The Plateau State Police Public Relations Office (PPRO) addressed the roadside killing of 22 Muslims in a press statement dated August 14. The statement was published just a matter of hours after the incident, in which youths attacked a convoy of Fulani travelling along a burial processional route being used by mourners burying their dead from recent Fulani-driven attacks in the Jos area.
“The Plateau State Police Command received a distress call that a group of attackers suspected to be Irigwe youths…attacked a convoy of five buses with Muslim faithful who were coming back from the Annual Zikr prayer in Bauchi State and heading to Ikare in Ondo State,” said Ubah Gabriel Ogaba, a PPRO spokesman.
Groups representing local Christian communities quickly issued statements condemning the attacks as well. “Every life is considered sacrosanct,” the Irigwe Development Association (IDA) said in a statement. “We deeply sympathize with the families of those whose members were affected and pray for the quick recuperation of the injured.” Other community leaders issued similar statements expressing outrage at the attack and urging authorities to pursue justice.
However, the same leaders also took issue with the government response to the incident, which immediately laid blame on Irigwe youth despite not having had time to conduct a full investigation. “The police report is…biased and unprofessional,” said Davidson Malison, National Publicity Secretary of the IDA. “It’s a known fact that Rukuba Road is a cosmopolitan area and does not only contain Irigwe people. So, the prompt and swift ethnic accusation is…a demonstration of non-objectivity…and prejudice against the Irigwe people,” said Malison. Others stated that the area is only about 20% Irigwe.
The president of the Irigwe Youth Movement, Ezekiel Bini, denied the government’s claim that the roadside attack was perpetrated by Irigwe youth. “Irigwe youths were not involved in the killings of Muslims at Rukuba road,” said Bini. “That road is dangerous and many of our people have also been killed or ambushed on it,” he added. “As Christians, my followers don’t kill.”
The strength of the government response after the roadside incident stands in stark contrast to its almost complete silence when, just a few weeks ago, Fulani militants attacked Christian communities in the Miango area, killing 70 and displacing tens of thousands, including whole Irigwe communities. Unfortunately, the Plateau government’s swift response to the roadside incident does more to highlight its indifference towards the killing of Christians than it does to promote justice.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong issued a press statement condemning the roadside killings and imposing a 24-hour curfew in Bassa, Jos North, and in part of Jos South. Far from stopping the violence in the area, the curfews are believed to be making the matter worse by isolating Christian villagers and preventing them from working together to defend their towns and villages. Already, militants have used the curfews to launch fresh attacks on local Christian communities.
The international community must unequivocally condemn criminal violence of all sorts, no matter where it comes from or who commits the crime, and it should push the Nigerian government to do the same.
From the International Christian Concern here.