Jos in 24-hour shutdown after fresh attack leaves 36 dead, houses burnt

PHOTO: BBC

• Youths storm Assembly, Govt House with victims’ bodies


• Lalong updates Buhari, says all culprits must face justice


• Declare state of emergency in Northern Nigeria, says Zamfara gov


• Presidency accuses Ortom of inciting ethnic, religious hatred


• Igbo youths condemn attacks, seeks Buhari’s resignation

Hours after President Muhammadu Buhari met behind closed doors with Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, some gunmen, on Tuesday night, turned the state to a theatre of war, as they attacked Yelwan Zangam community, close to the permanent site of the University of Jos (UNIJOS), killing about 36 people and burning houses.

The attack occurred around 9:00 p.m. despite the dusk to dawn curfew imposed in Jos North council as well as Jos South and Bassa council areas. The attackers shot sporadically, gunning down fleeing residents and burning some others in their homes.

Before the incident, the fragile bridge linking the community to other communities was destroyed to prevent help from coming to the people.

During a visit to the State Specialist Hospital yesterday, no fewer than 16 bodies were at the morgue, while the injured were receiving treatment. According to eyewitnesses, the bodies at the funeral parlour did not include another set of more than 15 that were burnt in their houses and were yet to be evacuated.

The Councilor for Ahwol Ward in the community, Yusuf Ali, said that people were burnt alive in the affected area.

According to the Councillor, the gunmen first vandalised the iron bridge linking the community before attacking the people, which made it difficult for security agents to assess the area when they were contacted.

Another resident, Jeremiah Bulus, said, “corpses have been taken to the mortuary this morning and people are still making efforts to recover more corpses from several houses, which the gunmen also set ablaze. The situation is really bad for the people.”

Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting with President Buhari, the governor had said he updated him on the security developments in Plateau.

“I made a request to the President about relief materials and also re-echoed the issue of resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). We have a lot of IDPs in my state, we have a lot on our hands already and when such happens, you expect the state to seek support for relief materials,” he said.

He had noted that the security situation in the state had greatly improved and very soon, the curfew imposed on troubled areas will be further relaxed.

But sooner had he returned that the fragile peace was broken again by Tuesday’s attack. Earlier, state governments have been sending buses to evacuate their students from UNIJOS in droves.

Vexed by the latest assault, a group of young persons stormed the Plateau Specialist Hospital, where bodies of victims had been deposited and evacuated them into vans. They later proceeded with the bodies to the state’s House of Assembly, blocking all roads leading to the complex.

The Speaker, Abok Ayuba, called for calm and restraint over the attack. Abok, who condoled with families of the victims, appealed to them not to take laws into their hands, saying that such action would only aggravate the already bad situation.

“We are all affected by what is happening in Plateau, but please, calm down as the government is doing everything possible to end the killings. We are your representatives, we are going to follow up with relevant authorities to ensure that peace returns to the state,” he said.

Despite the address by the Speaker, the youth were not satisfied and they proceeded to the Government House where the bodies of the victims were laid.

In the meantime, authorities in Plateau have summoned an emergency security council meeting presided by the deputy governor, Prof. Sonni Tyoden, to discuss the current situation in the state.

The latest attack is coming days after Governor Lalong imposed a curfew on Jos North, Bassa, and Jos South local councils following an attack on Rukuba Road in Jos North, where 23 people who were travelling from Bauchi en-route Jos to Ikare in Ondo State were killed and 23 others were left injured.

At noon yesterday, the Plateau State government ordered a reinstatement of the 24-hour curfew earlier relaxed in Jos North. The 24-hour curfew came into force from 4:00p.m. yesterday. The government said the decision is a proactive one aimed at nipping further attacks and reprisals in the bud.

The governor appealed to citizens of Jos North to cooperate with the government by abiding to the 24-hour curfew, as security agencies have been mandated to ensure that those who violate the curfew are arrested. Lalong further noted that the 6:00p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew in Jos South and Bassa councils still remains in place until further notice.

“Only people on essential duties such as health personnel, journalists, fire service and para-military and others, are to be exempted from the curfew but should carry means of identification with them at all times,” the governor stated in a communiqué.

The spokesman for the Plateau Police Command, Ubah Ogaba, could not be reached when contacted. Also, several calls put across to the Military Information Officer of the Operation Safe Haven, Major Ishaku Takwa, were not answered at the time of filing this report.

At Our Lady of Apostle (OLA), Sister Reverend Jovita Egwu, the Hospital Administrator, who took reporters round, said 10 injured persons were brought to the hospital with one dead victim.

One of the victims, Blessing, said it was a miracle how she survived. She said she would have died having watched her mother and her seven siblings burnt to ashes. While raining curses on the attackers, she said her mother had begged the attackers to kill her only and leave the children but her pleas to the gunmen fell on deaf ears.

She said the attackers shot the room and set it ablaze, adding that she did not know how she survived.

Jos is now a militarised city as gunshots are heard from every angle of the city, an observer noted.

MEANWHILE, Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, has called for a state of emergency in the northern part of the country over the security challenges in the region. He made the call on Wednesday at a meeting with the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 10, Ali Janga, at the Government House in Gusau, the state capital.

The governor who appeared seriously concerned about the series of attacks in many states in the region noted that a declaration of a state of emergency will address the problem of insecurity in the North.

According to the governor, the attack on the headquarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna is another setback to the quest for peace in the country.

He said he has approved N17 million for security agencies to secure communities bedeviled by the activities of bandits in the state.

The governor also promised to secure the release of 83 persons kidnapped in Rini community in Bakura local council.

THE Presidency has, yesterday, however accused Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom, of inciting ethnic and religious hatred in his state, steering up a Rwandan-styled crisis.

In a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, the Presidency also accused the Governor of deliberately escalating the farmers/herders crisis in his state, thereby causing more deaths of the innocent.

The President’s media aide, however, claimed that the Governor chose the path of festering ethnic and religious wounds among the people in the state because of an alleged exclusionist agenda against a particular ethnic group, which he said the governor is concealing in the Ranches Establishment Law.

According to the statement, the said Ranches Establishment Law is a ploy to withhold rights and freedom from the targeted ethnic group.

“Governor Samuel Ortom has few political principles. We can see this from the fact that he has changed political party five times during his undistinguished career. Every time he feels the wind may be blowing in a certain direction, he follows it.

“Unfortunately, for the good citizens of Benue State, the most dangerous direction he blows in today is that of sectarianism and ethnicity. In an attempt to boost his sinking political fortunes, Ortom takes the cheapest and lowest route possible by playing on ethnic themes – and in doing so knowingly causes deaths of innocent Nigerians by inciting farmers against herders, and Christians against Muslims.

“Specifically, Ortom stirs up hatred by targeting one single ethnic group in Nigeria – using language reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide.”

HOWEVER, Igbo youth under the aegis of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), has condemned in strong terms the vicious attacks by Fulani terrorists in Yelwan Zangam community in Jos North. Describing the incident as a “national tragedy”, they insisted that the success of the attacks were an indication that President Buhari had “lost touch with realities’’ and demanded his immediate resignation from office.

In a statement signed by the President General, Goodluck Ibem, and Secretary, Kanice Igwe, in Enugu, they alleged that the massacre in Yelwan Zangam community was “a deliberate plot to kill all Christians in Nigeria and convert it to a Muslim country.”

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