THE 13 people killed on Wednesday by gunmen in Kombun district in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State have been given mass burial.
The burial, which took place on Thursday at about 6.46 p.m., was attended by a huge crowd of long-faced members of the community.
The victims were murdered by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen but the state chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) has absolved its members of the killings.
The traditional ruler of Mangu, Chief Nelson Bakfur, the Mishkaham Mwaghavul of the Mwaghavul tribe, described the killings as barbaric and called on the security agencies to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“I was taken aback by the dastardly act of the gunmen and I condemn such in very strong terms as the paramount ruler of the Mwaghavul nation. The killing of my kinsmen is not acceptable.
“It is indeed shocking to us as Mwaghavul nation as we are not known for cattle rustling or stealing in general to warrant such an attack on us. I am appealing to my people to remain calm in the face of the provocation and not to react in any unlawful manner,” Chief Bakfur said.
The state caretaker chairman of MACBAN, Malam Isa Bapbba, noted that members of his association had lost so many cattle to rustlers in the local government and the neighbouring council areas, but he said the association had no hand in the incident that happened in Kombun district of Mangu on Wednesday.
“Though prior to the in incident, some of our members were harassed and beaten by some people in the area and their cattle killed, the matter was resolved. But I can tell you that we have no hand in the killings.”
He implored security agencies to fish out those behind the murders.
How the killings happened –Gov Lalong
Meanwhile, the state governor, Simon Lalong, was at the State House, Abuja, on Friday, to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the killings.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, the governor said the attack was caused by cattle rustlers, leading to reprisals with innocent citizens falling victim.
He said: “As a matter of fact, we woke up yesterday (Thursday) early in the morning to get information that people were killing themselves in a village. I didn’t waste time; I took off to that village. My timely intervention and presence helped a lot. Because, after the first set of killings, the second set was reprisal killings.”
Lalong said his intervention had restored normalcy to the area, saying: “We buried the people. I spoke to the people and they understood me and the place has remained calm. Peace has been restored to that place.”
He explained the cause of the crisis further: “Our little investigations confirm that it was a group of cattle rustlers in a huge number that rustled over 100 cows. They were moving with them.
“We have also made appeal through the youths that whenever there is this kind of challenge, they should move in and seek to arrest some of the criminals. “Unfortunately, the youths came out, they did their best. In fact, I will call them patriotic. They went in and stopped the rustlers from moving with the cows and were able to rescue about 100 cows at the end of the day.
“So, after the rescue, they were only able to arrest about three or four of those people and took them to the police station and returned to their various villages.
“That early morning, some of those rustlers who escaped came back and started attacking and killing people in the villages. So, it was quite unfortunate.”
Lalong said a committee was working on new security architecture for northern states, which would be based on community policing as a way to provide sustainable solution to the insecurity in the region.
When asked whether the North Central would consider a local security outfit in the mould of the South-West, Amotekun, he said: “When you talk about North Central, I am the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum. We took a decision sometime last year.
“You will recall that at one time, we met the president and we told him what we were doing. We set up committees and the committees have worked very hard.
“You will recall that we started our meeting from the North-West, in Katsina. We are going back to have another meeting in the North-Central.
“The situation in the South might not be the same with the North but in the North, we are also looking at some ways that will also address these issues.
“So, we have gone ahead to set up committees. Those committees have done their work and we are going to meet to address these issues once and for all.
“We have also agreed to key into community policing and at the level of the committee, we have already gone far. Each state is already neck deep in community policing.
“But I have not read the (Amotekun) document. I cannot claim to have read the details of that document, to understand what they mean by Amotekun.
“I saw various vehicles that were bought but, you know, if it is about vehicles, many vehicles have been bought in the North. I bought almost 100 vehicles and gave to the police but that is not what will address the insecurity in my state.
“So, it may vary from the South to the North, but in the North, we are trying to look for a comprehensive way that will help augment what the Federal Government is doing in respect to insecurity.”