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Terrorists Take Over Schools After Months of Attacks in Plateau State: Officials

By Masara Kim

Under the scorching sun on a Thursday afternoon in Bokkos town, 8-year-old Precious Musa holds her notebook on her lap with high seriousness. She sat on bare, red dirt along with hundreds of other homeless children in a camp for internally displaced people (IDP’s) at the County seat of Bokkos. But Musa takes school with a sense of mission and listens intently to a lecture on arithmetic without benefit of white board.

She is among 19,000 Christians displaced by brutal attacks during last year’s Black Christmas massacres, 45 miles south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State. Although many would pity Musa, this is a good day for her. Even now she holds on to her dream of becoming an architect.

I know that mindset, because 30 years ago I sat in a classroom in Butura Kampani and dreamed of becoming an astronaut. I ended up as a conflict reporter for TruthNigeria, but my eyes are still on the stars.

The terrorist attacks came almost simultaneously to 36 villages, according to military authorities, starting on December 23 and peaking on Christmas Eve. More than 295 people were killed in the onslaught lasting several days according to Rev. Chris Damcher, the Chairman of the Plateau State Civil Society Organizations.

TruthNigeria estimates a force of approximately 3,000 armed men carried out the massacres as residents reported being swarmed by more than 100 in every village.

Major General Abdulsalam Abubakar, the Commander of a 2000-man military task force in Plateau State said his troops were overwhelmed during the invasions. But the “Operation Safe Haven” task force had sufficient time to prepare. TruthNigeria had published a series of advance warnings of the attacks since November, giving exact details of the targeted areas.

The attacks were described as the worst instance of genocide in the country in recent years and drew global outrage from both U.S.- and European lawmakers.

In the midst of the chaos, the terrorists reduced Musa’s village of Mangor to ashes, killing more than 40 people according to town leaders. Victims included at least 20 women and children who met a gruesome fate while seeking refuge in a nearby stream bed.

Sole survivor: Purity Panmun Danat, 3. Photo by Masara Kim.
Sole survivor: Purity Panmun Danat, 3. Photo by Masara Kim.

The previous day, Dec. 23, in a village just 10 miles away, Purity Panmun Danat, 3 years old, was not so lucky. She is the sole survivor of her family’s massacre after their village, Kambar-Pelli, was attacked. Purity witnessed the slaughter of her father, mother, three brothers, and a sister. Purity miraculously survived when her mother hid her under a curtain. Sixteen people in Kambar-Pelli, were killed that night by the marauders whom residents said spoke the Fulani dialect.

The Fulani tribe, known throughout Africa as skilled herders and fundamentalist Muslims, have contributed an outsized share of leaders to Nigeria’s government since independence in 1960. On the downside, Fulani jihadist groups are responsible for six times more Christian deaths than the ISIS insurgency known as Boko Haram in recent years.

But the attacks are ongoing. Fulani terrorists killed two people making a living in a mining camp south of Jos the capital of Plateau state on March 6.

Volunteer teacher Mallan Kawu instructs on arithmetic to students at an IDP camp in Bokkos Town March 14. photo by Masara Kim.
Volunteer teacher Mallan Kawu instructs on arithmetic to students at an IDP camp in Bokkos Town March 14. photo by Masara Kim.

Federal Government to Appease Killers?

Despite these grim realities, President Bola Tinubu announced plans on Monday, March 11, to implement subsidized ranching communities aimed at resolving the so-called “farmer-herder clashes” nationwide.

“I know what it means for roaming cows to eat crops and the vegetation of our land. I know it is painful. But when we re-orient the herder and make provision for cattle rearing, we can address that,” said the President while launching an agro-allied project — the Food Security and Agricultural Mechanization Program in Niger State.

When he made the remarks, Precious Musa was grappling with the aftermath of being neglected by her government, as terrorists threatened her town and her future. Despite her dream of becoming an architect, her eyes reflect despair.

Ten miles away in the village of Butura Kampani, residents, faced with no other option to survive, are banding together and forming self-defense groups to repel the attacks themselves. In this town of 5000 residents, hundreds of children attended classes in worn-out but comfortable classrooms, dazzling in their school uniforms.

But in Mangor and dozens of other villages in Central Plateau, the situation remains dire. More than 13,000 schoolchildren are unable to access their homes and schools due to ongoing threats.

In Bokkos town where 19,000 displaced residents are sheltering in makeshift camps, at least 1,300 schoolchildren are forced to take classes sitting on dirt, taught by volunteers. They hail from some 25 villages taken over by terrorist squatters, according to Bishop Ayuba Matawal, who is in charge of 19 camps in the city.

12 miles away in Mangu county, a staggering 11,800 displaced children are hearing lectures by volunteers, according to Mr. Markus Artu, a community leader representing more than 80,000 displaced residents. The area witnessed days of armed attacks across 30 communities claiming over 350 lives recorded by end of May 2023, according to town leaders. Despite the establishment of a special military unit called “Operation Hakorin Damisa” in July, Artu texted “Nothing has changed,” to TruthNigeria.

“There are schools that have been taken over by bandits,” said Plateau Stare Governor Caleb Mutfwang recently.

“The crisis has inadvertently destabilized us in several ways,” said the Governor, who has repeatedly described the attacks credited to Fulani terrorists as genocidal, aimed at land grab and ethnic displacements.

The situation in Plateau has been replicated in nearby Benue State. Mr. Ojotu Ojema, a member of the Nigerian House of Reps hailing from Benue told TruthNigeria whole counties have been displaced in his constituency in recent weeks.

“What is happening is very worrisome,” said Ojema in a telephone interview. “All the villagers are now crowding into the local government headquarters because the villages are not safe,” Ojema said.

More than 1000 Communities Taken Over By Terrorists

Classroom in Butura Kampani Town, secured by civilian guards known as vigilantes, similar to the one TruthNigeria editor Masara Kim attended in the 1990s. Photo by Masara Kim.
Classroom in Butura Kampani Town, secured by civilian guards known as vigilantes, similar to the one TruthNigeria editor Masara Kim attended in the 1990s. Photo by Masara Kim.

The situation in the two states reveals a disturbing trend across the killing fields of the country’s northern states. More than 1,000 communities have been taken over by terrorists in the last 15 years, according to Intersociety. TruthNigeria investigations have gathered that in many of these communities, terrorists are standing up their own governments and imposing Sharia law on hapless residents. In Damari, a rural hub of 100 villages bunched near the border with Niger State West of Kaduna metropolis, the terrorists have converted public schools into indoctrination centers, according to residents interviewed by helpless residents talking to TruthNigeria.

“Children are the most precious resource being lost in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria, due to Islamic terrorism and its consequences including food shortages, potential famine, hyperinflation, and high rates of out-of-school youth,” texted Dede Laugesen, the Executive Director of Save the Persecuted Christians, a U.S. based nonprofit.

“Children in Nigeria are kept from an education because the government has failed to confront the terrorists. Instead, terrorists act with impunity and move about the affected communities unhindered even with hostages in tow,” Laugesen wrote.

“The Nigerian government should be alarmed at this growing crisis which threatens to destabilize Africa’s most populous nation,” she wrote.

“Instead, they make excuses and tell lies—lies that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has swallowed to the detriment of Nigeria’s future and most especially to her children,” Laugesen wrote.

Masara Kim is the senior editor of Truth Nigeria and reports from Jos.

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