February 28, 2021

How killers of Plateau Crowned Prince, others beat security intelligence

Rumours spread hours before the Wereng attack

Monday’s killers of a Crowned Prince and five others in Wereng village of Riyom Local Government Area in Plateau State might have changed targets after their plans leaked before execution.

On Sunday, Light Bearer newspaper reported a planned invasion in Plateau native communities by herdsmen aggrieved by the discovery of a corpse of one of theirs in Gero village in Jos South LGA last Friday.

Saleh Bimbi, 20 was believed to have been part of an armed group that faced heavy military artillery in Kpachudu village during an attack that led to the death of three locals. He and one other were said to have gone missing after the encounter while three others in Mararabar Dare village in Bassa LGA reportedly returned with severe gunshot injuries. When his corpse was found, credible sources said there were plans to avenge his death in any unguarded community within Plateau North.

By evening on Sunday, rumors had spread that there were planned attacks in Barkin-Ladi, Riyom and Jos South villages. Securities were deployed to the communities rumoured to have been targeted, said Mr. Mafeng Gwalson, the Chairman of Riyom LGA. However, the officials perhaps being sure the raiders aimed to maximize casualty concentrated their watch on highly populated areas.

Those who eventually fell victim of the attack in Wereng were somewhat ignorant of the rumours, or simply feeling secure, just like the officials, being sure the killers were out for large communities. As of 9:30pm, a typically unsafe hour for any outdoor activity in the Plateau State, even in some urban areas, the villagers were out having a peaceful time, with some having supper by their houses.

Four youths had been attacked at about the same time, with one killed in the community in August, 2020. The assailants, relying on the knowledge of an active social life, perhaps gathered from the August attack stormed the village few minutes before 10pm, shooting at random from house to house and path to path wherever human movements were detected.

Francis Gyang, killed August in Wereng

The villagers may have been ignorant but securities out to have cordoned all the communities rumoured to be targeted, said Barr. Solomon Dalyop, the Chief Executive Officer, Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria. Their failure, Lawmaker representing Riyom constituency in the Plateau State House of Assembly, Timothy Dantong said suggests “connivance”.

Similar reports in the past, the Rep member from Barkin Ladi/Riyom constituency, Simon Mwadkon said were ignored.

In Mwadkon’s words, “One will not be wrong to say that the securities are part of the problem. Let them tell us who is killing our people. Last week, a third class Chief was killed, today an acting village head has been killed along with five others and they expect us to keep quiet. And we have cried out loud and have even given names (of perpetrators) but nothing has happened (to them).”

The killings occuring one after another are a “siege on our people” said the District Head of Riyom, Mr. Samuel Jok.

“Just last three weeks, some youths were waylaid (in Wereng) and one was killed. Today again, they came and killed people in their homes and the others who were on their way, they killed them. We believe people that are doing this are not people from afar. They are people around us but when you report government will claim there is peace. We are not in peace we can’t sleep. Look at what is happening to the farms. They come and mow down farmlands and no one is saying anything. This is a siege on our people,” said Mr. Jok.

The Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong on Tuesday directed securities to fish out the perpetrators for prosecution. However, Governors in Nigeria lack Constitutional powers to command federal securities, hence the clamour for State Police.

The Federal Government recently started recruiting “Special Constables” into newly created “community police” units in the Federal Police structures. However, being part of the Federal system, Governors and other independent observers have opposed it as merely reviewing the security limitations of states rather than remedying them.