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HomeBreakingSeizures of Plateau Land Jumped 200 Percent in Six Years: Tribal Coalition

Seizures of Plateau Land Jumped 200 Percent in Six Years: Tribal Coalition

Plateau State Expected to Have Muslim Majority by 2027

By Masara Kim

The embattled governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang, has been waving for help from the United States as his idyllic farm state falls under the control of radicalized, Islamist land grabbers, according to a tribal coalition.

A joint report by five tribal associations on May 27 indicated a 200 percent increase in the number of captured communities–-from 50 six years ago to 151. Experts speaking to TruthNigeria have projected a tripling of these figures by the end of President Bola Tinubu’s administration in 2027, which likely would lead to Plateau sliding into the category of a “Muslim-majority” Middle Belt State, according to current population figures.

Persisting attacks displacing Christian residents in central Nigeria’s Plateau State are forcing local authorities to turn to the United States for assistance. President Joe Biden’s Administration has failed to acknowledge the violations in Africa’s most populous country. But the Nigerian military’s failure to address the situation leaves no option for the helpless officials struggling to reclaim control over 17 percent of the state from land-grabbing terrorists.

Mutfwang on May 31 told reporters his administration has commenced talks with U.S. officials toward addressing the ongoing threats and returning thousands of displaced residents back to their homes.

“It has become imperative for us to collaborate with influential nations like the United States of America,” Mutfwang said during a press briefing at Government House in Jos, the capital of Plateau State.

“We engaged with American officials, believing in their capacity to rally other nations to assist in curbing the infiltration of terrorists, some of whom come from other countries into Nigeria,” the governor said.

 “Moreover, they possess intelligence resources that we do not have,” Mutfwang said. “We deemed it crucial to harness their intelligence capabilities to thwart these attacks,” he said, emphasizing that the attacks are “genocidal,” targeting land grab and ethnic displacements.

Religious War Dubbed Farmer-Herder Clash

Barrister Solomon Dalyop (left) and Paul Dekete (center) during a press briefing by a coalition of Plateau indigenous youth associations in Jos on May 27. Credit: Masara Kim
Barrister Solomon Dalyop (left) and Paul Dekete (center) during a press briefing by a coalition of Plateau indigenous youth associations in Jos on May 27. Credit: Masara Kim

The Governor’s acknowledgment of the threats further corroborated claims by TruthNigeria and others that terrorists fighting a religious war have seized Christian lands the equivalent of three counties in the state within just 15 years.  He refuted the oft repeated claim from U.S. State Department analysts that the root of the problem is “Farmer-herder clashes.”

“In view of the unsatisfactory and feeble responses so far received from all levels of Government in Nigeria, the Atakar, Berom, Irigwe, Mwagavwul and Ron Youths Associations in conjunction with the Coalition of Plateau Indigenous Youths Bodies are constrained to draw attention of the public and, especially, International Community to the alarming and unacceptable loss of ancestral lands as well as the denial of access to farmlands and mining sites currently being suffered by the customary landowners in the State,” said Mr. Paul Dekete, the Chairman of Plateau Indigenous Youths.

“For several years, the Youths Bodies have been crying aloud and lodging complains to appropriate authorities on the unprecedented and well-orchestrated terror attacks unleashed on our hamlets, villages, and communities with the principal motive of dispossessing us of our God-giving lands and territory,” said Dekete during a joint press conference.

“The agenda of the Fulani terrorists is evident in their ruthless attacks on hamlets, villages, and communities, resulting in the intimidation and displacement of indigenous inhabitants,” said Dekete.

Role of the Fulani Tribe

Ethnic Fulani miners carrying out artisanal mining in a former Christian area near Jos: credit: Masara Kim.
Ethnic Fulani miners carrying out artisanal mining in a former Christian area near Jos: credit: Masara Kim.

The Fulani, a majority Muslim ethnic group claiming 8 million members in Nigeria is reputed to be Nigeria’s most politically influential ethnic group.

However, terrorists identifying as members have been linked to thousands of genocidal massacres across the country. The attacks have resulted in six times the Christian casualties caused by the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency, according to the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, a UK-based nonprofit.

Last year alone, Fulani extremists were jointly responsible for more than  8,000 Christian deaths, with Plateau State accounting for more than 1,500 of the figure, according to Intersociety, an international monitoring group. The most brutal attacks were recorded during the Christmas period, but ongoing violence included a traumatic invasion of a university campus in April.

“For the avoidance of doubt, more than 151 Hamlets and Villages are either totally “annexed” or effectively being occupied by the Fulani militants, bandits or terrorists in the Barkin Ladi,  Bassa, Bokkos,  Mangu and Riyom [counties],” Dekete told the joint meeting of tribes.

Solomon Dalyop, a co-leader of the group, said the number of seized communities is equivalent to three counties [local governance areas]. With just 17 counties, the size of lands taken by the terrorists is approximately 17.64 percent of the State. “More than half of Riyom  [LGA]  alone is gone,” said Dalyop.

Dalyop , who grew up in the current Fulani town of Rankum, recalled seeing clouds of dark smoke rising from Rankum, a hilltop farm town 35miles southwest of Jos on September 11, 2001 when terrorists swarmed it, coinciding with a massive terror attack in the United States that killed close to 3,000 people. The town was seized after terrorists killed dozens of residents and renamed it  “Mahanga” which means “watchtower,” in Fulani, Dalyop said.

“Since then, all other attacks in Plateau State and the middle belt have been coordinated from Mahanga,” Dalyop said.

Ethnic Fulani miners carrying out artisanal mining in a former Christian area near Jos: credit: Masara Kim. 

Fulani leaders speaking to TruthNigeria, have acknowledged the claims but refuted them, arguing that many of these towns were originally Fulani and that the Fulani have resided in Plateau for four centuries.

“We have evidence to show that we have existed in these villages for more than 400 years,” said Nura Muhammed, the leader of the Fulani in Plateau State.

“They are talking about villages that have been grabbed by the Fulani when in actual sense it is Fulani villages that have been grabbed,” stressed Muhammed.

Historians Refute Narrative of Ancient Fulani Occupation

Experts speaking to TruthNigeria have contradicted these claims.

“There is no record of the Fulani existing in the highland Plateau prior to the colonial conquest,” said Professor Sati Fwatshak, a professor of history at the university of Jos.

“The colonial documents are very clear on that,” said Professor Fwatshak to TruthNigeria.

“It was after the colonial conquest which took place between 1902 and 1907 that the Fulani had access to the upper Jos Plateau based on a royal decree that imposed freedom of movement in the British colonies,” said Professor Fwatshak.

“So any claim that the Fulani existed in the upper Jos Plateau beyond 100 years is a fallacy,” said Fwatshak in a telephone interview. The upper Jos Plateau was previously used to describe the area covering the central and northern regions of present-day Plateau state.

“They were however in Kanam which they conquered as part of the Jihad in the early 19th century which they took with Wase. But beyond Wase and Kanam, the Fulani never had a foothold in any part of the Plateau. And even in the Wase and Kanam, it was by virtue of the jihad that they found themselves there not that they originally owned these places,” he said.

The capture of communities in the northern region of the State began in the late 20th century with the gradual domination of communities by Fulani cattle herdsmen including migrants, said a conflict researcher at the university of Jos, Amos Pam Choji.

“There are places that ordinarily are safe havens for Fulani because they are more in number,” said Choji who studied the history of conflicts between farmers and herders in Plateau state from 1914 to 2018 as part of his doctoral dissertation.

“Therefore, Fulani from other places would usually migrate to those places, thereby posing threats to the Christian locals and sometimes attacking and chasing them away,” said Choji to TruthNigeria.

The village takeovers have been made possible by the military not responding to threats in Plateau State compared to the majority Muslim northern region of the country, said Moses Don, a member of the Plateau State Legislature.

“It is unfortunate it is continuing unabated,” said Mr. Don to TruthNigeria. “ “Nobody is above the law,” Don said. “But I can take you to many of the communities the Fulani are still occupying, and nobody is saying anything,” Don said.

Masara Kim is the senior editor of TruthNigeria.

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