In the month of August, no fewer than 357 people lost their lives to the myriad of insecurity challenges in various parts of the country. This is according to the Lifecount report by Civic Media Lab, a non-profit organisation.
Plateau State became the highlight red spot where several killings happened in Nigeria in August. Interestingly, a preponderance of these killings in the state occurred during a curfew imposed by the governor, Simon Lalong, making the fertile farming territory the most dangerous part of Nigeria reported on by the media in August.
One of the horrid images of the attacks was the site of about 17 charred corpses cornered into a community leader’s home in Yelwang Zangam in Jos North Local Government.
“They were mostly children between 13 and three,” said John Christopher, a lawyer who lost relatives in the attack while recalling the butchering and burning. He could still see the bodies burning in the smoldering house. Many of them had run there for refuge, assuming wrongly in hindsight that the assailants will spare the home of their ward head.
According to Christopher, the massacre had followed a dispute over a parcel of land in the community which Fulani settlers used to bury their dead. The owner of the land had claimed that the settlers never paid and this spiralled into violence. At least 36 persons lost their lives in a single day, the highest count of violence in a day – August 24 seen by Civic Media Lab last month. Between Jos North and Bassa local governments, 86 lives were snuffed out in a spate of attacks which aggrieved natives described as ‘the expansionist aim of Fulani settlers.’
Also, during this period over 20 Muslim travellers were waylaid and killed in Jos.
The presence of the Third armored division and the Joint Tax Force in Plateau State, has not stopped students of the University of Jos from getting used as targets to settle scores in Plateau.
“It is a recurring event, when there is any problem on the Plateau, the ripple effect will always bounce back to University of Jos students,” said Adakanla Joshua, the Student Union President of Unijos. He reckoned that after the attack on the motorcade of five buses which were returning from Bauchi after marking the beginning of the Islamic calendar, at least three students have been killed. Twenty-year old Doris Bitrus Danboyi was the first, reportedly murdered on Sunday, August 15 on her way to church. Joshua says more silent killings followed, with a male student stabbed to death in a tricycle while heading to one of the hostels on campus.
The student leader further revealed that as soon as the curfew was relaxed, the checkpoints erected along the road to the university campus in Naraguta Jos North were dismantled. That allowed for more students to disappear without trace. As at the time of his interview, he says two students were missing and another from Federal College Jos – a school close to the university had also vanished.
In Borno state, the Islamic terror group, ISWAP attacked a military base in Rann, killing an aid worker and a soldier along with 15 others.
Also in August, mass raids on communities and schools continued as Civic Media Lab collated reports of 332 kidnappings. Zamfara was the most affected with 82.53 percent of abductees –274 picked up from the gold producing North western state. In one instance, the terrorists went away with 15 students and four staff from the Zamfara College of Agriculture, despite opposition from a squad of ‘tactical police operatives’ according to a statement released by the state police command after the attack.
The killings across the country occurred mostly in Northern Nigeria with North Central and North West, the worst hit. In the North-Central, 122 people were killed across Plateau; 86 murders, Benue; 32 murders and 2 abductions, Kwara; 2 murders and seven abductions and Kogi 2 murders and 4 abductions. In the North-west which has become the most crimson spot in the country, 151 persons were slain and 303 others were kidnapped.
Outside the North, Imo State recorded at least 17 deaths in the South East while in Anambra, four police officers were murdered as the government’s treatment of agitators continues to cause fractions in the region.
Rivers and Cross Rivers were the most violent paths reported in the South-South where 12 persons were killed and seven kidnapped in the former and seven more murdered in the latter. In the South West, 8 persons were slain in Ogun state while a Swiss expatriate was abducted.
Meanwhile, the fragility of states like Plateau and Kaduna, where another 66 persons were killed in August, has not deterred the Nigerian Youth Service Commission (NYSC) from deploying batches of fresh graduates to the troubled parts. Gloria Adeola (Not her real name) bemoaned this fate urging the NYSC to stop deploying more Nigerians to the states.
“They should at least stop sending more batches to places like Plateau, Kaduna and other places in the North-West.” she stated. “I have not been able to go for CDS for two weeks now. We that are here are trying to leave. The DG said we could apply for relocation but mine has not been approved,” she added.
Observers feel the killings up North have been politicised and the details muddled to mask finding genuine solutions. In Naraguta, where one of the University of Jos’s campus is located, Christopher said the institution has refused to take measures to prevent encroachment on the land given to it by the community. He reckons this has allowed illegal settlers to come into the agrarian area with cattle and wantonly destroy farmlands.
“Plateau is very fertile, anything you plant on it grows. People are now going into farming but the expansionist tendencies of the Hausa/Fulani – they don’t want people to farm, they want everywhere to be left for grazing,” he said.
Although Hausa Fulani settlers have been murdered in reprisals following attacks by herders, the federal government has maintained that Nigeria has 415 grazing routes that must be openly grazed, conflicting the ban on open grazing by most governors in the South and Benue in the North-Central.
Student leader, Joshua agreed that the University of Jos has been encroached. He says the perimeter fencing of the school is poorly done and allows for invasion by unknown persons into the campus. He further lamented the absence of an effective security apparatus in the school despite it being a painted target for reprisals.
Before the August 24 attacks, the campus was shut down in response to the ‘silent killings.’ The student union president is determined to keep learning grounded until an acceptable security system is implemented.
“There will be no resumption in Unijos,” he said. “If they tell students to resume, I and other executives will check the security set-up. If it is not good enough I will tell students not to resume,” he added.