Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, broke down in tears on Monday in Jos while addressing thousands of protesting women, including female students of the University of Jos, at the State House.
The women, clad in black, showed up in their thousands and wailed and sang sad songs for several hours in Jos, the state capital. The women were protesting the recent violence which has claimed the lives of hundreds of people in Jos.
The governor, overwhelmed by the wailing women, some of whom flung themselves to the ground and rolled around, could not stop the tears from rolling down his face as he addressed them. His wife, Ngo Talatu, who welcomed the protesters, also wept quietly throughout her husband’s speech.
The spokesperson for the protesting women, Rhoda Wal, condemned the failure of the government to address the violence.
“Innocent and harmless women, children and students are being killed in the attacks in our communities and nobody is doing anything about it,” Mrs. Wal said.
“Few attackers were arrested but that was the last that we heard about them while our sons who are defending their communities are indiscriminately arrested and put in prisons,” she added.
The women also complained that they and their children were no longer safe in their homes and in the markets, and urged the appropriate authorities to do something urgent to address the situation. They also protested against the continued presence of the military’s Special Task Force, whom they accused of being biased, and urged the federal government to reconstitute the force.
The protesters alleged that specific sections of Jos and places of worship were being protected by armoured tanks and heavily armed security personnel while other areas were unguarded and left wide open to attackers. Hausa youth and University of Jos students clashed over the weekend, leading to an intervention by the task force which ended with a few students shot.
“Market women are not safe in their markets and children are not safe in the schools; the majority of casualties in the Christmas Eve bomb blast in Kabong were women,” said Ms. Wal.
The women demanded the immediate relocation of the Farin Gada tomato market, Angwar Rogo settlement, and Bauchi road motor-park, saying that these places constituted security threats to the university communities. They also called on retired military officers, former governors, and traditional rulers in the state to mediate in the crisis.
Operation Rainbow to the rescue
Mr. Jang, pulling himself together, responded to the women by saying that the continued crisis in the metropolis was a ploy to disrupt the ongoing voter registration and forthcoming general elections.
The governor said that Plateau State and federal governments were working on a security outfit he called ‘Operation Rainbow’, to take over the maintenance of security in the state from the military.
Mr. Jang also said that the outfit would comprise of police, retired military officers, and villagers who would be trained to provide security for their various communities.
The governor appealed to the protesters to be patient with the military, saying that they were humans and not saints, an appeal the women rejected with resounding chants of “No!”
Mr. Jang promised the women that all markets close to the University of Jos would be relocated to ensure the security of students and staff.
The speaker of the State House of Assembly, Istifanus Mwansat, also informed the protesters that the legislature was working with the executive to find a lasting solution to the crisis. The protesters had earlier stopped at the State Police Command headquarters where they presented their grievances to the commissioner of police, Abdulrahman Akano.
Court of Appeal resumes sitting
Judges of the Court of Appeal have resumed work in Jos after they rounded off a routine sitting in Gombe State on Friday. The return has put an end to speculation that the court had been relocated to Gombe State following the persistent crisis in Plateau State.
Ambrose Momoh, the director of press and public relations, Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, had said the rumour was untrue. Mr. Momoh had told the News Agency of Nigeria that he was not aware of any such order.
Also, public schools in Jos remained closed on Monday as students did not resume despite the directive from the federal government that all schools should open following the expiration of the three weeks ordered for voter registration.
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