From Jude Owuamanam, Jos

A group, Bokkos Cultural Development Council (BCDC) Vanguard, and the military task force set up to maintain peace on the Plateau, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), are at loggerheads over what Bokkos people described as imposed peace agreements between them and Fulani herdsmen by the military authorities.

BCDC Vanguard, in a statement signed by its Chairman, Barr. Farmasum Fuddang, said it’s aware of purported peace agreements brokered by the Sector 5, Bokkos Command of the special task force, Operation Safe Haven, involving Fulani settlers and natives of Butura Kampani, Chikam, Kunet, and neighbouring villages.

They cautioned against what they described as “rushed and arbitrary peace deals that fail to address the underlying causes of violence perpetrated by the Fulani aggressors.” BCDC Vanguard said for over a decade, the aggressors have primarily targeted land grabbing through arson, intimidation, and murder of local communities.

The statement said: “While recognising the essential role of the military in restoring stability to areas recently hit by armed attacks, especially in response to our previous campaigns, there is need for more to be done to secure our people residing at the violent flash points as we have been having reports of isolated attacks, kidnapping and killing of individuals.

“There is need for deliberate security mapping to ensure that our people are adequately protected as they struggle to return to their chiefly rubbled homes and cultivate their farms this farming season.

“Instead of addressing the root issues, the military, under the leadership of Col. C.Y. Ofurumazi, as the new Commander of Sector 5, continues to label our peaceful communities as militias. They harass, intimidate, and, in some cases, shoot, arrest, and disarm them, even confiscating basic defensive weapons like cutlasses and dane guns. Meanwhile, the terrorists operate with impunity, wreaking havoc unchecked,” BCDC said.

The group added: “Peace is a process rooted in mutual understanding, respect for individual rights, and acknowledgment of the implications of wrongdoing.

“Consistently, the Fulani militants have jettisoned it over the years and, particularly, in the last four months, beginning with the Christmas Eve massacre of over 250 people.

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“Therefore, all so-called peace negotiations or agreements with our people, which we learned are still being pushed by the military, should stop, forthwith.

“Any desire for genuine peace should follow the appropriate channel and the continued intimidation and harassment of our people in the name of peace must stop now.”

But OPSH, in a statement signed by the Media Officer, Maj. Samson Nantip Zhakom, denied that there was any peace agreement.

He said what took place was an expanded stakeholders meeting to bring everybody involved in the peace process, in the spate of attacks in that area, to a common understanding.

His statement read: “As part of non-kinetic efforts to de-escalate tension in Bokkos and Mangu Local Government Areas of Plateau State, Operation Safe Haven facilitated an expanded stakeholders’ engagement at the Headquarters 3 Division on April 24, 2024.

“It is imperative to state that the meeting was well attended with critical stakeholders from all sides of the divide in attendance, as well as representatives of the Plateau State Government. As a result of the meeting, it was agreed that the bottom-top crisis resolution approach should be employed to bring a lasting solution to the crisis experienced in the aforementioned local government areas. 

“Consequent upon the foregoing, troops of Sector 5 Operation Safe Haven were invited by the civil authorities of Bokkos Local Government Area to witness one of such engagements at Butura Kampani on April 30, 2024.

He expressed disappointment that the statement by BCDC “is in furtherance of the group’s desperate efforts to remain relevant while discrediting the ongoing efforts of security agencies to foster peaceful coexistence among the residents of the Joint Operations Area.”