Nigerian Army Accused of Complicity After Brutal Attack Near Jos

Nigerian Army Accused of Complicity After Brutal Attack Near Jos
Human rights attorney Solomon Dalyop in Jos taunts soldiers: "Is the military here to protect us or to assist the terrorists who are attacking us?” (Photo by Masara Kim)
Douglas Burton
Masara Kim
4/28/2023
Updated:
5/4/2023

Thousands of Nigerians rallied near Jos, the capital of Plateau State, on April 26, in the biggest protest yet against what citizens are calling the military’s “complicity with terrorists.”

Battalions of soldiers stationed nearby have failed to defend residents from terrorist attacks, despite multiple advance warnings, protesters told The Epoch Times. The 12-hour protest, the second of its kind in two years, was sparked by a slaying the previous day of six unarmed young men working at a tin-mining camp at Turu, which is eight miles south of Jos.
Human rights groups have called the conflict between terrorists of Nigeria’s Fulani tribe and the tribes farming Nigeria’s Middle Belt a “silent slaughter.”

Critics of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari have faulted him for allowing tens of thousands of armed militia from his own Fulani ethnicity to murder and pillage across a vast area in order to replace small-plot farmers with migrating Fulani herders.

"Traitors go home!" hundreds of protesters shout in Jos South, Nigeria, on April 26, 2023. (Photo by Masara Kim)
"Traitors go home!" hundreds of protesters shout in Jos South, Nigeria, on April 26, 2023. (Photo by Masara Kim)

A text message warning all residents south of Jos to expect an attack by radicalized terrorist militia had leaked from a secret intelligence network and was passed on to the military hours prior to the attack, but with no noticeable response. The frequent loss of life compelled more than 5,000 women and young people to march on a major highway in the southwestern outskirts of Jos on April 26.

“Traitors,” the protesters shouted as they burned tires and waved tree branches. “We don’t need you.”

Call to Change US Stance Toward Nigeria

A military spokesman told The Epoch Times that “logistical problems” were to blame for the failure to respond to threats.

In Washington, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) advanced a House resolution on Jan. 31, calling on the U.S. State Department to restore Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” in its ranking, which implies that the nation allows serious human rights abuses.

On April 26, as heartbroken Nigerian mothers railed against the Nigerian army in Jos, on Capitol Hill, Smith’s staffers met with a broad range of Nigerian diaspora huddling to lobby in favor of a House resolution (HR 82) that would put pressure on the Nigerian government to enforce its own laws.

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed by terrorists even as  Nigerian authorities purchased 12 Super Tucano fighter jets from the United States in 2021 to combat terrorism, according to the crime-tracking nonprofit Intersociety. At least 6 percent of the killings have occurred in Plateau State, Intersociety reports.
The U.S. Mission in Abuja blames the loss of life on “communal clashes” between farmers and herders, despite ample refutations by the International Committee on Nigeria as well as multiple reports in The Epoch Times. Plateau State hosts a 2,000-man army base in Jos, as well as a joint military task force operating all over the state that has failed to answer dozens of cries for help during midnight attacks within their operating areas.

Citizens Force Tanks to Retreat

Outraged residents of Turu, also known as Farin Lamba, a community of 2,500 in the Jos South area, gathered on April 26 to demand that soldiers leave the area.

“If the military cannot guarantee our safety, then why do we need them around?” asked Solomon Dalyop, a human rights lawyer who was leading the protest.

“The military has demonstrated bias, negligence, and criminal omission.”

Citizens in Jos South, Nigeria, force police vehicles to pull back during a protest on April 26, 2023. (Photo by Masara Kim)
Citizens in Jos South, Nigeria, force police vehicles to pull back during a protest on April 26, 2023. (Photo by Masara Kim)

“An alert will be circulated two hours before an incident, but you will not see any military vehicle until several hours after an attack has occurred,“ Dalyop told The Epoch Times. ”And in most cases, they end up arresting our people who are the victims.

“We therefore ask, is the military here to protect us or assist the Fulani terrorists who are attacking us?”

The Fulani ethnicity, with as many as 10 million members in Nigeria, counts among its numbers educated elites as well as fierce Islamist terrorists who have been linked to thousands of genocidal massacres in the nation’s so-called Middle Belt. Islamic extremists who identify as members of the group have claimed three times as many victims as the Boko Haram insurgency, according to Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, an international monitoring group in the United Kingdom.
The protest followed allegations that on April 25, despite several advance warnings, the military left residents in Turu vulnerable to attacks. Six prospectors working at a tin mining site bore the brunt of an attack that was intended for the 6,000 residents of Turu and its adjoining villages, said Dachung Musa Bagos, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives.

Civilian Guards Defend Isolated Villages

A gang of 50 terrorists armed with assault rifles opened fire just after dark at 12 prospectors at a tin mining site in the outskirts of Turu, killing half of them, witnesses told The Epoch Times.

The attackers bumped into the miners as they waded toward the town through a nearby stream, said Joel Peter, a witness.

“They appeared suddenly and started shooting,” Peter told The Epoch Times. “I escaped carrying my injured friend on my back.”

Two hours before the incident, The Epoch Times obtained a confidential text indicating that terrorists were planning to attack Turu and six other surrounding villages, and shared the text message with police and military officials in Jos. Yet, a group of only 10 civilian volunteer guards carrying single-shot rifles attempted to respond during the incident, according to their leader, Mwanta Dachung.

The outnumbered and outgunned fighters fired their rifles from a safe distance, forcing attackers to pull back before closing in to search for survivors at the site, Dachung told The Epoch Times.

Civilian guards armed with single-shot rifles respond to an attack in Plateau State, Nigeria, in 2021. (Photo by Masara Kim)
Civilian guards armed with single-shot rifles respond to an attack in Plateau State, Nigeria, in 2021. (Photo by Masara Kim)

Soldiers at a battalion-size military base two miles away didn’t arrive on the scene until 8 a.m. the following day when protests had begun, Dachung said. The military’s convoy of three pickup trucks and one gun truck was forced to retreat by angry protesters, who banged on their doors and threatened to set the vehicles on fire.

It was the latest in a series of incidents in the area in which the military stood by as residents were killed, said Fom Gwottson, a member of Plateau’s State Legislature.

“The response of the military has never been prompt,” he told The Epoch Times.

“Everyone knew an attack was going to happen but there was no one to protect my people,” said Gwottson, who represents Jos South County at the State Legislative House.

“Logistical problems” hindered the swift arrival of troops to the scene, Capt. Oya James, spokesman of the military task force in Plateau State, told The Epoch Times.

“Sometimes, it is hard to admit, but we have to look for fuel and other logistics before we can mobilize to the scene of an incident,” James said in a telephone interview.

“The military is over-stretched, and we cannot station our men in every community,” he said, acknowledging an advance warning shared by The Epoch Times.

“That text message you sent listed about 10 villages [under threat of attack] and we cannot withdraw soldiers from other locations to post to those places. That would be leaving them vulnerable to attacks as well. The attackers have informants who notify them when we are leaving one point to another.”

The Plateau massacre is part of a pattern of such assaults. Just 11 days earlier, on April 14, a group of organized attackers shouting in the Fulani language massacred 33 villagers 100 miles away in Kaduna State, under the watchful eyes of the military.

The Nigerian army base in the Zangon Kataf County received advance notice of an attack in Runji, a farm town located 50 miles south of the State capital Kaduna, but did nothing to protect the 1,000 civilian residents. The result was devastating—33 people were killed and 30 houses were razed, according to media reports.

Minutes before the attack at 9 p.m., military officials who reportedly had been warned around noontime, made phone calls to town leaders in Runji and advised them to brace for attacks within minutes, said one resident, who spoke to The Epoch Times on background.

Despite being located a mile and a half away, the troops arrived several minutes after the attack had started, the resident said. The soldiers had three gun trucks and an armored personnel carrier, but failed to fire a shot to repel the attackers, the resident said.

The attacks have prompted Dame Caroline Cox, a member of the UK House of Lords, to call for action.

“The international community should be putting pressure on the Government to fulfil its obligation to protect its own people,” Cox wrote in an email to The Epoch Times. “But, as I write, the world is just standing by, watching as the violence continues and the suffering escalates.”

Douglas Burton is a former U.S. State Department official who was stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq. He writes news and commentary from Washington, D.C.