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23 killed as suspected militia attack Tawari in Kogi

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{FILES] No fewer than 23 persons were feared dead as gunmen, suspected to be herders. Photo: AA

• Bello Urges Security Agents To Fish Out Perpetrators

No fewer than 23 persons were feared dead as gunmen, suspected to be herders, invaded Tawari community in Kogi/Koto Karfe Council of Kogi State in the early hours of yesterday.

Tawari community is a few kilometres off Gegu town along the Lokoja-Abuja highway.

The administrator of the local government, Musa Tanko Mohammed, however, confirmed that 19 persons died in the early morning invasion.

According to an eyewitness report, the attack was believed to be in retaliation against the recent killing of four suspected herdsmen, alleged to be kidnappers along Lokoja-Abuja federal highway by security agencies, following a tip-off by vigilante from Tawari community.

According to the report, one of the herdsmen was killed sometime last year and his body mutilated by suspected ritualists, but other herdsmen accused Tawari community of being responsible and had threatened a reprisal.

Following persistent persuasion by the community head, Alhaji Yahaya Tawari, against a reprisal, the herdsmen lived in the community with their host community in peace until a few days ago when they started moving out en-mass.

While efforts were made to ascertain their reason for the mass movement and possibly pacify them, the herdsmen reportedly said movement was their way of life, assuring that it had no ulterior motives.

The killing of the herdsmen suspected to be kidnappers terrorising motorists along the Lokoja-Abuja federal highway four days ago was said to have angered the herdsmen, who alleged that the misfortune of their colleagues was made possible by information from the Tawari community, which may have been responsible for the reprisal in the wee hours of yesterday.

The militia burnt down the palace of a Third-Class chief, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, and several other houses in the area.   

As at press time, military personnel have been deployed to the community, while the Kogi State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ede Ayuba Ekpeji, was on ground to monitor the situation and provide support.

The Police chief, in a statement by the Command’s Public Relations Officer (PPRO), William Ovye Aya, condemned the attack and extended his condolence to the traditional ruler of Tawari, the entire community, the state and local council over the incident. 

While assuring the people of the community and the state in general of the Command’s efforts to restore normalcy in the area, Ekpeji said the Command had deployed Special Forces, Federal Anti-Robbery Squad, Counter-Terrorism Unit, Police Mobile Force, as well as the conventional Police to the area to forestall any breakdown of law and order. 

“He has ordered the deputy commissioner of police in charge of the investigation to commence investigation so as to unravel the cause of the attacks,” the statement added. 

The commissioner appealed to law-abiding people of the state to volunteer useful, timely and credible information to the police and other security agencies on the activities of criminal elements in the state, assuring of his determination to ensure that Kogi State becomes the safest in the country.

Aya said that a police assessment team had visited the community and confirmed that many buildings, including places of worship, were burnt.

A resident of Tawari community, Mrs. Comfort Solomon, who survived the attack, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the gunmen, numbering about 100, invaded the community late on Thursday on motorcycles and descended on the village, killing and burning buildings until the early hours of yesterday.

Solomon explained that many places of worship and the palace of the Akuma of Tawari, were burnt down by the invaders.

“The gunmen were up to 100 in number. They came into the community with motorcycles around 11:15 p.m. when villagers were sleeping.

“They entered selected houses, packed foodstuff and motorcycles and burnt selected houses, including homes of clerics.

“They killed over 15 men. The attackers were communicating with each other in the Hausa language,” Solomon stated, weeping profusely.

Similarly, a NAN staff in Minna, Niger State, Mrs Rita Nuhu, an indigene of Tawari, said her father’s house was completely burnt down during the attack.

“My people have been calling me from home that my father’s house was burnt down by the attackers. My mother and her sister were ordered out of the house after which the house was set ablaze.”

Nuhu said latest information she got from her village was that the death toll would rise, adding: “We are calling on security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice. We appeal to the federal and state governments to come to our aid.”

The king of Tawari, Chief Idris Yusuf, who also spoke on the telephone, confirmed the incident, saying it was the first time the community was experiencing such an attack.

Meanwhile, Governor Yahaya Bello has called for calm among residents of Tawari community. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Onogwu Muhammed, Bello directed security agencies to swing into action and ensure that perpetrators of the dastardly act were apprehended and brought to justice.

The governor condemned the incident, warning that anyone wanting to cause a crisis in the state would have him/herself to blame, assuring that his administration would do everything possible to protect the lives and property of the people of the state.

Bello, therefore, urged the people to remain calm and law-abiding, while assuring them of the determination of his administration to flush bandits and criminals out of the state.

Earlier, the state government had assured residents and passers-by of its commitment to securing their lives and property, adding that the government would not allow criminals to erode the gains made so far in the area of security.

This assurance came against the backdrop of recent renewed cases of kidnapping and robbery along the Abuja-Lokoja and Lokoja-Okene highways.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Kingsley Fanwo, in a chat with The Guardian in Lokoja, said:

“We periodically hold the State Security Committee meeting where the state government takes briefs from heads of security agencies. We will look at the situation now and devise strategies for combating the flashes we are witnessing.

“The Kogi State government is committed to ensuring the security of lives and property. We won’t allow criminals to erode our feat in the area of ensuring security. The state government bought over 200 vehicles and wired it with the latest security gadgets for that purpose.

“We want to assure residents not to panic, as the state government is on top of the situation. Our vigilante men are helping security agents in the latter’s efforts at bursting the gang responsible for the recent attacks.”

The World Bank, in its latest Nigeria Economic Update, warned that Boko Haram insurgency and herdsmen attacks in parts of the country undermined the growth of Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

It said despite gains recorded in recent times, attacks by insurgents and herdsmen had inhibited the growth of the agricultural sector, adding: “Agriculture, which constitutes a quarter of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs about half of the labour force, picked up slightly, but remains below its potential.

“In the first half of 2019, crop production, which is responsible for 90 per cent of agricultural output, was affected by the ongoing insurgency in the Northeast region and by farmer-herder conflicts in the North Central region.
 
“Together, those regions produce a significant share of the country’s main crops, particularly grains (sorghum, millet, maize, and rice), beans, yams, cassava, potatoes, groundnuts, sesame, and soybeans.”


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