If you live in such areas as Apata, BusaBuji, Kabong, Jenta (Adamu, Makeri), Alheri, GadaBiu, Congo Russia, UngwanDamisa, Downbase, UngwanRogo, Dadin Kowa, Ungwan Soya, Rukuba road, Dilimi, Nasarawa Gwom, Gangare, Utan, and several other parts, you may have heard of the dangers residents of these areas go through as a result of the activities of gangsters and cult violence.

The above listed ‘flash zones represent almost half of the city; it is therefore clear that an emergency situation has developed requiring emergency measures’. That means that we can’t joke with what has hit us, if we desire to continue to celebrate the gains of the sustenance of peace in our communities.

In the course of the celebration of the International Peace Day, several things stood out; particularly on the need for our youths to embrace the culture of peace and trust. But more importantly, education has help communities overcome this stage to appreciate their situation for a change.

Sadly, we are at a cross road having come face to face with the stark realities that our state is in. There is no one that could sufficiently explain and perhaps give us the time the scourge started in our city; except for us to accept conjectures. The groups gained notoriety as they had to combine the ‘job of security’ in their communities enjoying the availability of drugs; and indeed play with while it lasted.

In my estimation, it had started around such areas as Bauchi road, UngwanRogo, and Rikkos masquerading under the guise of sarasuka which had gained prominence in Gombe, Bauchi and other North Eastern states. During the period of the internecine in the state, it spread to other neighbourhoods as youths in these areas were often out for the protection of their ‘territories’ boosted by the fact that they had something to embolden them.

In some of the areas above, it was alleged that some people were hired and brought to the state to fight on their behalf during the crises. With guns, drugs and other ‘instrument’ to wage the ‘war’ over; and of course with peace gradually returning; they had nothing to lay claim to for being in Jos except to turn against their alleged benefactors by going after their wives and children. We have heard that they became lords terrorizing everything, persons and even themselves so long as it gave them momentary satisfaction.

Whether that is true or not, it must be stated that insecurity comes with its attendant consequences in our neighbourhoods. To think that we were going to escape that would have amounted to wishful thinking, and indeed given room for them to exercise their dominance in the communities they are found.

Gradually, what we thought had started as an incident that should have been contained; it went out of proportion, much to our chagrin and the consternation of the security and the residents of the neighbourhoods. Had this been nib in the bud at the initial stage, a remedy would have been found and those early ‘disciples’ rehabilitated with skills to boot. They need jobs, a security that releases them from their bondage.

Here we are today; we are at a stage that the state had not bargained for. We are where we are for our inactions, which has led us to loose energetic young men in the senseless war declared on themselves and those who may have been caught in between. We have been brought to a state of racking our brains for a solution to a problem created by our children; for whom the funds that should have been deplored to save them would have been used to create jobs for them.

I am aware that the threat has spread across several communities in the state. For several months running now, some of our staff who are resident in certain areas of Jos North local government area would be jittery once it is approaching 6pm. They would literarily ‘abandon’ their duty posts to escape home to ‘safety’ before the work for the day is concluded.

Such again has become the practice in several other areas where shop owners always close their business places for fear of being attacked and killed. Such incidences have been recorded in certain communities. While some business owners live to tell their stories, others never as they are shot and left at the mercy of life and death.

The sad practice has been on for a long time until on August 20, 2019 when the Plateau Peace Building Agency formally came out with the press release titled: ‘The growing trend of cultism and gang violence within Jos metropolis and environs’. Long before then, a lot of people on the social media and other platforms had expressed their concerns on the issue; insisting it was time something drastic was put in place to address the menace.

The press statement from PPBA was instructive needing examination for the cause of peace in the state. This will suffice:

‘Reports indicate that gang violence and cultist activities have culminated into acts of revenge that are growing more heinous by the day. Bullets have been shot, throats slit open and young boys hacked down with machetes at their prime. Some of these neighborhoods have also been identified with high risk of consumption and peddling of illicit drugs. Increasingly, families agonize about their children being recruited by gang and cult groups even at the adolescent ages of 12 and 17.

‘This ugly trend is not only disturbing but worrisome considering that the perpetrators are mostly young people who are supposed to be the vanguards of Peace and development in our state and not to even mention that they are supposedly, our “leaders of tomorrow.” Therefore, we are compelled by this unfortunate development to issue a clarion call to communities and neighborhoods to be decisive in dealing with this monster before it consumes us all. The problem requires a collective action of sort.

‘The state has toiled tirelessly through the years to entrench the relative Peace we currently enjoy and therefore, any act with the potential to derail or sabotage this hard-earned Peace must be resisted by all men and women of good conscience.

While we call on the security agencies to rise up to the occasion by deploying intelligence to stamp out cultism and vicious groups that find ways to infiltrate all-too-impressionable lives, we equally sue for the cooperation and understanding of community and religious leaders, youth and women groups, as well as the media, in recognizing the fact that this is not only a security problem but a public health issue’.

Before now there have been other voices which rose in condemnation of the trend requesting government to stem the tide and save the people of the state the pains that accompany the invasion of our cities by such groups. No doubt, what we currently have has assumed a pattern. There is an urgent need for a drastic solution by government and security, so that our communities will be safe havens for all.

What we failed to do since the scourge became intense is to declare war against drug abuse generally. The dimension it has assumed calls for total concentration given the fact that it has continued to be fueled by drug trafficking and abuse made free during the crises in the state. The point had been made in the past by the government to regulate the consumption of alcoholic beverages at certain hours of the day.

It was an extreme measure that many didn’t like it. While it didn’t solve the drive to drug trafficking, it nonetheless sent the signal that, before long if we didn’t heed the warning our children would be heading down the precipice. We are on the edge of the cliff needing to be salvaged; therefore specific interventions must be encouraged and sustained.

For a challenge such as this which demands quick solution; it must be acknowledged that we had failed to see it coming from the beginning. The Governor Jonah David Jang solution of baring sales of alcohol during working hours was not democratic; just as we know that the legislature did not play its role in the move to rid the society of drugs.

Now that Hon Esther Simi Dusu has brought the matter on the floor of the Plateau State House of Assembly through a motion, it is expected that what the Plateau Peace Building Agency has started will save the future of Plateau State, even as we desire that it should be expedited for the course of peace and in regard of the fact that we cannot afford a delay.

The political leadership of our society will do us well if they deemphasize the continued usage and reliance of young persons during campaigns. The fact that they are given a sense of belonging only to the point of investing in their future is enough to give them a future.

We have gotten to the stage that drastic measures must be sought for Jos. The lives of the people are daily being threatened. The fact that the city has been invaded is enough to have sleepless nights. What should be done is within our purview. There are various non-governmental organizations that spend so much for this cause; all there is to be done is to encourage them to succeed.

Increasingly our communities have continued to engage the services of young people to defend what is left of their territories. To make that less assertive, the youths need jobs to be able to earn a living that gives them a sense of responsibility in the communities.

It is possible to change the narrative on the Plateau. The journey should have started yesterday. Let us not be late.

 

Categories: Column

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