For the fifth time, in less than a decade, Jos, the capital city of Plateau State, was penultimate Sunday engulfed by another round of violence and mayhem, resulting in the massacre of not less than 200 Nigerians, mostly defenceless women and children.
According to media reports, the killings took place in the early hours of Sunday, when, Dogo-Na-Hawa, Ratsat and Jeji Villages in Foron district, Jos South Local Government Area of the state came under, attacks by yet to be identified Hausa Fulani fighters.
Surprisingly while security operatives were sniffing the ground to fish out the perpetrators of the diabolic killings, the hoodlums in the wee hours of Wednesday March 17, 2010, swooped on Byei and Baten villages in Riyom Local Government Area and left no fewer than 13 persons dead.
Coming barely two months after an earlier major outbreak of violence on January 17, this year, in which, more than 350 were reportedly killed, this fresh round of attacks which is a senseless bloodletting and brute display of disrespect for human life should worry all well-meaning Nigerians.
The Tide is even more disturbed because we are aware that after the January 17, episode, the Presidency, under Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (as he then was) after a security session with service chiefs, deployed Federal Troops to the violence-torn city with the primary intention of checking reprisal attacks and also imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew on the state.
This is why it becomes suspect, that areas being guarded by Federal Troops intended to check further escalation of the mayhem and also help identify culprits, would come under such enemy attack, in which a yet to yet-to-be officially confirmed 200 persons were killed, in cold blood. What went wrong?
We ask because, the essence of a dusk to dawn curfew after major disturbances of the kind witnessed by Jos, are among others, to restrict movement of men and weaponry and help nip in the bud any likely breach of the Peace. In such operations, Troops also embark on extensive mopping up of illegal fire arms and possibly make suspects face the law.
So what went wrong? We ask again because it is no longer acceptable to look the other way and watch the now frequent killings in parts of the country, particularly, Jos and do nothing. In fact, the frequency should also worry all well-meaning Nigerians as should the number of human casualties in each of the disturbances.
Between September 7 and 17, 2001, for instance, when, the first major ethno-religious riot broke-out in Jos, more than 1,000 lives were lost. And in 2004, following clashes in Yelwa, 500 persones were killed forcing then President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency. Later in 2008, disputes over council elections, in the Jos North area of the state claimed as many as 700 lives. With that Nigerians in unison screamed enough is enough and at once actuated the tough talk by the federal government that all culprits would be brought to book. With that assurance Nigerians were hopeful that not only would any repeat of such senseless killings be unfanciful, deliberate efforts would be made also to fish out masterminds of the near frequent cases of violence in the city.
That was why the January 17, 2010 disturbances left a very sour taste in many a mouth. Why, for instance, should an issue as insignificant as disputed plot of land, hardly good enough for a family, cause the deaths of 350, among them women and children?
Apparently, it was to check any possible repeat or escalation of the violence that the city of Jos, had for nearly two more months been under huge military presence uptil the March Mayhem.
This is why complicity by some thorn coats within the rank and file of the Federal Troops cannot be completely ruled out, if the gory tales of massacre recounted by survivors are any leads to go by.
The Tide is not interested in the blame game between the Army and the state Governor, Jonah Jang, because it takes no one any where further than pointing accusing fingers that fishes out no one.
Now, therefore, is when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan must make good his promise to restore confidence on the Federal Government by fishing out those either directly or remotely responsible for the brutal killings. The way to achieve that is for the Federal government to release reports of previous panels of enquiry into the many crises that had rocked the city and elsewhere, with a view to making such persons account for their acts of commission or omission and digging even deeper into the latest madness.
The indecision of successive state and Federal governments to take bold and stern actions against blood tasty ethno-religious demagogues, have over time, created the impression that some Nigerians are untouchable under the laws of the land.
The Tide for a change calls for a comprehensive probe of the events of Sunday, March 7, 2010, and Wednesday March 17 , 2010 in particular and all others in which many have lost their lives. The outcome of such probe must be made public and culprits punished in a timely fashion. That, in our view is one of the surest ways of checking any reprisal attacks from aggrieved parties who may be forced to seek Justice, of the brute kind which they are being reminded daily, only might can give.
The Tide agrees with judicial doyens that “the greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping punishment” and would wish to warn that unless very decisive action is taken against those fingered by the Ajibola Panel and others, the viscious circle of senseless blood letting will endure.