Former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, has added his voice to those calling on the federal government to identify and punish the culprits behind the spate of killings in parts of the country in order to ensure justice for those aggrieved.
Gowon spoke during the 2018 national prayer rally of Nigeria Prays, North West Zone, tagged: “The Lord’s Inheritance,” held at St. Martins De Porres Catholic Church, GRA, Katsina.
Gowon, who is also the board chairman of Nigeria Prays, expressed regret that the killings had been going on for too long, even as he condemned the coldblooded murder of people of any race, tribe or religion.
“I want to appeal to the government to identify and deal with the culprits and ensure justice to the aggrieved,” he said.
LEADERSHIP reports that Gowon’s call resonates with those of many Nigerians, including other past leaders, for the federal government to end the killings and punish the culprits and their sponsors.
President Buhari had told the US president Donald Trump that those behind the killings in Nigeria were foreign bandits trained and armed by the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaffi, while the minister of defence Mansur Dan Ali had attributed the killings to herdsmen’s reaction to the blocking of grazing routes.
Both Dan Ali and the inspector general of police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, also blamed the bloodshed on the anti-open grazing laws enacted in some states and called for their suspension as a way of de-escalating the violence.
Anti-open grazing laws are in place in Benue, Taraba and Ekiti States. However, conflicts between herders and farmers have been recorded in many states, with the heaviest killings recorded in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Zamfara states.
The latest mass killings in Plateau State in which over 100 people were slain is the latest to cause public outcry. Different accounts put the number of deaths in such attacks and reprisals at nearly 2000 since the beginning of the year.
But dismissing the insinuation that most cases of violence in the country were reprisals over perceived wrongs, Gowon warned that such violence was totally unacceptable.
The former military head of state urged Nigerians to eschew violence and continue to pray to God to heal the country, the land and the people, saying these killings were pushing the nation to the brinks.
According to him, the challenges confronting Nigeria are created by those who are unwilling to change their bad attitude.
“That is the reason there is need for more prayers for those in authority to be able to deal with the problems,” he said.
“We are gathered here in the true spirit of worship; we intercede fervently at this difficult time for our dear nation. The situation in Nigeria calls for prayers and best wishes from men of goodwill.”
In his speech, the national director, Nigeria Prays, Dr. Moses Aransiola, noted that for about 20 years, Nigeria Prays had dedicated itself to mobilizing regular, fervent and result-oriented prayers for the nation.
“Nigeria is indeed a nation of destiny, and as seen in various instances in the scripture, the enemy is always out to ferociously attack the glorious destinies of nations or personalities. This informed the continued challenges we have been facing as a nation,” Aransiola said.
Jang Denies Involvement In Plateau Massacre
Meanwhile, former governor of Plateau State and senator representing Plateau North Constituency in the National Assembly, David Jonah Jang, has dismissed his alleged indictment in the recent massacre of over 200 Berom people in three local government areas of the state, describing the allegation as unreasonable.
Senator Jang, who spoke with journalists in Jos, the Plateau State capital, said, “Over 200 people have been killed in some local government areas here, including Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bassa, Bokkos, Mangu, and somebody is protesting in Abuja that I am behind the killings. So I am the person who put the arms in the hands of herdsmen to come and kill my people so that I will be the only Berom man to live with my family, or what? Does that make sense? Doesn’t that sound funny that Jonah Jang, a Berom man from Plateau State, is organising herdsmen to come and kill Beroms, or which killings are they talking about?”
The senator further stated that he heard of somebody making unfounded allegations on television, but that he had directed his lawyers to take up the matter, adding that people were playing politics with the issue.
“It is a pity that politics is turning to what it is in Nigeria. I believe that everything is being done to find a reason to incarcerate me so that I will not participate in the ongoing politics,” he said.
“I am the senator representing Plateau North. I may be re-contesting the Senate, and I may be contesting a higher position. That decision is in the making and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is working very hard to win the election on the Plateau and I am a key figure here on the Plateau. So, there seems to be a very deliberate plan to get me out of the way so that I don’t participate in any of the electoral processes.
“I just want to make it very clear that if this is the way our politics is going to be, then I am sorry to say that the democracy that we worked hard for (I was part of the G-18 and G-34 that fought for this democracy to come, and the G34 formed the PDP, and PDP nurtured democracy for 16 years), the APC as a party has come and wants to destroy it by trying to make sure that there is no opposition; they want Nigeria to become a one-party state, and I believe that this is a subtle way of destroying democracy in Nigeria, but by the grace of God, it will not happen.”
Insisting that the country’s democracy has come to stay, he declared his intention to participate fully in the political process, adding that “no amount of threat will stop us from taking over power as a party in Nigeria in 2019.”
Jang observed that the PDP did not intimidate APC when it was the ruling party. “When they (APC) won, we handed over power to them without any crises. Today, President Jonathan is being acknowledged as one of the greatest democrat; he did not argue, he congratulated President Buhari when it was announced that President Buhari won the election and they shook hands.”
He urged the ruling party to also be prepared to congratulate the PDP and hand over power in 2019 when its candidate wins.
“That is how democracy works. But when you say you want to start intimidating opposition so that you remain in power, it will not work in a country like Nigeria. We are not a banana republic; we are a nation getting to about 200 million people, the biggest black nation in the world and every black man is looking up to Nigeria to set the pace and I don’t think this is the way we can go about it.”
Jang who charged the security agencies to live up to expectations said, “When I took over power as Plateau Governor in 2007, this crisis was on; for eight years, I was struggling with the security to get this crisis resolved. Now again, it has gone into a wider dimension. We were talking about Plateau then, but now, we are talking about Plateau, Taraba, Benue, Zamfara; it is going even down to the southern parts of the country.
“The security forces must stand up and live up to expectation. If the security is saying that the matter has gone beyond them, let the President ask the United Nations (UN) to come in.”
Troops Arrest 11 Suspects
Meanwhile, the special task force in charge of security in Plateau, Bauchi and Southern Kaduna, codenamed ‘Operation Safe Haven’ (OPSH), has revealed that it has so far arrested 11 persons over their suspected involvement in their recent killings by unknown gunmen in Plateau State.
This is in addition to another 14 persons nabbed over the suspected participation in the civil disturbances by hoodlums protesting the killings.
The 21 suspects were paraded before newsmen at the OPSH Headquarters in Jos by the media officer of the task force, Major Adam Umar, and the police public relations officer, Tyopev Terna.
The special task force is comprised of personnel of the police, Air Force, Army, Navy and other paramilitary security agencies.
Major Umar, who spoke to newsmen during the parade , said, “Out of the 21 suspects we arrested so far, 11 of them are those arrested in connection to the killings in Barkin Ladi and environs, while 14 others were arrested from the scene of the civil disturbances after the attacks.
Umar said: “In our efforts to fish out the criminals carrying out attacks in some villages in the state, particularly in Barkin Ladi, we have been able to arrest some people from the scene of attacks.
“The suspects we are parading were arrested with arms, some of them with locally made guns, revolvers and other dangerous weapons which they are not supposed to have as citizens.
“Information we extracted from the original suspects led us to trace some other accomplices and we have also arrested them. And there is the possibility of making more arrest over those killings as we intensify our efforts to get to the root of these killings pursuant to our mandate to stop the killing, prevent further killings and restore total peace in the state.”
According to the OPSH spokesman, the task force was keen to prevent the attackers from carrying out their nefarious activities, and to stop them from escaping after attack.
“The commander of OPSH has relocated to Barkin Ladi based on his resolve to remain with the villagers and monitor things closely and to be able to respond faster to distress calls from residents in danger.
“To be able to achieve better results in tracking these criminals, we are appealing to members of the public to oblige us with credible and useful information. This battle against these criminals should be seen by the general public as a collective one; we need everyone cooperation to do more than we are doing,” he added.
Plateau Govt Relaxes Curfew
However, the Plateau State government has reviewed the period of curfew earlier imposed on Jos South, Riyom and Barkin Ladi Ladi local government council of the state.
According to a press statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Rufus Bature, the period of the curfew is now 10pm to 6am daily.
It advised citizens to go about their lawful duties and continue to be vigilant and report any suspicious movements to the law enforcement agencies for prompt action.
Catholic Bishops Beg PMB To Save Nigeria
Nigerian Catholic Bishops, under the auspices of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), has pleaded with President Muhammad Buhari to save Nigeria from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom.
In a statement signed by CBCN president, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze and secretary, Most Rev. Camillus Umoh, the bishops expressed shock and sadness at the ongoing acts of insensitivity and disrespect for the dignity of human life, just as it urged the federal government to proactively address the issue of the wanton killings in the country.
They also commiserated with families that lost their loved ones during the killings in Plateau State.
“We have said it before and it bears repeating that it can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country.
“Words are no longer enough for the president and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project,” they stated.
The bishops stressed that while they vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes, they must point out the double standards applied by the same police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed.
“In this later case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. We wish that the same swiftness is applied to all cases,” the bishops noted.
“Again, the country is likely to witness another mass burial of innocent Nigerians as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group who clearly seem to be above the law in our country and who, by their actions and words, have insisted that human lives are worth less than the lives of cattle. This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish,” they added.
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