Soldiers under the Special Task Force (STF), otherwise known as Operation Safe Haven, have begun the special operation to flush out of forcing out suspected Fulani herdsmen and mercenaries from the Plateau Mountains.
The operation has been planned by the STF to save lives of villager in troubled Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas.
The Post understands that the operation at the expiration of the 48-hour ultimatum issued to the inhabitants of Mahanga, Kajruk, Kuzen, Maseh and Shung 2 Village of Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Government Councils to vacate the area to allow the military to flush out those who have turned their hideouts from where they have been launching deadly attacks against the villagers.
The Post understands that while other villagers in the area have fled their homes, the Fulani herdsmen and the mercenaries are insisting on staying to confront the military operation.
The military operation, while it is aimed at protection the villagers, remains an unpopular choice especially in the Northern states, where governors had earlier voiced their opposition.
Speaking on the plan, Niger State Governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, through his spokesman Danladi Ndayebo, had urged a cautious military operation.
The governor, who is the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, urged the STF to collaborate with Governor Jang of Plateau rather than take actions that could aggravate the conflict in the area and affect other parts of the north.
On the operation, the Spokesman of the STF, Captain Salisu Mustapha, noted in a telephone chat, “military operations will commence by midnight.” On what the military operations there mean, he said, “Whatever you think military operations mean to you is what will commence.”
Ahead if the expiration of the deadline, traders in Jos in solidarity with the Fulani mercenaries stayed at home to observe prayers. This was a directive that they received from the Ulama elders.
In a text message sent round on Sunday night, Spokesman of the Ulama Elders’ Council in the state, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Mudi, urged all Muslims to stay in their respective houses to offer prayers for the peace of the country, the state and the two local governments in particular.
“The leadership of the Muslims in Plateau State has directed all Muslims to stay at home on 16/07/2012, and observe a day prayer in solidarity with the Fulani community in Riyom and Barkin Ladi local government areas who have been served a 48-hours quit notice by the STF,” one of the text messages read in part.
While the Muslims have been saying that the quit notice is targeted only at the Fulani herdsmen in the area the STF Commander, Major-General Henry Ayoola, explained that the exercise is not targeted at any tribe as religion, adding that the Fulani predominantly occupy just one of the five communities affected by the exercise.
He said he came here with open mind without any bias against any of the stakeholders.
In Benue State, Tiv people in Gwer West and Guma Local Government Areas where Fulani mercenaries have allegedly murdered more than 500 persons in the past eight months have faulted the Ulama Elders Council of Plateau State and the Governor of Niger State, Muazu Babangida Aliyu for taking sides with the attackers.
Geofrey Orfega, an indigene of Gwer West told The Post that the Governor Aliyu has demonstrated his bias for the killers of innocent northern ethnic groups by his statement opposing the operation in the area.
He said that the Fulani mercenaries are usually killed Christian middle-belters and burnt their villages, without any serious action. Orfega noted that the Fulani mercenaries are usually embedded in villages of nomadic Fulani herdsmen.
“Our traditional rulers in Benue State, especially in Gwer West have complained bitterly over the use of mercenaries and marauders to kill our people. The Ter Nagi, Daniel Abomtse cried over the massacre of Tiv people, but nothing was ever done or said by the Northern Governors’ Forum. The military operation must go on and the Fulani mercenaries forced out,” he added.