By Onimisi Alao, Jos Tuesday, 10 July 2012
A member of the House of Representatives who slumped along with the late Senator Gyang Dantong when gunmen attacked them during a burial ceremony on Sunday said the 53-year-old senator was not shot but died of exhaustion.
Rep. Simon Mwadkon said also majority leader of the state assembly Mr. Gyang Fulani similarly died due to exhaustion at the Masei burial ground in Bachit District of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area.
The two lawmakers were among the mourners at the burial of dozens of people earlier killed on Saturday when shots were fired, leading to a stampede. While family members said Dantong and Fulani died of heart attack, aides of Governor Jonah Jang said they were shot dead.
But a clearer picture emerged yesterday when Rep. Mwadkon explained the circumstances that led to the deaths.
“We were at the burial ground preparing to bury the victims of a massive attack on the villages when the gunmen started shooting, forcing everyone to abandon the corpses and scurry to safety,” Mwadkon said in Jos yesterday when Governor Jonah Jang visited him in his residence.
“Everyone was racing away, but the senator slumped first and there was a rush to take him,” he said.
He described the persistent killings as “very outrageous and embarrassing” in an area under a state of emergency imposed by the Federal Government.
Mwadkon called on the Federal Government to protect the villagers as they remain vulnerable to attacks every day.
Earlier, Jang had asked Mwadkon to tell the world “exactly what happened”, pointing out that God spared his life to enable him relay what had happened.
He said Dantong, who was chairman of the Senate health committee, and Fulani lived exemplary lives.
“I have already visited the families of the deceased and have reminded them that God is the comforter and will never abandon them,” Jang said. “They will be remembered for the great sacrifice they made to their people because what happened to them could have happened to anyone. I have also asked their families never to ask God why he did it because He certainly knows why.”
He called on Plateau people to fast and pray for peace and expressed utmost optimism that God would not abandon the state.
STF says lawmakers not shot
Earlier, the Special Task Force (STF) said Dantong and Fulani died on Sunday following a stampede during when they slumped but they were not shot as earlier reported.
Commander of the Task Force, Major General Henry Ayoola, who held a briefing around midnight of Sunday, said Rep Mwadkon, who represents Barkin-Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, had been treated and discharged from hospital.
“Today (Sunday), at about 2pm during the burial of the diseased persons of Maseh Village, there was sporadic shooting from the range of the hills surrounding the area which led to a stampede, in the course of which three honourable legislators slumped and were rushed to the hospital,” Ayoola said.
“Unfortunately, Senator Gyang Dantong (Plateau North Senatorial District) and Hon. James Gyang Fulani of the Plateau State House of Assembly died, while Hon Simon Mwapkon of the Federal House of Representatives survived and has been discharged.”
He said about 63 people had been confirmed dead following the incident on Saturday when “unknown gunmen attacked Kakuruk and about eight neighbouring villages in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas.”
He assured that the situation in the affected areas had been brought under control but advised residents where a partial curfew had been imposed to abide by it.