The recent attacks and killing of over 100 people in about 10 communities in Kanam and Wase Local Government Area (LGA) of Plateau State, North-central Nigeria, on April 10, 2022 suggests a new dimension to the crises ravaging the state.
The attacks were carried out in Kukawa, Gyambawu, Dungur, Kyaram, Yelwa, Dadda, Wanka, Shuwaka, Gwammadaji, and Dadin Kowa communities.
For more than a decade, Plateau State has been plagued by ethno-religious crises that has resulted in the death of thousands of people. However, the recent attacks appear to have deviated from the norm, both in the scope of destructions of lives and propriety, as well as the style of attack. This raises suspicions that the Plateau has been infiltrated by Jama’atul Ahlul Sunnah lid Da’awatul wal Jihad (popularly known as Boko Haram), known mainly for their activities in the Northeast for more than a decade.
Nigeria’s North-central zone, which comprises Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, and Plateau states, were mostly known for communal, ethno-religious, and farmer/herder conflict, until recently when the crisis assumed a different dimension.
Boko Haram’s movement
For more than a decade of its presence in Northeast Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorists had strived to infiltrate other parts of the country without much success, until the activities of terrorists, locally called ‘bandits’ in the Northwest which seemed to provide fertile ground for their expansion or movement to the region.
The terrorists whose initial modus operandi appeared to be kidnapping for ransom, metamorphosed into full-blown terrorists who set homes ablaze, attack whole communities, and security formations just like Boko Haram and ISWAP. They also kidnap students, women, and children, and use Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). This became intense in the Northwest states of Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara in the past three years.
Since May 19, 2021 when ISWAP decimated its rival led by the late Abubakar Shekau and seized its territory in the Sambisa forest, more of Shekau’s fighters spread to otther terrorists’ camps (in the Northwest), thereby bringing more of their tactics to them.
Swathe of forests
Until recent years when some of its LGAs became terrorists’ haven, Niger State had enjoyed some measure of peace with its border states of Zamfara and Kaduna. However, the large swathe of the Kamuku forest that defines its boundary with Kaduna and Zamfara, now the epicentres of terrorism in Nigeria, has become its curse, as it provides the channel for terrorists to migrate when the heat from security forces becomes unbearable in northwestern states.
On April 26, 2021, the Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, confirmed at an IDP camp in Minna, the state capital, the presence of Boko Haram terrorists in Kaure village, a community in Shiroro LGA that borders Niger State and Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power. The governor’s confirmation came months after the terror group had hoisted its flag, its habitual way of revealing its presence in an area.
With this development in Kaure, the governor opined that it is just a matter of time before the group announces its presence in Nigeria’s capital city.
The situation gets worse
On Feb. 20, 2022, an operational vehicle with four officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) ran over a landmine planted by terrorists at Galadiman Kogo in Shiroro LGA of Niger State.
Again, earlier in April 2021, terrorists attacked security personnel of the Joint Security Task Force (JSTF) stationed in Allawa and Basaa in Shiroro LGA, killing five soldiers and one personnel of the NSCDC.
Also confirming the infiltration of terrorists into the North-central region, a Daily Trust newspaper report of June 28, 2021, revealed how Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Ansaru engaged in recruitment drive among ranks of ‘bandits’ in the Northwest and some parts of North-central states. The move, it said, was yielding results with some terror groups declaring allegiance or agreeing to a working relationship, intelligence sharing and logistics support.
Terrorists in the Plateau
After the latest massacre in Plateau State, the governor, Simon Lalong, who described it as a terrorist attack, assured that “Plateau State will never be used as a safe haven for terrorists to set up camps and use same to wreak havoc on communities and innocent citizens in the state.
“The state has already approached the Federal Government for collaboration to deal with the terrorists hibernating in the general area once and for all.”
Even as locals believe that the attack in Plateau State was most likely perpetrated by Boko Haram, some security experts opined that it could be the handiwork of the Ansaru terror group present in Nasarawa and Kogi states for many years.
Plateau State is bounded by Kaduna State to the Northwest and Nasarawa state to the Southwest, hence either Ansaru or Boko Haram could have been responsible for the latest incident.
Major Bashir Galma, a retired army officer, told HumAngle that the circumstances in the North-central states favour the infiltration of Boko Haram and other terror groups.
“In terms of language, majority of people speak Hausa, and the area is home to many unmanned forests and hills, which could provide cover for the terrorist groups,” he said.
Although Galma said it would be difficult for the groups to go further down South due to the same reason, he explained that security agencies have been unable to stop terrorists’ movements into Northwest and North-central zones due to allegations of human right infringement.
“Before they were retired, the former service chiefs suggested that security agencies be given the mandate to stop and search any vehicle with groups of people moving towards one direction, in order to check the movement of terrorist groups,” Galma added. “But the suggestion was condemned by civil society organisations on the grounds of human right violation. The military had foreseen what is happening now for long but Nigeria is a country that copies everything from the West without looking at its own peculiarities.”
However, a human right advocate, Dr Abdulahi Mohammed Jabi, said that high unemployment and poverty rate among youth have made the indoctrination of young people by terrorists easy.
“They may spread beyond the North-central due to lack of preparedness of the political leadership and security agencies to tackle insecurity,” added Jabi, who is the Chairman Campaign for Democracy Human Right Advocacy, Niger State chapter.
“One missing link in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria is that the state actors have not been sincere to decisively manage the situation to achieve the desired result,” he said. “And the failure is coming majorly because the number one citizen, who is the president of the country, is not showing much concern and determination to get men and resources together to achieve positive results within the space of the last seven years.”
Jabi who accused state actors of feeding fat on insecurity in the country, added that terrorism can only be defeated when state actors use state resources for the benefit of the citizens by ensuring that their basic needs are met “particularly as our demography is rapidly changing because of increase in population of young people.”
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