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Irigwe people not responsible for travellers’ death —Youth leader

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Following the killing of 25 travellers in Jos last week, there have been allegations and counter allegations over who perpetrated the act. Former chairman, Irigwe Youths Movement, Ayuba Chinge, in an interview with ISAAC SHOBAYO, exonerates the Irgwe from the murder accusation.  

It is being alleged in some quarters that the Irigwes were behind the attack on the 25 travellers killed last week at Rukuba road in Jos North local government. What is your position on this?

As long as the issue of insecurity and others are not seriously dealt with, I don’t think the possibility of getting over the problems is there. A situation whereby there seems to be a plan by a certain category of people to take over ancestral lands of the people and you have a situation where people openly graze on your farms and you dare not talk for fear of being killed, the problem cannot be resolved. But if the government is sincere and ready to do the right thing, it will be over. It is not just a Plateau thing; it is spreading across the North-Central and far North where there is also the issue of farm destruction. It has often led to ambush and chasing away the indigenous farmers. Within three weeks, we lost over 70 people. It is a very big problem. Whatever issue that is on the ground, if the government is sincere, the problem will be tackled. If the government can go as far as Kenya to arrest Kanu, why can’t the same government solve a local problem, especially the one we are facing in Plateau and other places? They often refer to the attackers as unknown gunmen and yet when another section of the population is affected they attach a particular ethnic group to that incident because they are the first to issue a press release.

It was while we were at the Plateau State Specialist Hospital preparing to convey the corpses of our people to the village for mass burial, that we got information saying our people were behind the killing of travellers along Rukuba road. We had declared a day of mourning to bury those killed by Fulani militias. Before we left the hospital, the killing at Rukuba road had already taken place. I want to say that Rukuba road is not in Irigwe land, Rukuba road is in Jos North. There you find people from all walks of life living. It is dangerous, unfair and unfortunate to say the Irigwe are responsible for the killings. It is a ploy to smear our image. We are also surprised that the police claimed the Irigwes were responsible, though they are now doing damage control by saying those who carried out the killings were miscreants. Thank God human beings are not God. We are leaving everything in the hands of God.

 

Are you saying the mourners and the Irigwe were not at the scene of the attack when it happened?

Let me tell you, if there is anyone that would give you first-hand information about what happened, it is me. We were at the Plateau State Specialist Hospital on Saturday by 7:30 am and up to 9:39 am, because we could not leave on time. The person that deposited the corpses was not issued with the right paper. Therefore, we were delayed by the hospital management. We were at the gate of the hospital when we started receiving phone calls that we shouldn’t follow Rukuba road, that there were skirmishes there, that we should follow an alternative route. There are two routes to get to Miango. You can follow Vom which is longer or Rukuba road which is shorter. We went ahead, the police were with us right from the hospital. We were at the headquarters of the state police command when we saw a team of Operation Safe Haven; they overtook us through the other lane. We learnt they were on their way to Rukuba road to arrest the situation.

When we got to the Polo round about, approaching Rukuba road, we were stopped by the police and they told us to follow another route which is Vom road which we did. But only for me to hear in the afternoon that the five buses ran into our convoy. What a big lie. None of us was at the scene of the attack. I am so disappointed with the police which initially claimed that the Irigwes carried out the killings, but later said it was miscreants after they had done the damage to our reputation.  We were not in any way close to the place of the attack. This kind of thing will continue to happen. And come to think of it, why is it that all this while that people were being killed nobody has said, anything from 2017 to date? I can tell you that all almost 800 of our people have been killed and nobody is saying anything. But now that some people were affected, more troops are being deployed; helicopters are sent for surveillance. My question is where was the Inspector General of Police when our people were being killed?

 

There is also a belief that the Irigwes are culprits, that there were instances where Fulani (cuts in)

Some of these Fulani have lived with us for many years. I remember sometime in 2004, the village head of Pachor with his two wives were killed. We never said anything. When it happened, some of them were trying to leave the community out of fear, but our chief prevailed on them to stay back with the assurance that nothing would happen to them. In 2017, a young Fulani man was murdered in Miango; our chief immediately swung into action. All those suspected to be behind the killing were fished out and handed over to the police. Our chief mobilised and paid condolence visit to the Fulani people. The following week, they visited with an attack on the community where 21 of our people were killed and another 29 killed in a classroom. With all these provocations, our people never burnt down their houses or killed anyone of them. In all these, there was no case of a single arrest. When there is no justice, it will be difficult to stop people from committing crimes.

Even yesterday, when we were with the governor for a meeting, as we were leaving the meeting, the Fulani were going in. But it was surprising that our people were attacked that night and five people were killed. We go to meetings and talk fantastically, everybody shows that he knows God and when we go back, different things happen. The truth is that government knows the right thing to do. If the government is sincere, it can arrest the situation and find solutions to the problem. One of the ways to do this is to make provision for ranching. There’s no serious nation that allows cattle to move about.

 

What is the way out?

More commitment, sincerity and justice. They will kill and no arrest is made not to talk of trial. There should be fairness. If a community is attacked and the response comes their way, the same should be applied to others whenever they are attacked. A human being is a human being irrespective of tribe or religion.

 

Why is your community often under attack when the 3rd Amoured Division of the Nigerian Army is located within the community?

This is the most unfortunate thing. It goes to show that you need to define what security is all about. Is it about the presence of uniform personnel? The venue of the attack that took place last week is not up to two kilometres to the military barracks. So, we begin to smell a conspiracy. If you ask me, I will say yes, because I have evidence to prove. Presently, we have a situation where the Commandant of the 3rd Armoured Division is the same person in charge of Operation Safe Haven. What our people are saying is that the two offices should be separated for proper attention.

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