The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has taken stock of the incessant attacks and unrelenting deadly highway ambushes and cold blood massacre of innocent Nigerians travelling through most Plateau State communities and major highways.
CNG notes especially, with utter perplexity and concern the recent incident when unarmed Muslims who were in a convoy of five buses were waylaid at Rukaba, Jos, forced to disembark and dozens of them killed in cold blood. The harmless passengers were returning to Ikare, Ondo from the annual Dhikr prayer in Bauchi when they were way laid by the notorious Irigwe Christian militia.
This mindless violence and extremist terrorist actions perpetrated by bands of organized militia supported morally and politically by a syndicate of Christian elites, ethnocentric politicians, tribal leaders, and the larger population of the Birom ethnic group have now made it impossible for us to remain in different or silent in the face of such extreme provocations and insistent drive towards mass genocide.
CNG believes that the latest incident of highway ambush and killings by the Irigwe militia is not an isolated case but part of a coordinated mega plot to give the crisis a religious coloration to cause greater conflict in the North.
The Jos crisis manifested initially in the form of a political confrontation between the Berom supported by the Anaguta and the Afizere, who are among the ethnic groups referred to as‘ indigenes’ of Plateau State, and the Hausa–Fulani, commonly referred to as‘ settlers’.
This struggle between the self-acclaimed Christian indigenes and the mostly Muslim Hausa Fulani soon took on a strong religious dimension, pitching Muslims against Christians.
According to conservative estimates, at least 4,000 people have been killed in Jos and smaller cities and villages in Plateau State over the past decade.
It began when large-scale riots broke out in Jos over appointments to political offices in September 2001 in which less than one week of fighting claimed at least 1,000 lives.
After the 2001 riot, long-standing rural land conflicts were deliberately manipulated into violent confrontations with local Berom militia groups repeatedly attacking small towns and villages leaving an estimated 1,000–2,000 people killed in 2002–04
The violence in southern Plateau State culminated in the massacre of an estimated 700 people mostly Hausa/Fulani in the city of Yelwa in 2005, and according to official information about 220,000 people were displaced.
This situation led to the imposition of a six-month state of emergency in the State before rioting resumed in November 2008, in connection with local government elections in Jos. This time at least 700 people died in just two days of violence while entire neighbor hoods were razed.
Another round of violence broke out in Jos in January 2010 over the rebuilding of a house that had been destroyed during the 2008 violence.
The combined psychological impact of these riots went deep, resulting in a breakdown of trust, communication and exchange between the communities with numerous small-scale attacks, by the Berom, silent killings of individuals and major massacres in villages close to the city, leaving at least 1,000 people killed and more than 18,000 displaced in 2010 alone.
The series of violent events culminated in other rounds of fighting and revenge killings that lasted well into 2011 with at least 200 people killed between January and April 2011.
Ever since, the region has plummeted into a deadly cycle of reprisal and revenge attacks, organized ambushes and killings of unsuspecting road users culminating in the murder of a military General, Ibrahim Alkali and the discovery of several vehicles belonging to previous victims dumped in a stream.
Of late, these unprovoked ambushes, attacks and killings of road users in various parts of the state resulting in last weekend’s cold blooded murder of about 23 Muslim travelers.
As the representative of various interests groups from Northern Nigeria, the CNG has watched and studied these events carefully leading to the following inevitable observations:
- That despite the display of considerable restraint and maturity to the point of suffering and condoning several unreasonable and unacceptable actions, the diabolical scheme of targeting particularly, the Hausa Fulani Muslims living in, or passing through communities in Plateau State by armed ethnic and religious militia has only worsened and spread to similar communities in Kaduna and Benue states.
- That the main actors in the perpetuated highway ambushes and killings have been left on the scene over the last decade to exploit the huge vacuum in the government’s political will and capacity to arrest the escalation of avoidable conflicts.
- That these bands of killers and their sponsors are emboldened by the apparent indecisive action by government which allowed the situation to linger for more than 15 years today.
- That the non-prosecution and eventual release of those arrested in connection with the murder of General Alkali and ultimate discontinuation of trial and the neglect to get to the roots of the discovery of vehicles dumped in a stream that predated Alkali’s incident have also emboldened the regularity of the attacks.
- That the unguarded and callous remarks by leaders such as the Ondo Governor, Kayode Akeredolu that the identities of the victims were mistaken, confirms the involvement of certain outside interests in these coordinated atrocities to bring about religious conflicts in the north by targeting a particular ethnic and religious group.
- That the regularity of these highway murders are also as a result of hate campaigns and propaganda being conducted by such religious leaders as Mathew Hassan Kuka aimed mainly at instigating unnecessary Islamophobia across the country.
With matters have reaching a point whereby silence has become complicity and inaction no longer an option, CNG hereby makes the following stand of ours known:
- We categorically warn the perpetrators of such highway murders and their sponsors that people’s patience has reached the point where any further ambush and attack would not be tolerated henceforth.
- We demand thorough investigation, arrest and diligent prosecution of the criminals that block and kill innocent travelers on such public highways as the Rukuba junction in Gada biyu, Abuja and Barikin Ladi roads in Plateau State and other locations in Kaduna and Benue States.
- We demand the promulgation of special penal laws for the punishment of such offences that involve the ambush and killings of innocent public highway users.
- We demand the setting up of special courts for the trial of those involved in such unjustifiable blockade and mass murder of innocent civilians.
- We demand action from the federal government to ensure a permanent end to the incessant highway attacks including the arrest of traditional rulers and all elected representatives from the communities that habour the terrorists, and where resistance is shown, the communities be demolished and replaced by military posts.
- We demand full investigation into the roles being played by the utterances of such leaders as Ikeredolu and Kukah in fanning the embers of violence in parts of northern Nigeria and elsewhere.