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Eggon/Fulani crisis: It's blood, tears, displacement

Published by Tribune on Tue, 25 Nov 2014

My friend was butchered in my presence'The recent clash between Fulani mercenaries and outlawed Ombatse militia boys in Alakyo village, outskirts of Lafia, capital of Nasarawa, left scores dead, many injured and others displaced. Survivors of the mayhem told ADEMOLA ADEGBITE, in this report, of the ordeals they went through.THE frustrating circle of communal violence in Nasarawa State, recently reached its crescendo with the reported killing of the spiritual leader of the proscribed Ombatse militia group, Lega Agu, popularly known as Baba Alakyo by Fulani mercenaries. This became the catalyst of the violence that left many dead and others wounded.It will be recalled that the mercenaries had set the outlawed Ombatse militia shrine ablaze in Alakyo village and it was reported that the spiritual head, Lega Agu, popularly known as Baba Alakyo, was feared killed.The village was reportedly seized for several hours and residents were chased out completely.At the end of the operation which started around 3.00 a.m. at Alakyo village and ended around 11.00 a.m. at Shabu, about 10 kilometres from Alakyo, scores had died, while many, including the state Head of Service, Mr Dominic Bako, sustained various degrees of injuries.It was equally reported that Shabu, the headquarters of Lafia North Development Area was attacked at 8.00 a.m. by Ombatse militiamen who were said to be retreating from Alakyo area.It was learnt that the melee ensued after the fleeing Ombatse militiamen were gloated at by Gwandara youths at Shabu for starting a fight and then running away.Nasarawa, home of solid minerals, with less than two million people, has continually witnessed turmoil with thousands of people, including security operatives, killed in the crisis. There seems to be no respite in sight.During the last killings, many of the villagers, who ran to the state capital, had themselves to blame on Monday and Tuesday as the onslaught of the Ombatse group caught up with them.Nigerian Tribune exclusively leant that the attempt was to attack the Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Isa Mustapha. Eggon militia boys in their hundreds made their way through Bukan Fadama axis to the palace and started shooting. As they advanced, three persons were killed. Youths around the palace mobilised and launched an offensive which resulted in an exchange of gunshots which lasted for over 40 minutes.The Ombatse militiamen were reported to have run out of ammunition and therefore took to their heels, but were given a hot chase. Five of them were apprehended, killed and later set ablaze. A young man, who claimed to visit the palace to see the Emir, was also burnt to death after a gun was discovered in his possession. At this point, the entire vicinity was caught up in the chaos. Weapons were freely used.Soon, the crisis took a more troubling twist when irate Kampari hoodlums set the Methodist Church, Tudun Gwandara ablaze. A house belonging to Pastor A. Bello got burnt in the crisis. Shops got looted; houses were razed and properties destroyed.As the killings continued in the state capital, tension rose and palpable fear enveloped the city as residents left their places of abode to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and other neighbouring states.By Tuesday afternoon, Lafia wore a new look as it became a ghost town. Government activities were paralysed as state parastatals and agencies could not function. Banks, public and private schools were shut. Business activities came to a halt. This led to the state government's announcement of the restriction of movement. Despite the announcement, the warring groups defied the order by setting more houses ablaze on Tuesday morning within the metropolis.When Nigerian Tribune visited the casualty unit of Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) on Shendam road in Lafia, some of the victims attributed their safety to the grace of God. At the hospital, the victims stated that the state government left them to their fate with no promise to foot their medical bills. Those who were discharged told Nigerian Tribune that they footed their bills themselves.18-year old Ardo Nafala told Nigerian Tribune that he was grateful to God that he survived despite the various injuries that he sustained. 'I don't even know how I survived. It was hell let loose. People were butchered like goats in my presence. I am grateful to God that I am alive today. If it is for the injuries, they are nothing compared to those who are dead,' he said.'My friend was butchered in my presence'Isa Bala who was at Shabu when the incident happened narrated what he saw. 'I was standing with three of my friends. Suddenly, we heard gunshots and people started running helter-skelter. We decided to stay to know what was happening. They had guns, cutlasses and other weapons.'We decided to run and hide but one of my friends, Ahmed, was very unlucky as he fell while we were running. He was helpless. They descended on him and cut every part of his body. He was killed in the most horrible fashion. He was cut in virtually all parts of his body. He could not have survived it. I felt helpless because I could not help him,' he recounted.'I can't find my children'Bereaved Halima Musa sobbed quietly while she spoke to Nigerian Tribune. She wept that her children got lost during the chaos. 'I can't find my children. I don't know where they are. How do I find them' The attack came so swiftly. Ombatse killed any Gwandara person they saw on the way. They believe that the governor, who is our kinsman, has allowed the killing of Eggons in the state,' she said.Another survivor, Beatrice Sunday, stated that the car in which she was travelling was searched and anyone who looked like a Fulani was brought out and killed. According to her, 'I was travelling with others when we discovered the chaos. People were running for dear life. We noticed that they were stopping and searching each vehicle and whoever had any resemblance with Fulanis was immediately brought out and killed. It was terrible. Everyone was shocked and prayed to God for safety. We were stopped at Shabu. Obviously, we are all in danger and we do hope that something drastic will be done about the crisis in the state.'I was shot'HoSThe state head of service, Mr. Dominic Bako, who is also an Eggon man, was unlucky too, as he ran into Ombatse militiamen and was shot in the hand.Another victim, Ibrahim Sulaiman, lamented the state government's ineptness in stopping the communal clashes which have lasted for about four years. 'I know quite alright that the government and security agencies must have been pre-informed about the Sunday invasion. I believe that the government was aware and that the entire crisis has political undertones. They are the cause of the whole thing,' he said.A witness, who did not want his name in print said: 'I was shot twice, but with God on my side, I was able to survive. After shooting me, they moved towards me with the intent to cut me. I escaped. Unfortunately, a 19-year-old boy was unable to escape. He was unlucky. He was cut into pieces.'An Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), names withheld, who also escaped death by whiskers told Nigerian Tribune that he ran into the group which was fully armed with dangerous weapons, numbering over 100 on Doma road.According to him, 'I was on mufti with a friend, heading towards a workers' village to rescue my sister-in-law who was trapped. So, I decided to rush down with a friend around 7:30 p.m. Shortly after I passed the Emir's palace, I saw many of the boys. I was shocked. They were many. I didn't know where they were coming from. They surrounded my car and planned to splash petrol over the car; they were bent on burning the car. But one of them told them not to do so.'He asked me what tribe I came from, I told him. He later said I should identify myself properly with my friend. I eventually told him I am a senior police officer. He then instructed me to make a u-turn, advising that the place was not safe. My sister in-law was later rescued by some good Samaritans who brought her to Lafia.'Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, one of the residents, Ibrahim Issa, argued that the death of the Ombatse leader was a welcome development. According to him, 'We are happy that he has been killed. Although, it is still rumoured, we are hopeful that it is true. Look at the manner in which security operatives were murdered on May 7, 2013.'But I must also say that the level of security in the state is disturbing. The state government has not been proactive in tackling the prevalent communal crises in the state. We are worried. Nobody is safe in the state. Since 2011 when Umaru Tanko Al-Makura assumed the mantle of leadership, not much has been done to improve the security situation in the state. Our properties are not safe; our lives are in peril daily.'A top civil servant who spoke on the condition of anonymity chided the state government. 'There are no functional camps for displaced people. The money donated by the United Bank for Africa (UBA) to the affected people and the N100 million donated by the Northern Governors' Forum (NGF) for widows of slain officers are yet to be disbursed by the state government.'If you notice, you will observe that the only visible camp for displaced people from Wukari in Taraba State was at the instance of the Federal Government. The affected people, especially Tiv farmers, have lost confidence in both the government and the security personnel, hence, the need to go back to Benue State to stay with their people.'Apart from the displacement of farmers by Fulani herdsmen, which has caused disaffection among the warring groups, over 42 villages across the state have also been sacked by these marauders. Yet, there is no visible effort by the government to arrest the situation. The services of invaders were hired by some top government functionaries to fight Ombatse of Eggon tribe that is adamant on producing a governor from their clan in 2015,' he said.He added that 'After the brutal killings of security personnel, none of the security meetings by the government has yielded any fruitful result. The leaders and elders of Eggon boycotted the meetings since they believe that the recommendations would harm their people. I must add that till now, none of the recommendations of the white papers of three different panels of inquiry set up by Al-Makura on communal crises has been implemented. All the recommendations have obviously been dumped.
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