January 28, 2023

Despite strike threats, officials send aid to villagers displaced by attacks in Plateau

A woman is assisted to carry her share of grains supplied to displaced villagers in Bokkos, Monday

Government in Plateau State might be under pressure to pay four-months old salaries owed to its workers, but local officials are stopping at nothing to help farmers recently displaced by armed attacks in the State.

“The idea is to see that people who have experienced crisis of any form are relieved of their trauma,” said Prof. Matur Bernard, the Commissioner of Higher Education in the State.

“They should be able to return to their homes and continue to grow in unity, which is what government is trying to promote,” said Bernard on Monday while sharing food supplies to more than 200 families recently displaced by armed attacks in the Bokkos Local Government Area of the State.

Plateau Commissioner of Higher Education, Prof. Matur Bernard (First-Left) points to humanitarian supplies sent by government to displaced villagers in Bokkos

Civil servants in the State on Monday declared a five-day warning strike to demand the payment of their four-months salaries owed by government. The strike followed weeks after thousands of farmers were displaced across six villages in Bokkos by terrorists.

The attacks between 15 and 23 November saw more than 30 people killed and dozens of houses razed.

Officials had carried out a needs assessment of the attacked communities within days of the latest attack in Serr village located 45miles southeast of Jos the State capital according to Bernard.

The investigations showed many of the villagers were at the risk of hunger and starvation, prompting an urgent intervention, he said.

Prof. Bernard and Bokkos county Chairman, Joseph Guluwa on Monday during a distribution of government humanitarian aid to villagers displaced by attacks in Bokkos

“Governor Simon Lalong has lost sleep over the attacks and resulting displacements and has committed to making sure the victims pick up and rebuild to be able to harness the vast economic potentials of the State,” Bernard said.

Bokkos – a community of more than 150,000 residents according to the most recent census data is credited with the largest potato exports from Nigeria. The attacks in Bokkos have forced thousands of residents to flee their farms, said Local Government Chairman Joseph Guluwa.

But in recent weeks, the State government has organized a series of dialogues for local farmers and cattle herders to unite them against terrorists taking advantage of their age-old disputes to threaten communities, Guluwa said in an interview.

“These dialogues are beginning to yield results,” he said. “Thousands of traders from across West Africa have thronged Maikatako today [Monday] for its weekly market. This is a sign we are recovering but the process will take time. Our people still need help,” he added.

Each of the victims received at least a 50kg bag of corn and beans as well as cooking oil, clothing and mosquito netting among others, said Bernard.

A displaced villager (third-left) is handed a carton of noodles by government representatives during an aid distribution to close to 200 families in Bokkos on Monday

“We are expecting truckloads of roofing sheets and building cement from the emergency management agency to add to them in the coming days,” he said.

An excited resident, Mr. Matur Mambayat described the intervention as generous. Mambayat who spoke on behalf of the entire recipients assured the aid has increased residents’ confidence in the government.

Dozens of residents displaced by attacks gather to receive government aid on Monday in Bokkos

Another resident, Yusuf Usman speaking on behalf of herders listed for the aid prayed for an end to violent attacks in the area.

Mr. Yahaya Mafwil, a representative of the Senator representing Plateau central zone at the Nigerian Senate, Mr. Hezekiah Dimka pledged to ensure the attacks are thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.

“The Senator being a retired Commissioner of Police has assured that he will use his office and influence to make sure that anyone who played whatever role to carry out this attack is brought to justice,” Mafwil said in an interview.