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Fulani, Eggon, Agatu’s unending communal crisis

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One of the burnt buildings during the crisisUMAR MUHAMMED writes on efforts of stakeholders to arrest incidents of communal clash in Nasarawa State with the latest crisis that involved Fulani, Eggon and Agatu in the state.

IN the wake of the incident that left over 50 people dead and properties worth millions of naira destroyed in the recent crisis between Fulani herdsmen and Agatu in Toto Local Government Area and Eggon nationality in Garaku, headquarters of Kokona Local Government Area, both in Nasarawa State, things have not been at ease in the state.

The popular Garaku market is believed to be the commercial nerve centre of Kokona Local Government Area and it usually brings together people from different zones of Nigeria.

Thus, when the crisis erupted, it gave the state government so much concern that Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura had to visit the people of Bassa, Yelwa, Taba, Sarkoto, Ruwa Doma, Akure, Rutu, Agwanoje, Angwan-Gimba, Amba and Aangwan Mada of Kokona Local Government.

Sunday Tribune observed that there was massive destruction at the affected villages most of which had been reduced to nothing. Over 100 houses, including the palace of Utushoho of Agbashi, Chief Moses Alade, were burnt by people suspected to be Fulani nomads at Agbashi in Ekye Development Area of the state.

The ‘war’ was said to have begun without warning, leaving in its trail vast destruction.

A few weeks ago, the crisis that began like child‘s play degenerated into killings and destruction.

Addressing, the refugees at different areas affected by the crisis, Governor Al-Makura donated N500, 000 each to 11 communities affected in the communal crisis in Bassa, Kokona Local Government Area. The communities were Bassa, Yelwa, Agwanoje, Rutu, Ruwa Doma, Angwan-Gindan, Angwan Mada, Akure, Sarkoto and Angwan-Lafia.

He said the N5.5 million given to the affected communities would bring immediate relief to inhabitants, pointing out that, “the government would not hesitate to deal with anybody who tries to bring disturbance to the state.”

The governor also moved over 2,000 refugees back to Bassa district, their ancestral home.

He then assured them that government would always be there for them as they moved back to their ancestral homes.

“Their continued stay in refugee camps would rather convert them to beggars and this would not augur well for their children’s future. Soldiers have been detailed to cordon off your areas for a period of not less than one month, depending on the improvement of security in the given areas,” he had announced.

The member representing Kokona constituency in Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Honourable Danladi Jatau, applauded the governor’s proactive moves at mitigating the crisis and urged the warring communities to sheathe their swords.

However, even as Governor Al-Makura, in company with some soldiers, was escorting some refugees back to their ancestral homes in Bassa district, some people were still seen leaving the area in lorry loads.

Sunday Tribune further observed that the villages had been deserted. No single person could be found there. There were only domestic animals.

Further observation by Sunday Tribune was that politicians’ posters were pasted on houses in the affected villages. Some of the houses affected were still burning as of the time of the governor’s visit to the areas.

It would be recalled that recently, Tiv community in Ekye Development Area of the state cried out over the incessant killing of their kinsmen in villages around Rugubi, Okpata and Agima.

A leader of the community, Mr. George Zauka, in a tense mood, told Sunday Tribune in Lafia, the state capital, that three of their kinsmen were killed by unknown gunmen on the farm.

Al-Makura, who condemned the recent crisis in the affected areas in the state, reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensuring that those behind the killing were brought to book, adding that enough security would be provided to ensure that normalcy returns to the flash points.

It was learnt that Governor Al-Makura and his Benue State counterpart, Gabriel Suswam, had been putting heads together since 2011 to ensure that the crisis between the tribes comes to an end.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abayomi Akeremale, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Tribune, explained that the security council had adopted measures to curb the crisis in the troubled area.

According to him, “armed military men and mobile policemen had been deployed to all flash points and strategic locations as well as roads leading to the villages to avert possible fresh attacks on the entire people of the community.”

Findings by Sunday Tribune revealed that the communal crisis, which was a renewed hostility between Fulani herdsmen and Agatu/Eggon people, started when an Agatu boy was attacked by a Fulani who the boy challenged for making his cattle to destroy his parents’ farm.

It was gathered further that the boy went back home and mobilised his peer and carried out a reprisal in which six Fulani nomads were allegedly killed.

The latest hostility caught Agatu and Eggon people residing at Agbashi unawares, as the assailants besieged their community and unleashed terror on them.

A resident who did not disclose his name told our reporter that; “all our properties, including the house, have been destroyed by these Fulani and as I am talking to you, I don’t believe we can go there anymore because there is nowhere we can stay. We are currently taking refuge in our family’s house in Doma Local Government Area.”

It was also learnt that recently, the state police command captured two notorious Fulani herdsmen, Saleh Sule and Likita Ja’afaru, who were alleged to have masterminded the various attacks in some villages in Jenkwe Development Area of the state.

Investigations by Sunday Tribune indicated that the duo was arrested with an AK-47 rifle with 60 rounds of live ammunition at a forest in Sabon-Kwara village, while perfecting strategies to launch another attack in the area.

Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Michael Ada, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), who informed Sunday Tribune of the arrest, said the police had been keeping vigil since the recent clash between Fulani herdsmen and farmers that spread across the three senatorial districts of the state, particularly Bassa in Kokona Local Government and Agwada/Mada-Station in Nasarawa-Eggon Local Government Area.

According to him: “The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abayomi Akeremale, directed Mr Mohammed Momoh who is in charge of Operation and Mr Ibrahim Tarfa, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) of SCID to fish out the perpetrators of the crisis and their sponsors.

“Barely 72 hours after this directive, the DPO Agyaragu, SP Lasaka Habila, on a tip-off, led a team of policemen to a forest along Sabon Kwara village where the mercenaries were hiding. The police succeeded in dislodging them and arresting Saleh Sule and Likita Ja’afaru. The hideout of the mercenaries was searched and police recovered one AK-47 rifle with 60 rounds of live ammunition.”

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