Two days before the Saturday massacre of mainly Christian mourners in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, four Fulani cattle traders were murdered in the same area.
The Saturday killings led to the death of at least 86 people, according to the police, with a resident saying 120 people were killed.
Pam Chollom, a pastor of the Church of Christ In Nations (COCIN) in the area, blamed the attack on armed herdsmen. He said most of the 120 victims were returning from the burial of a community leader.
Two days after the Saturday killings, which have been condemned by Nigerians including President Muhammadu Buhari, a leader of Fulani herdsmen said he believed the killing was a reprisal attack.
He suggested the killings were in retaliation for the killing of hundreds of cows allegedly by ethnic Berom youth.
“These attacks are retaliatory,” Danladi Ciroma, the chairman of the north central chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), said on Monday.
“As much as I don’t support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.
“Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier on Friday obtained details of one those attacks which also led to the death of four cattle traders.
The Thursday Killing
On Thursday evening, four traders, of ethnic Fulani stock, returning from a cattle market, were allegedly ambushed and killed, in what appears to be part of the bloody cycle of attacks and retaliatory attacks in Plateau State.
A day later, the Cattle Breeders Association, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area chapter, accused the Berom speaking natives of the town of being behind the attack which occurred along Hiapang, Barkin Ladi road.
The scribe of the association, Abubakar Gambo, also accused the attackers of whisking away the corpses of the victims.
“The unfortunate incident occurred between 6.30 to 6.40pm, Thursday at Hiapan. The Berom people ambushed and killed four of our people, burnt the car they were in. The people were returning from a cattle market from Bukuru, Jos South Local Government Area. They took away their corpses,” Mr Gambo said.
The scribe told PREMIUM TIMES that his association had reported the matter to security agencies.
“The victims are all married with children. They are: Bala Adamu, Isa Mohammed, Ibrahim Ahmed and Lawal Abubakar Dangana. We informed security operatives, members of the Special Task Force on Jos crisis came to the scene. They got there while the fire on the cars was still burning,” he said.
He also lamented the increasing spate of attacks.
“This is the third time such attacks on our people by Berom people are occurring. We want a stop to this dastardly acts on our people,” he said.
When PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the police last Friday, the police said the incident was an abduction, and “not yet murder”.
The police also said they could not yet ascertain the number of casualties in the attack.
“At the moment, we (police) cannot say that the said persons have been killed. It is still a case of kidnapping. Investigations into the incident has commenced, we shall unravel those behind the act,” the Plateau police spokesperson, Terna Tyopev, said on Friday.
Reacting to the allegations, the national president, Berom Youth Moulders Association, Dalyop Choji, confirmed the attack but said the Beroms were not responsible for it.
“The situation that led to the whisking away of the said Fulani people was a ‘chaos’ at Hiapang. I can authoritatively tell you that those who kidnapped the Fulanis are not Berom. Those who witnessed the scene said a Vectra car was on the trail of the vehicle conveying the Fulanis, only God knows from where?” the Berom leader told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.
“Occupants of the said car opened fire on the car the Fulanis were in, forced them into their Vectra car, set the car ablaze and drove away, shooting sporadically in the air. The process created commotion, residents of Hiapang ran for safety. How could that be Berom people.
“We (Berom people) have been battling with attacks. I am sad to report to you that between last weekend and yesterday (Thursday) we have lost 16 people to gunmen,” he explained.
Yet To Be Identified Attackers
Mr Choji’s explanation reflects a deeper problem beyond the ethnic colouration many Nigerians give to repeated violence in Plateau and neighbouring states.
It perhaps points more to criminality by armed gangs unleashing terror on citizens at will, in the face of a seemingly incompetent government. The killings, however, eventually take ethnic turns and lead to retaliatory attacks.
Thousands of people have been killed this year alone in violence mainly between marauding herdsmen and their host communities. In most cases, the attackers are never apprehended.
In the case of the Fulani four on Thursday, their attackers are yet to be identified or arrested.
Also, the killers of the scores of mourners on Saturday are yet to be arrested; and may not be if recent history is to be considered.
The Saturday killings led to retaliatory attacks in other parts of Plateau, leading the government to impose a dusk to dawn curfew in three local governments.
The state government and President Buhari have condoled with the victims and called for calm.
But for many Nigerians, the Plateau killings, alongside similar ones in Benue and other parts of the country, show a failing government.
“Boom!! Out of the blues, Citizens are KILLED in their NUMBERS. 200??? How?? In a Nigerian-State with State Security & Intelligence, Policing & Military? WE CANNOT KEEP SILENT ON THIS. Governments exist to SECURE CITIZENS. WE ALL must hold OUR Leader .@MBuhari to ACCOUNT,” a former minister, Oby Ezekwesili, wrote on her Twitter page.