When the alarm was raised; many thought it was false, some were complacent, calling it an ethnic crisis. But bit by bit, the fear became a reality; the subtle attacks which began over a decade ago have seen native communities in Plateau State taken over by invading herders.
The natives, mostly Berom by tribe watched helplessly as their homes were occupied, the people killed and farmlands taken over and in some cases, the original names of the villages changed. They wandered if their children would ever return to their ancestral land.
It will be recalled that the immediate past governor of the state, Jonah Jang, a Berom by tribe; the Member representing Riyom/Barkin Ladi in the National Assembly, Istifanus Gyang; the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Buba; all Berom Socio-cultural groups especially its umbrella body, Berom Educational and Cultural Organization, BECO and other tribes in Bassa local government area among others had consistently appealed to the Federal Government to tackle land occupation by foreign herders but all entreaties were ignored.
According to a document obtained by Saturday Vanguard, showing the various attacks in the area, over 54 communities have been taken over by the invaders which many of the occupied communities renamed. The occupied communities include “Rotchun (aka Rafin Acha), Dankum (renamed “Mahanga”), Hywa (renamed”Lugere”), Fass (renamed “Tafawa”), Davwak, Chwelnyap, Lyoho Dakar, and Angwan Dalyop which were all attacked Between September 7 and 10, 2001 with the original inhabitants displaced.
However, in all these attacks, no Internally Displaced Persons’ Camp was provided for the displaced persons as most of the sacked residents were accommodated by relatives while they found a way of integrating themselves into safer communities where they ran to.
Disturbed by this invasion, a youth group, APC Youths Online Forum has appealed to relevant stakeholders to work with Governor Simon Lalong to “reclaim the villages and lands occupied by the herdsmen and hand them over to the natives of the communities”.
On his part, the State Governor, Simon Lalong had done his best to ensure peace in the State and lamented the spate of killings and displacement of settlements saying that his administration would not tolerate land grabbing in any part of the State.
According to him, “those fighting, killing people and destroying their settlements with the intention of taking ownership of such places would not be allowed to do so. If you think you can chase people out and grab their land, we as a government would not allow you to own the land. My administration is working out modalities for prosecuting land grabbers to discourage the act.”