BEVERLY HILLS, June 06, (THEWILL) – In this interview with UKANDI ODEY, the Plateau State Commissioner of Information, Dan Manjang, speaks on the resurgence of killings in parts of Plateau State, among other issues
Jos is in the news again due to a resurgence of violence and destruction of valuable property in the city. How did we get back to this kind of situation?
The causes of these attacks and killings are multi-faceted. It is like an octopus or a monster with many faces. First, it is man’s inhumanity to man, which has its history. Secondly, it is because of the prejudices that people have harboured over the years. This also has its branches and dimensions, such as ethnicity, religion and politics. Finally, it has connotations of the kind of people I’ll call ‘crises merchants’ who benefit from these unfortunate acts, in terms of monetary value, by engaging in arms trading from the local to international level. You cannot always expect absolute peace and tranquility because such people will be out of business. It is unfortunate, but I can tell you that outside this other sentiments are primordial. The ones I have highlighted are actually key factors that trigger these barbaric activities.
There was early warning before the recent attacks. What steps did your government take to forestall them?
The steps that were taken are typical of what we do when we get security reports. The appropriate authorities – the Police, the Special Military Task Force, the chairmen of local government areas as chief security officers of their areas and community leaders were well informed. It was incumbent on the Local Government Chairman and the Security echelon at the state level, including the Police and STF to be able to deploy their men. I can say with authority that this was done and the communities and their residents were warned. Individuals too were called and warned.
You know, the peculiar nature of settlements in Plateau – that is sparse settlement – makes it easy for the attackers. Because the people are predominantly farmers, they settle in a manner that allows them enough space to carry out agricultural activities. Because of this sparse settlement, you wouldn’t know exactly where the killers might come from. However, in response to early warnings, they were told; and troops were deployed. You know, after the first day attack, the killers went back the second day. This time around, I was informed that they did not find it easy.
So what was the security response on the second day?
Security response on the second day was better than the first day. Take note that already there were security personnel in these communities. They were able to chase the attackers and killers away. And I can tell you on good authority that three of the assailants were gunned down by the security men and a policeman lost his life I the process. Two of the killers were also wounded in the same encounter.
You see, the problem is that some of the residents of these communities harbour criminals. The ones that were injured were taken to a hospital in a neighbouring state. As I talk to you now, the DSS has been able to trace them to the hospital and apprehended them on the hospital bed. Even the owner of the hospital has been apprehended and they were all brought to a hospital here in Jos where they are being treated. They are already making confessional statements. That is part of the proactive disposition of our security men which you should know.
The impression among the residents of Dong and Kwi where these attacks took place is that Governor Lalong’s response to the development was poor. What actually happened that the governor was not visible?
When people are aggrieved and they have these kinds of challenges, they are bound to say things that are not correct. The context of the governor was such that none of them knew. They did not know the situation the governor was in. The more important thing is that a government delegation comprising myself and the secretary to the state government went to these communities in the company of the chairmen of the respective local government areas . For example, in Jos North, the Chairman of Bassa accompanied that of Jos North to the community. In Kwi, the chairman of Barkin Ladi, which is a neighbouring local government area, accompanied the chairman of Ryom to the community that was attacked.
You can’t blame them. I probably would have thought that way, if I were in their shoes. Even when our delegation got there, they still complained that we should have come earlier – very early in the morning! That is human nature. You know when somebody is facing that kind of challenge, his thinking is affected. So, we can’t blame them. The more important thing is that the governor has been able to take proactive measures. With authority and a sense of responsibility, I say that he has taken measures that are immediate and long-term in nature. As I am talking with you, security meetings are being held. More of such meetings are going to take place, so that we can talk to community leaders and put the necessary measures in place to prevent the collapse of communal relations. It is better to mediate and achieve something enduring than to give up.
Has the government made any arrest so far?
Yes. But the onus of arrest is squarely with the security agents. As the Commissioner for Information, I do not have such information now. I cannot claim that I have figures to that effect. Maybe later, after I have conferred with the police on this.
Some people have been displaced by these attacks, thereby worsening the problem of internally displaced persons in the state. What is the overall picture of IDPs in Plateau?
Yes, some people have definitely been displaced because houses were torched. Some people ran away from their homes out of fear, pending the return of normalcy. Many people are displaced as a result. Although it is reported that local government chairmen are on top of the situation, I learnt that some people are taking refuge in primary schools or with their relatives and friends. On the whole, the situation is pathetic. Because it has not happened to me, I’ll not claim that it is not a humanitarian crisis. With the subsisting economic hardship, it is not easy for one to start thinking of resettling his family and meeting other upkeep challenges and inconveniences. We are working very hard, in conjunction with the State Emergency Management Agency, to put certain things in place.