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Plateau State Gripped by Another Wave of Violence

December 29, 2023

The Christmas season is meant to be a time of joy, celebration, and goodwill, but for many communities in Plateau State this year’s festivities have been marred by horrific violence.

Over the Christmas weekend, terrorists staged coordinated attacks on villages in Mangun, Bokkos and Barki-Ladi local government areas of the state, leaving dozens dead and thousands displaced.

According to varying reports, between 100-195 people were brutally killed in these brazen assaults.

As the death toll continues to rise, this latest episode demonstrates the cyclical nature of the bloodshed plaguing Plateau.

For decades, the state has been gripped by sectarian strife and communal clashes that often peak during religious holidays. Despite repeated government pledges to restore peace and stability, the killings persist.

In the aftermath of this incident, the now familiar refrain of condemnations and calls for calm has emanated from political leaders.

President Bola Tinubu has forcefully denounced the attacks and ordered security agencies to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

The Arewa Consultative Forum on their part called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on vulnerable and banditry-prone communities.

The cycle continues with no meaningful change – the government condemns the violence, promises to enhance security, and yet another round of killings occurs setting off the cycle again.

The fundamental question remains: why has the Nigerian state failed so woefully to end the recurring bloodletting in Plateau?

In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the inability to stop the killings and displacements reveals the abject weaknesses of the country’s security architecture.

It also spotlights the absence of any coherent strategy to address the root causes of conflict and build inter-communal harmony.

To avoid more empty pronouncements and posturing, the government needs to engage in deep introspection and formulate policies for healing, reconciliation and enhanced human security.

Platitudes about unity and stability will not pacify grieving communities who have lost loved ones year after year. The tough work of diagnosing why tensions boil over into violence and designing solutions must begin in earnest.

Firstly, the proliferation of arms in the hands of non-state actors has emboldened armed groups to brazenly attack vulnerable communities.

The government must crack down on the illicit small arms trade and get serious about mopping up illegal weapons from the streets. Bandits, militias and criminal gangs need to be disarmed to reduce their capacity to inflict harm.

Secondly, long-standing disputes over land, resources and identity issues often lie at the heart of inter-communal clashes. Multi-stakeholder dialogues aimed at peacefully resolving grievances are imperative. Victimised communities also require reparations and rehabilitation to heal from trauma. Transitional justice mechanisms can aid this process.

Additionally, early warning systems need to be established and air and ground surveillance boosted so that imminent threats do not catch security agencies flat-footed.

We agree with the position of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III who called on the government and security agencies to be more proactive and scale up its intelligence gathering techniques because “the bandits and terrorists are always a step ahead.”

No doubt, the consistent failure of intelligence leaves communities open to surprise attacks. Proactive policing rather than reactive firefighting after incidents is urgently needed. To buttress these efforts, more boots on the ground are essential.

Police and military presence in hotspot areas should be reinforced to deter violence.

In our view, the rule of law must be strengthened so perpetrators face swift prosecution. Allowing killers to evade justice breeds a culture of impunity.

Needless to say, endemic poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities are tapped into by armed groups to recruit idle youths for violence. Governments have to invest heavily in job creation and human capital development schemes for alienated young people.

Engaging youth positively can help draw them away from the clutches of those who exploit grievances for nefarious ends.

Consequently, firm security actions, disarmament of armed groups, reconciliation initiatives, robust intelligence, socio-economic upliftment and stern prosecution of perpetrators constitute crucial building blocks for sustainable peace in Plateau.

The time has come to break the depressing cycle of killings followed by disingenuous condemnations.

Concrete steps have to be implemented to secure vulnerable communities, deliver justice and address the fundamental causes of strife.

President Tinubu has the opportunity to push through reforms to curb the bloodletting. The suffering of Plateau’s people must end now. Enough is enough.


Credit: Leadership

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