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Plateau Attacks Are Pure Terrorism, Not Caused By Farmer-Herders Clashes Nor Religion, Says Governor Mutfwang

“The attacks were meant to be on a monumental scale, I think they were only able to achieve less than 20% of their intended mission.”

Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang has said that the attacks that occurred in the state which started on Christmas Eve were not caused by religious acts or a clash between farmers and herders, that they were simply a pure act of terrorism and gruesome murders.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Tuesday, the governor spoke about the terrorist operation that took place in Plateau State, where gunmen began the attacks on Saturday. These attacks then went on into Sunday, with a lot of people killed and hundreds of people displaced from their community.

Mutfwang, while recounting the attacks, said, “It’s been a great tragedy. What have we done to be able to get to this point before this current crisis? We resorted to both kinetic and non-kinetic strategies. For the non-kinetic, we got into a lot of community engagements trying to unravel remote and immediate causes of the crisis. We’ve been able to sit down with various levels, with the community leaders and that worked. It worked to a large extent because they saw our sincerity. They saw our determination to change the narrative, that we didn’t just come to have these discussions as usual just for political correctness. We were able to get to some of the issues that really touch and affect people.

“But I must say that this recent action has nothing to do with farmers-herders clash, has nothing to do with religion, this is pure criminality, this is pure terrorism, this is just gruesome murder on the eve of a revered day of remembrance. It’s quite unfortunate, but we will continue these engagements and also explore other ways by which we can be able to bring the situation under control.”

Mutfwang addressed the fact that the ‘terrorists’, as he called them, had been operating even before he was sworn in as governor, and steps had been taking to quell these attacks “Before I was sworn in, these terrorists descended on Mangu Local Government, where I come from, which, hitherto, had been one of the most peaceful in the state. And continually did the Local Government and my deputy in Riyom, and of course, Barakin Ladi, Bokkos. We worked assiduously.

“When I saw Mr. President, he gave marching orders to the security agencies on ground which was what brought the Chef of Army Staff, the Chief of Defence staff, the Inspector General of Police, they all came over to the scene of the crisis of Plateau, and I will say that the collaboration did yield positive results, because you would agree that we haven’t been so much in the news in the last couple of months for the reasons of this insurgency and terrorism. Unfortunately, while we were preparing for Christmas, these terrorists, these criminals, descended on our people again in various communities.”

While he said that the full statistics of the victims the attacks had brought about, Mutfwang said, “I regret to inform you that as at this morning, we probably have had a harvest of deaths in excess of 100. We have buried not less than 15 people in Mangu Local Government, and in Bokkos, it’s 100 and still counting, minus those who are missing, and we cannot account for at this moment. Also, not less that seventeen communities have been completely burned down, those who survived are presently in IDP, in a temporary IDP camp, particularly in Bokkos.” He said that as soon as everyone is accounted for and all information is gathered appropriately, the Plateau government will release the proper statistics to the public.

Addressing the seeming lack of security responses to the communities, the governor said, “I think the way these particular attacks were coordinated was meant to really be on a monumental scale. At a point, we had distress calls from no less than 36 communities, and even though some of the reinforcements came a bit late, certainly, the responses were able to push back these terrorists, that what we are having now, as bad as it is, we can even say it is damage limitation. There are many reasons for the slow response of security agencies. Part is the channel of dissemination, part is the terrain from which these distress calls are coming, and sometimes, when you have achieved relative peace, it’s natural that you can relax. And so, these terrorists looked for ungoverned areas where the security deployment was a bit light or absent, and that was where they started these attacks from. And before we were able to get these reinforcements to the right places, a lot of damage had been done.

“I want to be very honest that the GOC particularly, who commands both the 3rd Armor Division and the STL, I think with the kind of support he has from the army headquarters, he has been up and doing and making sure that the forces on ground do their jobs diligently. But again, we’re humans, you can expect that from time to time, there could be some bits of lapses here and there. But the magnitudes of these attacks, the scale of which they were planned from the intelligence available to us, I think they were only able to achieve probably less than 20% of their intended mission.”

Mutfwang then said that his government has begun to make provisions for the surviving victims, saying, “Quite a number of people are in hospitals, including soldiers that have been wounded. We are taking responsibility to ensure that they do not lack medical assistance. At the moment, our highest concentration of displaced people is Bokkos, and we have opened a temporary IDP camp where we are providing the succour we can provide in the immediate. But we must be able to do more than that. We hope that in the couple of days, we will be able to access some of the villages that have less impact, whether with more security presence, we can persuade the people to go back, so that we can concentrate on the really really affected people.

“For us, we have activated all our emergency management apparatus, and we have also been contacted by NEMA. I think by today, NEMA will come in for an assessment of the situation, and we will be able to harvest all the assets on ground so that we can work in synergy to make sure that the victims are comforted. And then we can be able to make sure that also, the security personnel on ground, that they are able to continue in pushing back these criminal elements, because at this moment, we cannot fold our hands and think it is over. We must be on red alert because they can spring forth from any moment with what we have seen so far.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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