By Tongnaan Dada Bawa, Jos
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong says the State has put behind its dark days that were characterised by violence and destruction and is now coasting to prosperity, unity and peaceful coexistence as a result of the decisive actions taken by his administration to provide a platform for the citizens to drive the peace and reconciliation process.
The Governor who spoke at the inter denominational Church Service to commemorate the 2023 Plateau Day of Forgiveness and Reconciliation held at the St. Monica’s Catholic Church Rantya Jos said the people have broken down the barriers to peaceful coexistence by engaging one another and uniting against crises merchants.
He said the commemoration of the Plateau Day of Forgiveness and Reconciliation was instituted as part of the Plateau State Roadmap to Peace in order to restore, strengthen and deepen the peace and security of the State which was previously truncated before he came into office.
“The Day of Forgiveness which was unveiled and launched by Mr. President in 2018 has since then been implemented by the Plateau Peace Building Agency which we established as the first in the country with the sole responsibility of coordinating and implementing all our efforts towards removing toxic narratives, crisis merchandizing, violence and tackling root causes of disharmony and intolerance. As a Government, we have been very conscious of the fact that the process of restoring peace and confidence among the people cannot succeed without forgiveness and reconciliation. Gladly, we have succeeded in bringing people who were considered foes at one time or another to dialogue, engage, and confront their fears and anxieties in an atmosphere of love, rather than suspicion and accusations”.
The Governor explained that the Day of Forgiveness and Reconciliation which coincides with the date Plateau State was created, is not meant to trivialize or gloss over the trauma, pain and agony that many people experienced on account of the various crises that took lives and properties in the State. Rather, it is to appeal to their conscience and take people to the path of forgiving the past and looking ahead to the future that will be devoid of such ugly experiences.
He urged the leadership of the Church to continue to advocate for peace and tolerance which will help build a better society where people can freely exercise their freedoms including the right to worship.
Lalong said as a sign of his administration’s appreciation for the role that the Church in particular and faith-based organisations in general have continued to play in the development of Plateau State, he recently approved the return of 32 missionary schools to their original owners.
He used the opportunity to clarify the insinuation being made by some people that some villages have been taken over by herdsmen in the State and that the Government has not done anything about it.
He debunked the report and said that there is no report on his table that any village has been taken over. He said the Government took proactive steps to prevent such from happening by passing and signing into law the Anti-Land Grabbing law in 2020.
“By this law, anyone whose land has been forcefully taken is expected to write to me, his traditional ruler, Local Government Chairman, elected representative or even approach the court directly for redress. So far, no one or any community has done so. Rather, some people sit here in their homes and elsewhere to engage in politics and blackmail. I want the world know that what we have been doing is to return displaced persons who fled their homes due to attacks back to their ancestral lands. For example, the site for the construction of a Police Mobile Barracks in Kakuruk, Gashish District Barkin Local Government has been handed over to the contractor who will start work immediately to provide security for the people to return to their lands. Another village, Jong Community in Ropp District of Barkin Ladi was returned to their abode last two months ago. Similarly, Shonong Community in Bachit District of Riyom Local Government has also been returned to their homes”.
Governor Lalong said anyone who has such complaint should write to the Government or go to court to protest such infraction if it happens promising that he will not spare anyone who tries to lay claim on any inch of Plateau State that does not belong to him.
In his homily, Catholic Archbishop of Jos Most Rev. Ishaya Audu commended the Governor for instituting the Day of Forgiveness which he said reminds the citizens of the roles that they all played in one way or the other during events of the past which gives them the opportunity to make amends and ensure that it does not happen again.
Citing scriptures from Matt 18: 29, James 2:13 and Matt 6:14, he said Christians are the Salt of the Earth and expected to pull down all barriers for peaceful coexistence, tolerance, good neighbourliness and mutual respect.
He said Plateau remains a great State that attracts people from all over the world and has now began to witness the influx of people that seek opportunities for business, leisure and residence.
Prayers were offered for God’s blessings upon Plateau State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.