in the relentless orgy of killings that have been inflicted on Nigerians since the beginning of this year mostly due to clashes between farmers and herders.
According to figures released by both local and international bodies, over 2,000 persons have been killed in the country since January due mainly to violence linked to herder/farmers conflict, cattle rustling, Boko Haram insurgency and communal clashes. The figures could well be higher. For a country not in a full blown civil war, this number is alarming.
Expectedly, this has attracted both local and international concern.
Following the recent attacks in Plateau, the United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Gutierrez, expressed worry at the increasing frequency, intensity, complexity, and geographic scope of the herders/farmers conflict in countries across West and Central Africa as well as the related banditry and cattle rustling in the region, leading to the destruction of lives and livelihoods. He urged all affected governments and civil society organisations to strive hard to find amicable solution to the conflicts in view of their threat to regional security.
Parliamentarians in the United Kingdom have also expressed misgivings over what they described as the ‘staggering’ frequency of attacks. According to them, there had been 106 attacks by herder militias and six retaliatory attacks on herder communities within the first quarter of this year across Nigeria. They expressed worry over federal government’s failure to punish the perpetrators and formulate effective strategies to stop the carnage – beyond ‘intermittent words of condemnation’, which only served to embolden perpetrators, warning that Nigeria was at the risk of becoming another Rwanda where a genocide led to nearly a million deaths in 1994.
This concern seems to come from the ethno-religious coloration some people are ascribing to an economic struggle that has become a major source of insecurity to the entire country.
Within the country, a lot of institutions, organisations and ordinary Nigerians have called on the federal government to take serious measures to arrest this wanton destruction of lives. While some, including the National Assembly, state governors and some socio-cultural organisations, have sought changes in the leadership of the security agencies, others have called for the herder militia to be branded a terrorist organisation and treated with the necessary firmness.
It is clear that the federal government’s military approach to the herders and farmers cycle of violence has not been successful. Although, there are military operations going on in the affected areas, yet the killings have not abated, almost happening on a daily basis.
Many are worried that the security agencies have not been able to stop the violent attacks from occurring in the first place. In the recent Plateau mayhem, reports indicate that the killings went on for seven hours in about 50 villages across the three local governments of Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South without any intervention, leaving the defenceless victims at the mercy of their assailants and lending some level of credence to suspicions and accusations of incompetence and conspiracy levelled against defence and security authorities.
As a newspaper, we are of the opinion, along with most Nigerians, that the country’s present security architecture cannot safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians. The federal government’s promise to tweak it is most welcome and should be done as quickly and holistically as possible.
Whatever security strategy the federal government adopts should prioritise the place of intelligence gathering and conflict prevention.
Also, perpetrators of crimes must be identified and punished according to the laws of the land. Failure to bring culprits to justice can only lead to impunity and more bloodshed.
The federal government must go beyond its usual condemnations, excuses and assurances after every outbreak of violence. Its officials and agencies must work together to stop the country from descending into anarchy.
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