We recently conducted a fact-finding mission to Nigeria. One of the objectives was to investigate the June massacre in Plateau that claimed more than 230 lives inter alia.
However due to the violence that erupted in Jos while we were en route and continued for a week after, we had to cut short the duration of the mission and modify the scope.
1. VULNERABLE SURVIVORS IMPACTED BY JUNE MASSACRE
We met Anne (9 years) who lost her dad and step brother and sister (4 & 6 years) in the June massacre that claimed 230 lives.
Her dad’s new wife too died. She’s the daughter of his ex-wife and all that’s left of his family. Although she was in a different part of Barkin Ladi that wasn’t attacked, Anne told us she didn’t take any exams in the last session as schooling was disrupted.
Apart from being orphaned by the massacre, vulnerable children like Anne have also suffered academically. We were unable to visit his grave because the victims were given mass burials.
2. ON-GOING SEPTEMBER TO OCTOBER CRISES
We gathered that suspected Fulani gunman shot into a community in Rukuba the day before we arrived.
Nine people out of 13 killed were from one family. All were members of the ECWA church - a prominent denomination in northern Nigeria.
The day we arrived there were protests because the attacks occurred near the Rukuba military Cantonment just after a checkpoint. Security forces came and opened fire killing a couple of the protesters. As a result protesters burnt a military vehicle etc.
Gunfire could be heard over the line in phone calls to a widowed IDP from the northeast now living in Jos for safety. She was advised to lay flat on the ground to avoid stray bullets. Travelers from the northeast also stopped outside Jos town and stayed overnight in a neighboring state for the situation to ameliorate.
This attack is unusual. The Fulani Herdsmen typically attack defenseless rural communities. This attack in a capital city beside a military barracks is bizarre in its brazenness. This put the whole city on edge and Muslim and Christian sections of town were bracing for an all out conflict but for the intervention of Peace-building religious leaders.
Despite these interventions by civil society to avoid a full scale religious conflict, silent killings have continued into October. In addition uniformed men have continued to carry out mass killings. It is unclear if they are impostors or military collaborators. However students of the University of Jos were amongst those killed leading to mass evacuations by various state governments of students from those states.
Amidst the chaos, the military, contrary to their public statements of reassurance, have engaged in illegal arrests and mass abductions of innocent citizens in a supposed search for a missing retired General.
In particular the case of a Punch Newspaper journalist known to us, Mr Friday Olokor, draws grave concern. Mr Olokor and over 30 others, were randomly abducted by the military and detained for about 28 hours despite his identifying himself as a journalist and being verified by a military spokesperson.
Mr Olokor’s unfortunate travails show the harsh reality of what the people of Plateau have complained of for long. His harrowing account is narrated here. https://elombah.com/missing-general-my-28-hours-behind-bar…/
Indeed prior to this, we had investigated the case of several missing young men who disappeared on September 29. Family members searched hospitals, mortuaries and police stations for their loved ones to no avail. They approached the army who refused to disclose if their sons were in their custody. However they were released the following day by the army.
It is disconcerting that innocent people who were eating in restaurants were simply rounded up by the military for no just cause. A pregnant woman Noro Dung has been declared missing in Latiya community and a beloved Principal of Baptist High School Frama Abraham has been found dead after being reported missing.
The army is reportedly continuing mass arrests unabated. This time, motorists are allegedly being stopped and abducted by the military leaving their vehicles right on the streets.
Innocent citizens are complaining that the military has deployed more resources in search of the missing retired General than they ever did for those who perpetrated the June massacre that claimed over 200 lives or even the current attacks.
Religious leaders warned that continuous arbitrary military high handedness could destabilize the fragile peace they have managed to maintain in a highly volatile atmosphere.
We similarly monitored a report that a benefactor who assisted the military with his home for their search operation was detained by them after they damaged his house and he requested compensation. Mr Paul Barde remains in detention.
The military risks alienating the community and losing the hearts and minds of their host community by these uncharitable and insensitive acts. Indeed no one will be motivated to cooperate with them if they repay kindness with wickedness.
On a positive note however, it is important to add that some respondents were appreciative of the military’s efforts in saving them during the initial outbreak. One of our network lawyers reported “At about 7.30pm yesterday, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked the Kampala/Graffiti area along Rukuba Road and were shooting continuously. The Army responded swiftly and rescued some of those trapped there including my friend using some Hilux Vans.”
Additional report stated, “Just coming back from Gwol village were the Fulani attacked our people, we just buried the last two men found after the other 10 were buried in the morning. As a Denomination we lost 8 men under ECWA Church Jol, Gwol DCC. Pray for the family, pray for the church as it’s almost crippled, pray for 13 people under admission with various degrees of injuries mostly from gun shots. Pray for the family of the gallant Mobile police officer who refused to run away with other security personnel but promised the villagers that unless he dies, he will fight to protect them. He is the 13th person killed.”
The gallantry of the yet unidentified Police Officer is commended as we were told by several people that the army pulled out on some occasions leaving them vulnerable or even refused to intervene saying only the STF (Special Task Force) could intervene.
Additional eyewitness accounts available here https://twitter.com/DMitong/status/1046858750009663491?s=17
3. IDPs STILL SUFFERING LOSSES AS RAVAGING & OCCUPATION OF FARMS/HOMES CONTINUE
We visited an IDP camp that hosts thousands of people displaced during the June massacre in Barkin Ladi.
That massacre is potentially the second bloodiest in Plateau state this decade:
-The Dogo Nahawa massacre of March 7, 2010 claimed over 500 lives
-The Barkin Ladi massacre of June 22 & 23, 2018 claimed over 230 lives
-The Barkin Ladi massacre of July 7 & 8, 2012 which claimed 101 lives including a Senator
Interviews conducted with IDPs elicited the following findings:
i. Fulani Herdsmen continue to graze their cows on the farms of the IDPs. Although apprehended by the police, the Herdsmen only offered 30,000 naira (less than $100) as compensation which was rejected by the farm owners.
ii. Fulani Herdsmen are occupying homes of the IDPs. In particular, an IDP who returned to their home just to pick food, shockingly found a Fulani family occupying her house. She was warned to leave.
iii. A schoolgirl who survived an attack by Herdsmen in early June escaping with bullet wounds, was again displaced during the June massacre later in the month. Despite the injuries sustained and her hand being in a stent, she is neither undergoing physiotherapy nor pain management.
iv. Children in the camp have had their education disrupted from June to the present time with no provision made for them. This is in contrast to IDP kids in the northeast where even Herdsmen kids are benefiting from educational interventions.
B. HOSTAGE SITUATION & LEAH SHARIBU
1. We engaged with the United Nations Head Quarters in USA on the issue of the UNICEF midwife held hostage by BH/ISWA Terrorists. We are hopeful that the release of Alice Ngaddah and other aid workers were discussed with Gen. Buhari during his visit to the UNGA as we requested.
2. We met church leaders and gathered that they have asked the FGN to secure the release of Leah.
We also met with Leah’s parent who was distraught at the deadline given concerning her daughter.
We note that after almost 8 months since her abduction, Gen. Buhari finally contacted Leah’s family by phone.
Our investigation shows that the Nigerian government has previously paid ransoms to the faction of Boko Haram holding these hostages.
We understand that they are likely demanding both a steep financial ransom and prisoner exchange. We urge the Nigerian government to do all that is necessary to effectuate the prompt release of Leah and other hostages.
C. RECENT VOTE A BELLWETHER OF TROUBLE TO COME
On Friday September 28, an election rerun was held in 4 Local Governments of the Osun State Gubernatorial election. The previous week the opposition PDP candidate had won but the feds insisted on a rerun in 4 counties. Sadly, there was voter intimidation and someone killed and the ruling party candidate mysteriously emerged winner.
There is understandable outrage across the country for this brazen daylight robbery. International community observers excoriated the charade.
It is now clear to all that Gen Buhari’s re-election strategy is violence. Even within his ruling party primaries and rallies, crowds bear weapons openly.
We have seen voter mobilization unlike ever before including communities traditionally averse to politics. The problem though is while they are getting voter’s cards, others are getting AK47s as has happened in the last two presidential elections.
- In 2011, 700 churches were burnt and hundreds of Christians were killed in 48 hours when General Buhari lost the elections. It was the worst attack in contemporary Christendom. It wasn’t even terrorism. Just elections. We worked to document the atrocities across 12 northern sharia states.
- In 2015, we worked on the “Peaceful Polls Project” to prevent violence. President Jonathan chose to concede power to Gen Buhari after the elections to avoid bloodshed. The latter‘s reign has however been blood-drenched regardless.
- For 2019, herdsmen groups who have justified various mass slaughters of Christian farming communities have pointedly warned that there will be “war” if Buhari is not re-elected. Considering their ongoing genocidal campaign, it can only be imagined what else they have to unleash from their war chest.
D. EARLY WARNINGS
Accordingly we wish to issue an early warning concerning:
- the high propensity for all out Religious Conflict in Jos Plateau State NOW if the situation is not handled with care by the military and if the perpetrators are not brought to justice by the authorities
- high probability of mass violence in 2019 if the ruling party frustrates free and fair elections or suppresses the will of the people expressed via the ballot box
- High likelihood for execution of hostages if the Nigerian government does not respond to the terrorists. We note that all the hostages including Leah were abducted from government custody so there’s an even greater moral burden on the FGN to rescue these people whom they failed to protect!
- a high probability that all the centrifugal forces mentioned above amongst others could lead to a massive national conflict without insightful, incisive and decisive leadership to positively and proactively address them.
- a perceptible sense that many citizens are losing confidence in the Nigerian project and an overwhelming consensus that the nation’s 58th October 1 Independence anniversary was not worth celebrating.
Special Counsel - Justice for Jos Project
US NIGERIA LAW GROUP