Plateau Attacks: Restitution as a panacea for peaceful co-existence

From Pwanagba Agabus, Jos

Plateau State, the once acclaimed “Home of Peace and Tourism” has suffered unimaginable attacks which has claimed many lives and property worth billions destroyed; the worst hit has been Plateau North Senatorial District.

From the declaration of emergency rule in 2004 on the State by the Olusegun Obasanjo led administration, to the lingering ethno-religious unrest that has further marked the State out for about 20 years.

It would be recalled that over 200 persons were killed and over 38, 000 were displaced from their ancestral homes when suspected herdsmen attacked some communities on June 23 and 24, 2018,
in Barkin Ladi and Riyom LGAs of the state.

Restitution is the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner.

The law of restitution is the law of gains-based recovery. It is to be contrasted with the law of compensation, which is the law of loss-based recovery. When a court orders restitution it orders the defendant to give up his/her gains to the claimant.

In the wake of the aforementioned attack, Governor Lalong had on the 14th November, 2018, said when he inspected the site of the proposed Mobile Police Squadron in one of the affected communities (Gashish District) of Barkin Ladi LGA of the State, that those who forcefully annexed ancestral homes and villages of Plateau people would soon be forced out.

The attackers now occupy the communities and have taken over the houses, lands, livestock and economic trees of the victims.

But an angry Lalong told the “foreign” occupants that they would soon be pushed out.

“Nobody will take the land from the original owners. If you are occupying somebody’s land or house, know that you are living on borrowed time.

“It is not a matter of choice, you will be forced out soon”, he stressed.

“This is not just in Gashish; it will cover the entire state. We will not allow anybody to take over another person’s property,” he declared.

He advised the illegal occupants of the houses to vacate them, saying that government would restore peace and resettle displaced persons to their original places.

He, however, implored the people to learn to live in peace with one another, saying that government’s efforts would amount to nothing if the people would not embrace peace.

Also, in his call for restitution in Plateau North Senatorial District, which has being the worst hit by the about two decades attacks, the Senator representing the zone and Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, Istifanus Gyang, had said there will never be forgiveness without restitution if true reconciliation is to be achieved in Plateau North.

He equally said, “if you are occupying someone’s land or property that does not belong to you during the unrest that have happened in this place, you have to give it back”.

However, with relative peace and reconciliatory efforts underway, hence the call for restitution by the lawmaker.

Gyang had on several occasions calls for restitution for true “forgiveness and reconciliation” to take place.

In February, 2020, while addressing journalists after touring the six LGAs that makeup his senatorial district, the Lawmaker had said, he will support any policy that will secure and guarantee the safety of lives and property of the citizenry at the grassroot.

On his agenda for his senatorial district, Gyang who represented Barkin Ladi/Riyom constituency in the House of Representatives between 2015 and 2019, before he was elected to the Senate, said, “But by and large, my agenda for Plateau North, is; first of all secure the people through peace not through arms; and through constructive engagement of the communities.

“Secondly, is to reconcile the people on the pillars of forgiveness and restitution.

“We forgive ourselves of what we have done, and we restitute in the way of, if you are occupying someone’s land or property that does not belong to you in the process of the unrest that happened in this place, you have to give it back.

“You can’t be convicted for corruption and still retain the proceeds of crime, its not done”, he explained.

“So, if forgiveness is undertaken, you cannot retain the things that belong to other people in the process of this unrest, you know that they are not your own and you took ownership of them”, he stressed.

Sadly, over two years after the attack that claimed the lives of the over 200 persons, displaced thousands and property worth billions destroyed, the Mobile Barracks promised by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to be constructed in Gashish District, is yet to see the light of day.

Government and Security operatives have made some efforts to assist some of the displaced persons return to their communities, but the major undoing of such efforts is the lack of restitution; as communities taken over by the alleged aggressors remains in their custody.

While others were supported to return to their ancestral homes, others where not lucky, they had to take the risk of resettling themselves, leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks.

Another LGA that has suffered attacks and issues of land grabbing in recent time is Bokkos LGA, in Plateau Central Senatorial District.

Particularly of note, is Daffo district of the LGA which has been taken over by the aggressors.

Government must back its statements with political will, to ensure true forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among people who had hitherto coexisted and shared a lot together.

As the worst hit LGAs of Barkin Ladi and Riyom, especially in the area of land grabbing by the aggressors, it mandatory for government who is saddled with the constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property, come to the aid of these affected communities, by ensuring that lands/property grabbed are returned to their rightful owners, the Barracks promised by the Federal Government is put in place, to forestall any future occurrence of such criminal acts.

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