Bwei Hali, 35, was preparing to have a grand Christmas celebration in Plateau, North-central Nigeria, when he started receiving phone calls from neighbouring villages that armed men were launching attacks in some of the communities.
By the time he stepped out of his home, Hali said, he saw some corpses that had either been shot or macheted.
“I was told some of the people were burnt alive,” he said, adding that more than 150 houses were burnt down by the attackers.
While recalling how the recent violence started, another resident, Kefas Malai, said the attack started in the early hours of Sunday around 12:30 a.m., initially claiming the lives of at least 16 natives of one of the villages.
Death Toll Increases
There have been recurring reports concerning attacks by gunmen and terrorists and even clashes between farmers and herders, leading to the death of people in communities in Plateau state over the years. The state has been prone to these attacks since the ethnoreligious crisis started in 2001.
The attacks on Bokkos and Mangu are the most recent. Since the first attack happened on Sunday, the number of people killed has shot up from 16 to over 100.
Human rights group Amnesty International, in its latest statement, said the death toll has increased to 140.
No Food, No Aid
Malai said most people now rely on what philanthropists can provide.
“Majority of the displaced people eat only once a day,” he said.
Hali said medical facilities have been filled up, and food is a problem for those who have been displaced as a result of the attack. He pleaded with governmental and non-governmental organisations to support them with food supplies.
He also said he has about 15 displaced people in his house, and there are many other houses now serving as temporary camps for people who have been uprooted from their homes as a result of the crisis.
Some displaced persons rely on the food they get from some benevolent religious institutions, according to one of the residents.
HumAngle understands that when the first attack happened on Dec. 24, they had informed men of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Police Force, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). However, the attacks were happening in several villages at the same time, making it difficult for them to be contained.
“The security officials could not go around to protect the villages at the same time,” Hali told HumAngle.
He then called on the government to come to their aid and protect them. “People are traumatised in Bokkos,” he added.
Although this is not the first time he has condemned such attacks in rural communities since he assumed office on May 29, Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang of Plateau State said, “It is sad that within the last few days, we have lost innocent people as a result of incessant attacks in parts of Mangu and Bokkos local government areas. As a matter of fact, my own intelligence is putting it at not less than fifty people. Let me say enough is enough. We cannot continue these senseless, stupid, unprovoked attacks; it is totally uncalled for, and it is needless.”
Meanwhile, the press secretary to the governor, Gyang Bere, urged residents to “remain vigilant and report suspicious activities to security forces for immediate action.” Monday Kassah, the head of Bokkos Local Government, claimed that these attacks were coordinated.
“…Not fewer than 20 different communities were attacked by the bandits. We have recovered 113 dead bodies from those communities. We have recovered more than 300 injured,” he said.
The violence has spread to Barikin Ladi, where houses were burnt.
On this issue, the Commander Of Operation Safe Haven said, “Clearance operations in conjunction with other security agencies would commence immediately as agreed during the emergency state Security Council meeting chaired by His Excellency last night. Already, the bodies and handsets of some of the miscreants neutralised in the last 48 hours have given us an inkling of how to bring their other cohorts to book.”
He said that appropriate measures are being put in place to restore order and apprehend the culprits of these attacks.
Similarly, in a press statement released today by Ajuri Ngelale, the spokesperson of Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, more than 24 hours after the attacks were reported, the government directed “immediate apprehension of the culprits” while condemning the attack.
Many Nigerians have criticised the fact that the statement came this late.
The President also directed concerned agencies to provide relief items and medical assistance to those who have been affected by the violence.
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