In recent months, Plateau State has been rocked by a wave of violence that has left dozens dead and displaced thousands. The attacks, which have targeted mainly Christians, have been blamed on a variety of factors, including farmer-herder clashes, religious tensions, and political rivalries.
In a radio program organized by the Kwamkur Samuel Foundation on Justice Peace Arena radio show on Peace FM Jos, Revd Dr. Gideon Para-Mallam, the President and Chief Executive of The Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, discussed the challenges facing Plateau State and the need for a comprehensive approach to peacebuilding. He also decried the destruction of Churches during recent attacks in Mangu.
Para-Mallam began by highlighting the issue of “food terrorism,” which he described as the deliberate destruction of crops and livestock. He said that this is a serious threat to food security in Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole.
“Food terrorism is as simple as destroying livestock, destroying farmlands, which is quite pronounced in recent attacks, and let’s be honest about it that’s terrorism, only that it’s targeted instead of human lives it is targeted at food production.
“I do not have the statistics, I would have actually reeled it out but I think the United Nations has flashed a warning about the deadly effect of food terrorism, and significantly large numbers of people in Nigeria, as we enter 2024 will be without food all because of the activities of terrorism.
“What we are experiencing is not the traditional farmers and herders having disagreement when a farmland is encroached into, you find ways to settle it. It’s much more than that. It is targeting farmlands, destroying them, releasing cows to get in there and to destroy them.” he said.
Para-Mallam also spoke about the issue of displacement, which has affected thousands of people in Plateau State. He said that the government needs to do more to help those who have been displaced to return to their homes.
“The displacement of people is a huge issue. We cannot look the other way, we should not play politics with it. It is very unfortunate for that to happen, to be ignored.
“This problem ought to have been addressed by the last state government administration. It’s one of the things we promoted. It’s one of the things we pushed for. We talk about peace that is predicated on justice. There is no justice if people are displaced, and they are not helped to go back to their homes. So it will be unfortunate if the present government does not make this a priority because returning people back to their ancestral homelands is going to be cardinal for sustainable peace not just in Plateau state but in Nigeria.” he said.
Para-Mallam concluded by commending the governor of Plateau state, Caleb Mutfwang for the steps he has taken so far towards ensuring that peace is restored in the state. He also commended the Chief of Army Staff for his recent efforts towards restoring peace to Plateau.
“I want to make some commendations because commendations in themselves are good because it helps people who have a mind of doing something devoid of politics to push, so one, first commendation. The fact that the executive governor of plateau state, Barrister Caleb Mutfwang actually went to Abuja to meet with the Chief of Defense Staff, to meet with the Chief of Army Staff, to also meet with the Chief of Naval Staff, if am not mistaken, the Inspector General of Police. Those were positive steps in the right direction. It should be commended.
“Tied to that also is that our peace foundation issued a statement on the killings in Mangu on the 11th of July with the caption: ‘Mangu killings, it is time for peace’. That generated a lot of conversation nationally, all the newspapers to the best of my knowledge nationally published it except The Nation but also TVC picked up, Arise Tv picked it up because, in one of their major programs, I heard them make reference to that report, that’s positive and on the heel of that, the army came here, the Chief of the Army Staff himself.” He said.
Para-Mallam’s comments highlight the complex challenges facing Plateau State. However, he also offers a hopeful message, suggesting that peace is possible if all stakeholders are willing to work together.
The violence in Plateau State is a reminder of the importance of peacebuilding in Nigeria. It is clear that there is no easy solution to this problem, but it is essential that all stakeholders work together to find a way forward.
According to data released by the Para-Mallam peace foundation in July 2023, over 300 people including women and children have been killed between April and July 2023 in Mangu local government alone.
Watch the live stream here