Plateau State has experienced relative peace in the past few years. The political, religious, social and economic atmosphere of the state has been peaceful. In 2015 the peaceful nature of the general election underlines the effort made by Government and other NGOs/CSOs. In other to strengthen the process of peace on the State, the current Government established the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA), to facilitated peace building activities towards ending conflict in Plateau State.
Recently, the peace enjoyed by the people of Plateau State has eluded us. Violent conflict, attacks and reprisal attacks have become the order of the day, many people were killed and properties worth millions of naira were destroyed in Miango and other surrounding villages in Irigweland.
Bassa LGA used to be one of the most peaceful LGA in Plateau State, but recently from 2016 it has been engulf in a cycle of violence. It started between Irigwe and Rukuba the two major tribes in the LGA and recently it has escalated between the Irigwe and the Fulani’s.
The ethnic crises between Fulani and Irigwe have taken a different dimension with high level of killings and destruction. Many people were killed, farms were destroyed and many cattle were killed and rustled while millions of people have been displaced mostly women and children.
Despite the deployment of military personnel in the affected areas the violence kept escalating day by day.
FACTORS IDENTIFIED AS CAUSES OF THE CONFLCIT
According to the people the following factors contributed towards escalating the crises between the Fulani and the Irigwe.
Ø Break in communication between the two communities which led to suspicion and mutual distrust.
Ø Hijacking of the crises by criminals to perpetrate their criminal activities- Such as Cattle rustling, Rubbery etc.
Ø Proliferation of arms in the communities
Ø Lack of political will by government and the security agencies to curtail the situation
Ø Stray cattle or cows as a result of underage shepherds or children.
First dialogue Session: The Archbishop invited all the Leaders/Elders of Irigwe and Fulani residing around Miango in Bassa LGA, on the 28thMarch 2018 to DREP centre for dialogue
As part of his effort in promoting peaceful coexistence among people in Plateau State; the Archbishop of Jos Most. Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, invited the leaders and representatives of the two ethnic communities of Fulani and Irigwe for a roundtable dialogue session. The dialogue session was held in DREP Centre because of its neutrality to both parties. During the dialogue session the people shared their grievances and expressed their dissatisfaction over the entire situation.
The people narrated how the crises have affected their lives negatively. For the Irigwe ethnic communities, they expressed their pains on how they lost loved ones and at the moment they cannot go to their farms because of the fear of attacks.
The Fulani people also expressed their pains on how they will not be able to go into the bush to rear their animals for fear of attacks and at the moment they are displaced and have to settle in other parts of the LGA.
After a lengthy discussion the people came to the agreement that they will put all effort to bring to an end the incessant ethnic crises that have bedevilled their communities.
After a lengthy interaction under the guidance of His Grace the Archbishop, the following agreements were arrived at:
- We have agreed that we have offended one another and therefore seek to forgive one another.
- We have agreed that all forms of hostility should be stopped immediately. We need to address our youths to cease all forms of hostility from both sides.
- We have agreed to live together in peace and tolerance.
- We have agreed to go back and sensitize our youths on the need for peaceful coexistence.
- We are aware that there are foreigners responsible for the attacks. We agree on the need for such foreigners to be identified and expelled from the communities.
- We caution ourselves on spreading unfounded rumours which can escalate the conflict.
- We caution ourselves not to temper with farms or cattle that do not belong to us, especially as we approach the farming season.
- We have agreed that Fulani chiefs and youths should collaborate with the Irigwe chiefs and youths to ensure lasting peace.
- We have agreed that the Fulanis should not leave their cattle in the custody of under- aged children especially where the cattle are many.
- We have agreed that both the Fulani and the Irigwe communities will bring 15 youths each for dialogue aimed at ending the conflict in Irigwe land. Also, so that they too will key in and be part of the agreement since they are always they ones at the for-front during violent conflicts.
- The meeting with the youths has been scheduled for Thursday 5thApril 2018. While the meeting with the stakeholders (Miango, Rukuba, youths and Fulani) has been scheduled for Saturday 5thMay 2018, with Representatives from JNI and CAN to join in the meeting.
Because of the success of the first dialogue session between the leaders of Irigwe and Fulani, they suggested another separate meeting for the youth representatives of both tribes to meet in DREP also for dialogue. The elders agreed to invite 15 youth leaders from each tribe for the next meeting.
Second Dialogue Session:with Youth Representatives of Irigwe and Fulani Communities in Miango.
The second dialogue session took place on the 5thApril 2018 in DREP Centre, with the youth representatives of the both Fulani and Irigwe communities in Miango and heir surrounding villages. The meeting with the youth also took the same format as that of the elders. After a lengthy discussion and sharing of experience, the youth also come to a conclusion that they will want to strengthen the peace process they have started through this dialogue. As a result, they agreed to meet again in their community, and they will invite other youths within their various communities in other to widen the scope of participation in the meeting and to gain wide acceptance of the peace process.
They fixed 19thApril 2018 for the next meeting, venue to be announce by the paramount chief Irigwe chiefdom.
The following agreements were also arrived at:
- Crimes should not be generalised by demonising the person’s tribe. If a person commits a crime, such a person should be isolated and punished.
- Some people sometimes bring in foreigners to assist them in fighting their neighbours within our communities. Such foreigners should be identified and reported to both traditional and political authorities.
- The sincerity of the dialogue meetings between our communities so far is questionable, since after these meetings and agreements reached, people are still being killed. It is important that all who are present at this meeting be honest and sincere to ourselves.
- Both Irigwe and Fulani have coexisted together in peace for a very long time. We need to forgive one another and bury the hatchet because we have no other home and taking someone else’ life will not add to yours. We should forgive and forget.
- Despite the conflict, there are some Irigwe and Fulani who are still collaborating and working together in building bridges of peace, love and unity. We urge all our people to join hands and work together for peace.
- It is hurtful when a person cultivates his farm and his crops are uprooted with impunity and arrogance. We urge all to shun destructive tendencies.
- We all are Religious adherents. As such, we must respect and listen to God, our Holy Books and our Religious and traditional leaders. We must also be our brother’s keepers.
- Offenders should be judged and punished justly. We beg that punishment should always be commensurate to the offence committed.
- Considering the beautiful peaceful and loving relationship that has existed between us until now, what has happened is very shameful, because we all are losers. Let us therefore give peace a chance.
- We request HRH Rev. Ronku Aka, the paramount leader of Irigwe land to call a meeting of all traditional leaders in Irigwe chiefdom, including the Fulani (youths and elders) for a reconciliatory meeting on 19thApril 2018, the venue will be communicated soon. This will come before our next consultative meeting scheduled for 5thMay 2018.
- The elders call on youths to strengthen this process of peace in the various communities.
- We call on our Religious leaders to use the pulpit in preaching peace, we also call on the youths to support them in bringing peace back.
- We suggest the formation of combined local vigilantes of Fulani and Irigwe in our communities, instead of over relying on the police and soldiers.
- We should learn to expose bad elements within our communities so that they do not give our communities a bad name.
- As we have agreed to forgive one another here, we as a Religious people need to seek forgiveness from God, individually and collectively for inner peace and healing.
- For the realisation of permanent peace in our communities, we call on government to try and bring back, and resettle the displaced Fulani in their former communities. We also call on government to implement all the reports presented by the commission of enquiries formed by past governments.
- A joint prayer event will be organised by the Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre on a date to be announced soon. We all have agreed that we should forgive and forget.
With this intervention by the Archbishop of Jos, Most. Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama and DREP, we strongly believe that permanent and sustainable peace has returned to Irigweland and Bassa LGC of Plateau State.