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Nigerian army kills protesting students at Plateau university

Nigerian Soldiers Kill Three Student Protesters at University Near Jos

Truth Nigeria

April 23, 2024

Plateau State University at Bokkos (PLASU) at its Eastern arch after bloody confrontation on April 19. credit: Masara Kim.

JosThe mood at Plateau State University is thick with fear, anger and uncertainty about who’s to blame for the death of three unarmed students protesting military inaction when local villages were invaded by terrorist groups, and the arrest of Christian self-defense group members seeking to repel the armed invaders last week.

Scattered sandbags, blood stains, and ashes from burned tires now mark the entrance of the once bustling Plateau State University Bokkos, (  9°22’9.36″N  8°57’21.82″E) 42 miles south of the metropolis of Jos, four days after soldiers belonging to Special Task Force 5 commanded by Col. Cyril O. Ofurumazi, opened fire on student protesters, killing three, according to media reports.

Person of Interest: Col. Cyril O. Ofurumazi, Special Task Force 5, Nigerian Army, accused of ordering the shooting of university students and enabling terrorist attacks on local villages in Bokkos LGA. Courtesy of Facebook.

The escalating violence in Plateau state is an ongoing example Nigeria’s long-running, complex insurgency pitting Islamist extremists against the Nigerian military and civilian farmers in Nigeria’s fertile and mineral-rich Middle Belt of states.

During the last year, Plateau State has seen hundreds of massacres of unarmed villagers by armed, motorcycle-riding Fulani Islamist terrorists, including the massive Christmas eve 2023 coordinated attack by thousands of Islamists that resulted in hundreds killed. For months, swarms of armed, radicalized Muslim terrorists have laid siege to 151 villages and small towns in a bid to take over and control the land, according to Barrister Solomon Dalyop, who heads a large, majority-Christian indigenous tribal association.

“The root cause of these mass attacks is that Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang has begun plans to resettle those whose lands have been taken over by the Fulani jihadists,” according to Bokkos native Rev. Akila Yusuf, a resident pastor of House of the Rock Church in Jos. “They are now reinforcing their numbers and attacks to frustrate and block any such efforts,” Yusuf added.

The students were in Bokkos protesting military involvement in the  killing of their colleague 600 meters from the military post near the university entrance. The outraged students reportedly set fire to the checkpoint shelter staffed by soldiers from the special military Special Task Force 5 dubbed “Operation Safe Haven.”  By all accounts, the soldiers first fired into the air, then opened fire on the crowd, killing three and wounding several, according to Daily Post.

There are conflicting reports as to how many civilian bystanders and students were killed and wounded. The military acknowledges students were shot by security forces, but they say the victims were hit by “stray bullets.”  Citizen videos shot as students were hugging the ground say, “Jesus, they are shooting at us! our own soldiers.”

The university has been shuttered until May 2nd in the wake of the violent incident on April 19th, condemned as extrajudicial killings by a federal lawmaker.

Map of Plateau State University at Bokkos on 19 April 2024. Map by Jerry Makeri for TruthNigeria.

Over 1,000 students had marched to demand justice following the April 18 killing by invading Fulani Islamists of five local residents, including Dadin James Jordan, a 30-year-old 200-level student of Computer Science at Plateau State University, witnesses told TruthNigeria.

Eyewitnesses allege that soldiers located just 600 meters away from their checkpoint on campus failed to respond to the terrorist attacks April 18 in three nearby villages, leaving civilian residents to struggle for hours to repel back large numbers of armed invaders using only some homemade weapons against assault rifles. More infuriating, according to witnesses, was that the soldiers disarmed 15 civilian guards who were trying to defend their settlements with homemade pipe guns.

The student marchers on Friday, April 19, placed the corpse of Jordan in front of soldiers stationed at a prominent checkpoint near the university’s eastern entrance, according to witnesses However, during the two-hour protests, soldiers, led by Col. C.Y. Ofurumazi, the commander of the military Task Force 5 in Bokkos, opened fire on them, leading to three deaths.

Release International, a UK-based nonprofit, has called for a thorough public investigation into the incident amidst a deafening silence from Nigerian authorities, who have failed to address escalating allegations of human rights violations by soldiers in the region.

Alleged extrajudicial killings by soldiers started a week before the campus clash, however.  In all, at least six Christian villagers defending their villages from invading Islamists reportedly were killed by soldiers in the Bokkos area alone between April 13 and April 22, according to witnesses speaking to TruthNigeria.

In addition to those killed, more than 30 civilian volunteer guards allegedly were detained without charges by the military in the days leading up to the protest. The military authorities have claimed they aim to enforce law and order in the region plagued by relentless attacks targeting local Christian communities, according to Governor Caleb Mutfwang. Yet, attacks have persisted, with TruthNigeria’s investigations documenting 50 deaths in the area during April alone.

Multiple videos depicting the violence, shared by various sources at the scene, capture chaotic scenes of scattered crowds fleeing amidst the sound of gunfire. Some videos even show military trucks with soldiers aiming their rifles, suggesting their involvement in the incident.

Amid controversy regarding the authorities’ handling of the protest on campus and conflicting narratives about the death toll, civil and military authorities in Jos have been slow to make public statements regarding the incident.

Release International cites university authorities claiming two student deaths, whereas the Plateau State University student union official informed TruthNigeria of four student injured by soldiers, with no fatalities. However, the student leader asserted that two students were killed between April 18 and 19 by terrorists with military collaboration, with at least two others missing. Multiple witnesses interviewed by TruthNigeria claimed as many as three students were killed, including a 200-level Sociology student identified as Godwin Mayor.

“Given these disturbing and conflicting accounts, the role of the military in these allegations must be investigated in full,” says Paul Robinson of Release International.

“This is the first time we have heard that soldiers have opened fire on those they should be protecting,’ says Robinson in a statement shared with TruthNigeria.

“An inquiry must also investigate the wider question: why, despite a military presence, are the attacks by Fulani militia continuing – even when the military is given due warning? Release International has repeatedly reported the failure of Nigerian military to protect Christian villagers, even when they have been warned in advance of attacks. More – much more – must be done to protect Nigeria’s vulnerable Christian communities,” says Robinson.

Senator Diket Plang, a member of President Bola Tinubu’s political party, has defended the soldiers against the allegations, suggesting they may have acted in self-defense.

“An angry man is an emotional person,” stated Plang in an interview with TruthNigeria. “While I’ve seen videos of running crowds, it’s unclear if the students, driven by emotions, violently confronted the soldiers,” he added, representing Plateau central district in the Nigerian Senate.

Acknowledging the loss of lives, including students, Plang emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to address all underlying issues. “How many soldiers do we have in Nigeria? How equipped are they to confront these terrorists?” Plang questioned, highlighting the challenges of combating extremists who are willing to die for their beliefs with limited manpower and resources.

However, if proven, the soldiers could face charges for extrajudicial killings, according to Mr. James Lalu, who represents Bokkos at the House of Representatives. Responding to TruthNigeria’s inquiry regarding the shooting potentially constituting crimes against humanity, Lalu affirmed, “Yes, it is a case of extrajudicial killing,” without specifying his course of action.

—Masara Kim is an award-winning conflict reporter and serves at the senior editor of TruthNigeria.

Copyright 2024 TruthNigeria


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