As new security challenges arise in Plateau State, security agencies and the state government are making efforts towards rising up to the occasion, writes GOLOK NANMWA

The recent courtesy visit of the General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor William Kumuyi, to the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, at Government House, Little Rayfield, when the revered cleric held a crusade in Jos, the state capital highlighted the security challenges being faced by the state in the last administration and how the present administration has witnessed a drastic reduction of the crisis as a result of some decisive steps. During the visit, the state governor Simon Lalong had told the Christian leader that “When we came on board, we inherited a state that was in crisis, conflict, killings here and there. In terms of security, that was the number one challenge”. Notably, efforts have been made to tackle the situation and restore the state to the part of peace, law and order, he said. “Plateau State is like a miniature Nigeria where we have 53 ethnic groups resident on the plateau. You want peace, you must consider all of these ethnic groups and bring them together. For the first time, we were able to bring together the 53 ethnic groups in the history of Plateau State and we got to their doorsteps; we did town hall meetings, found out their grievances. That is why you have a different Plateau today”, the state governor stated. It was noted that the state celebrated one year of peace with no record of violence before the unfortunate killing of the first class traditional ruler of Bokkos, Saf Lazarus Agai, by unknown persons. “We are still mourning the death of our Monarch. I had written to the State House of Assembly demanding for some days off so that I would rest and had already travelled out. But I quickly had to cut short my trip when I heard of the unfortunate killing of our traditional ruler”. Lalong who described the death of His Royal Highness, Saf Ron Kulere, Lazarus Agai as unfortunate vowed to bring to book the killers of the monarch, he also said his administration is determined to fish out enemies of peace in Plateau state. Kumuyi who was in the state for a gospel crusade commended Governor Lalong for his efforts at restoring peace in the state. Speaking to our correspondent recently on his one year in office as the head of council management committee, the chairman of Riyom Local Government of the state, Mafeng Gwalson, said the outbreak of violence, especially clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Riyom Local Government has reduced to zero percent. Riyom Local Government Area of the state had been one of the crisis-ridden local governments where hundreds of persons had been killed and communities sacked in the past as a result of such crises.
It could be recalled that Senator Gyang Dantong and a member of the State House of Assembly, Gyang Fulani, had met their death during the burial of persons killed in Riyom Local Government in 2012. Gwalson said “before we assumed office, reports had it that the number of persons killed monthly in Riyom LGA was close to 30 but as it is now, it has reduced to zero. Most of our people who were displaced as a result of the crisis have all returned home and are going about doing their business. Our people now go to their farms peacefully without any fear of attack”. Similarly, the management committee chairman of Langtang South Local Government of the state, Hon. Nicholas Vongsing, also said the issue of cattle rustling in his local government has become a thing of the past. According to him “the issue of insecurity in Plateau and Langtang South is now a thing of the past. My People are presently living in Peace with the Fulanis and other members of other tribe”. It could be recalled that the state governor recently signed a roadmap to restoration of peace in the southern senatorial part of the state. Our correspondent gathered that the document was put together by the Geneva- based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, HD, which is an independent private mediation organisation, with regional headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. It seeks to engage communities in the area in a dialogue process that would attempt to solve the root causes of the conflicts in the area. The southern zone, made up of six local government areas of Langtang North, Shendam,
Mikang, Qua an Pan, Langtang South, and Wase, had in the past witnessed violent clashes as it was the clashes in Yelwa/ Shendam in 2004, which claimed many lives that led to the proclamation of six-month state of emergency by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Lalong said that his long lasting aspiration is the restoration of peace to the state, stressing that he is ready to partner with any community, organisation and group who shared in this long lasting aspiration. Speaking in Shendam while signing a historic document to restore peace to the communities in the six local government areas that made up the southern senatorial zone of the state, Lalong said that he was delighted at the efforts of HD in restoring peace to southern Plateau after achieving a similar effort in Plateau North senatorial zone. At the event, which marked the beginning of series of inter-communal dialogue process between the different communities in the zone, Lalong said that he was encouraged by the monumental strides of the organisation in restoring peace in the Northern senatorial zone of the state and in the southern parts of Kaduna. Lalong said in early 2013, HD worked with the communities in Jos on an inter-communal dialogue process driven by the communities themselves, which has resulted in culture of dialogue to solve differences and translated into peaceful co-existence between the eight different communities of Afizere, Anaguta, Berom, Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, South-South and Yoruba. He expressed delight that it was the success of the dialogue process in Jos that took the group to Kaduna, adding that he was happy that the same success was about to be translated in the southern zone of the state. Chairman of the occasion, the Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, recalled the horrors of the crises in the six flashpoints areas of the zone and called on the people to exhibit the highest point of sincerity in the dialogue process. Kaigama, who was represented by the Director Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre, Jos, Rev Fr. Blaise Agwom, expressed regrets that more often, the root causes of these disputes could have been resolved through dialogue. He welcomed the efforts of HD and expressed the full commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of peace in Plateau. The HD Senior Advisor and Lead Mediator, Mrs. Alice Nderitu said, the organisation has the full backing of the Plateau State Government and the support of the German government, adding that for the next six months, the organisation would engage the communities in six flash points of Langtang North, Langtang South, Mikang, Quanpan, Shendam and Wase. She said that the dialogue process would focus primarily on continuous cause of tension that include pastoralists/farmers conflict, internally displaced persons, cross border disputes between the local government areas, cattle rustling, land dispute, chieftaincy issues and claims, rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and social amenities. She added that the dialogue would also x-ray the role of government and security agencies in maintaining law and order, youth restiveness, gunrunning and proliferation of arms.
Meanwhile Operation Safe Haven, the task force charged with maintaining law and order in Plateau and parts of Bauchi State has said it will in two weeks time raid and dislodge all criminal hideouts around Jos and environs. The task force commander, Major-General Rogers Nicholas, who was posted to Plateau State last week ordered the Sector 1 Commander, Col. Mohammed Musa to raid and clear all criminals around Mista Ali and other neighboring communities as well as urged troops to apprehend and bring to his attention any security agent engaged in drug use. “We are not going to pity anybody. We are going to raid some of these places. Where we have issues of drug barons, we will work with the NDLEA and if you are caught you will be dealt according to the law,” he said.