December 2, 2022

Suspected herdsmen kill 16, destroy 1,200 acres of crop farms in Plateau State

Soldiers visit attacked Wang village in Bokkos several hours later

At least 16 people have been killed by suspected herdsmen in less than two weeks in Plateau villages, The Light Bearer has gathered.

The attacks targeting chiefly farmers have seen as high as 1,200 acres of crop farms destroyed in different locations within the State.

Military authorities have repeatedly pledged to end the attacks, but none of the attacks has been followed up with successful investigation.

Rash of attacks

In the latest instance, one person was killed and two others injured in a small farming village in Riyom Local Government Area on October 10.

Armed men identified by locals as herdsmen from the Fulani tribe attacked Darwat – a village of 50 brick houses 30miles southwest of Jos the capital of Plateau State killing a resident named Davou Mwatep according to a tribal leader, Solomon Dalyop.

The attack at 9:45pm followed hours after residents apprehended a Fulani herder who grazed his cattle on ten farms destroying all of its crops, wrote Dalyop, the President of Berom Youth Molders Association in a statement.

The attack comes on the heals of a mass invasion of two villages in Bokkos Local Government Area on October 9 which killed at least one resident and injured another.

Several houses were razed in the evening attack by more than 50 gunmen according to residents in a closely located Shorom and Wang villages.

A house burnt in Wang village

The gunmen first ambushed a group of three local Pastors traveling on a motorcycle 2miles to the villages at about 2pm, critically wounding one, said a local Church official, Mr. Bitrus Allah-shibamu.

They thereafter swarmed to the villages at 6pm according to Allah-shibamu, shooting and burning houses behind fleeing residents, he said.

“They started from Shorom village where they burned three houses and killed one person,” he said. “They then moved to Wang and burned more than 20 houses after most people had fled,” he added.

Bitrus Allah-shibamu shows bullet holes on the walls of his Church in Wang

The attackers according to him wore black attire and spoke Fulfulde – the dialect of the Fulani.

He said, “Their voice signal sounded like ‘daggeh’ and ‘naggeh’ which we recognized as common words used by the Fulani herdsmen to identify their cattle. They used those words to identify themselves. If they say ‘daggeh’ and one doesn’t respond saying ‘naggeh’, they will shoot the person.”

The attack he said displaced the 500 residents of both villages except some 20 men left to keep watch.

Prior to the attack, four people were killed in a roadside village some 5miles away in the Butura district.

Gunmen who also spoke Fulfulde according to witnesses attacked Kulyas village on October 8, killing two community leaders as well as a father and son.

The gunmen stormed the village at minutes before 7pm, shooting at anyone in sight, said Josiah Mahwash, the leader of a local development association.

“From my room I heard sporadic gunshots,” he said. “They first killed two community leaders keeping watch in the frontage of their houses before killing a man and his son in one compound,” he added.

What happened

The attack according to Mahwash followed after youths from the village led soldiers of a special military Task Force to arrest kidnap suspects at a makeshift camp set up by a group of nomadic Fulani herders 600meters to the village.

“The girls were kidnapped on October 7 from All Nations Academy Dashorong which is just 400meters from the village and after the Fulani were arrested, the girls were rescued,” he said.

Youths gather by a burnt house in Wang village

Within the preceding weeks, Mahwash said residents had heard rumours of a planned attack after the camping nomads were arrested by Police and made to pay for farm crops destroyed in the area by their cattle.

“We heard they said they must fight back and we had to start a daily watch of the community,” he said.

Earlier attacks

At the time, armed attacks in the surrounding villages had killed eight farmers since October 1 according to a national politician and tribal leaders.

Three farmers were killed in Takai and Kunet villages less than 3miles away between 4th and 6th October, wrote Solomon Maren, the member representing Bokkos/Mangu constituency in the Nigerian House of Representatives.

House razed in Wang village

“They have attacked three communities of Bokkos local government area this week [including Kulyas village], gruesomely killing seven persons including community leaders,” Maren wrote in a press statement.

Several attacks in the previous week had killed four local farmers, said Marshall Sule, the President of Butura Youth Movement.

“Aside from one killed in Kunet, one was killed in Makabat, one in Nghasi, one in Folloh and another in Ryas villages,” he said.

Pastors ambushed

80miles away in Maijuju town, a village in Jos East Local Government Area, two Pastors were killed in a farm area on October 4 according to sources within the Police Force.

Pastors Pam Izang and Bitrus Musa were ambushed by armed Fulani militants on their way from an official function said one source.

“We went after the killers and took out two while the rest escaped,” he said.

The latest attacks in Riyom and Bokkos bring the death toll from herdsmen related attacks in Plateau State to 16 in less than two weeks.

Most of the victims in Bokkos were attacked by herdsmen who were maliciously grazing in their farms, Sule noted.

Farms destroyed

In the last three months, close to 400 farms with at least 2acres of ripe corn and beans were destroyed by malicious grazing in the State according to tribal leaders.

In Bokkos, at least 200 farms were destroyed despite repeated warnings by local authorities said Sule.

“These cases occur every day,” he said. “Many of them are not even reported,” he added.

Mr. Allah-shibamu said his farm spanning nine acres was destroyed in one night.

“I spent close to N1million to cultivate that farm but they destroyed everything,” he said.

In Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Bassa Local Government Areas, another 200 were destroyed within the period, said Dalyop.

Mrs. Ladi Sale, a widow for 10years said her farm in Riyom which had ripe corn, rice and millet was destroyed in September.

Women whose farms were destroyed wait for grain donations from a nongovernmental organization in Jos on 8 October

“They grazed in the farm and used cutlass to cut down the remaining crops,” she said.

Another woman in Riyom, Josephine Musa said two of her farms have were destroyed by the same grazing and mowing.

“One was destroyed in September while the other was destroyed this month,” she said.

Motivation for attacks

The attacks and farmland destructions are aimed at starving and displacing local farmers for eventual takeover of their lands, said Musa.

“They just want to takeover our land to become theirs. They have done it in several other places around here,” she said.

Sule also believes the attacks are aimed at ethnic displacement.

“What we are seeing is a possible repeat of what has happened to our neighbors in Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Governments where many Christian farming villages were seized after the owners were killed and displaced. Many of those seized villages have now been turned to no-go areas for Christians,” he said.

“This is another attempt by this wicked groups to set the State ablaze,” wrote Maren. “I call on security agencies to speedily arrest the situation,” he wrote.

General Ibrahim Ali, the Commander of the military Task Force in Plateau State on 10 October vowed to arrest perpetrators of the Bokkos attacks.

Gen. Ibrahim Ali, STF Commander Plateau State

Ali told residents during a visit to Wang village said investigations had advanced in the search for the killers.

Several pronouncements in the past we’re not followed with any successful prosecutions.