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Aftermath of Friday killings in Tawari, fear grips Kogi citizens

By John Akubo (Abuja), Ibrahim Obansa (Lokoja)
05 January 2020   |   4:00 am
At last count, Friday’s attack on Tawari community in Kogi State has left 23 dead, sending worrying signals of a state that is now in perpetual crisis. Having been under siege by kidnappers along the Lokoja-Okene

An IDP camp in Kogi

As Kogi Govt Alleges External Forces Sponsoring Attacks

At last count, Friday’s attack on Tawari community in Kogi State has left 23 dead, sending worrying signals of a state that is now in perpetual crisis. Having been under siege by kidnappers along the Lokoja-Okene, Lokoja-Kabba and Abuja-Lokoja Road corridors, situation has left kogite in a state of fear. 

The surge in activities of criminal elements in the state in recent weeks may not be unconnected to fallouts of the recently concluded governorship election, when allegations of fake police, political thugs in police uniforms bearing arms were bandied by political actors in the election.

Stakeholders argue that guns are still in the hands of the thugs and for lack of what to do next or having been abandoned by their godfathers, they may have resorted to self-help by using the weapons to force a living out of kidnapped victims. Political analysts say despite appeals to government to immediately mop up remnant weapons and rid the state of all such arms to prevent the security situation from escalating, no commitment has been made towards retrieving these weapons.

This has caused great fear for residents and for those that travel daily across the state. First, it was the attempted kidnap of Khadi Bala Muhammed, a judge of Sharia Court of Appeal, who narrowly escaped death, last Sunday evening, when some gunmen shot him along Okene-Lokoja Road, Kogi State. His driver was not that lucky, as the attackers took him away into the bush. Khadi Muhammed was said to be on his way to Okene for Ajanah Basketball Championship competition when the armed men attacked him. The judge was attacked around Itakpe, when his car was forced to stop and then they shot him in the arm. Other motorists traveling along the highway had to make a detour to avoid being robbed or kidnapped.

Then came the shootout between a vigilante group and some suspected kidnappers at Manyare Village, where luck ran out of the hoodlums and four of the kidnappers met their waterloo. The incident is linked to the killings of 23 villagers in Tawarri.It was gathered that three among the alleged kidnappers were arrested at the scene, while attempting to escape into the bush. Seven AK 47 rifles were reportedly recovered with their motorcycles.

The vigilante invited the soldiers immediately to the scene and handed the corpses and the arrested members of the kidnapped gang to them. The corpses, it was learnt were conveyed by the soldiers to the palace of the Ohimegye of Igu-Kotonkarfe. From account of people from the community, the attackers came early in the morning into the village to visit them with mayhem, killing 23 people.

The casualties include the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chairman, Tawari Ward, Ibrahim Simbab and the Chief Imam of the village, Malam Zakari Salihu. Although the Administrator of Kogi Local Council, Barrister Muhammed Tanko Musa Osuku and other government officials put the death toll at 19, natives said they counted 23 corpses with identified ethnic group.

They claimed 20 Bassa Kwomu and three Gbagyi locals died, while several persons including some policemen sustained serious injuries and are presently receiving treatment at the Koton Karfe General Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja. The villagers alleged that the attackers who were of Fulani extraction, invaded the village at about 1.00 am on Friday, in their hundreds shooting sporadically, setting houses and churches ablaze.

The Aguma of Tawari, Alhaji Idris Yusuf Tawari, also confirmed to the administrator that the attack was allegedly perpetrated by some Fulani people, adding that the attack started at about 12 midnight. Tawari is on the border between Nasarawa and Kogi States, where the Fulanis for long have been rearing cattle with little or no hitches. Recent animosity was said to have triggered bad blood between the Bassa Kwomus and Fulanis over farms and trespasses by herders and their animals.

It was gathered that the herdsmen sometimes, last year, had one of them killed and his body mutilated by suspected ritualists, which they blamed on Tawari community and threatened a reprisal.

However, the village head was said to have intervened and brokered a truce. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the killing of four Fulanis suspected to be kidnappers, last Tuesday, which angered them in the belief that the vigilantes that carried out the killings were from Tawari. They alleged that few days to the attack, Fulanis in the community were seen moving out in droves. The people were however not surprised, as the Fulanis were known for their nomadic style of going from one place to another.It was further learnt that the Fulanis usually contract militias from other places to assist them in such attacks, and that exactly was what happened as the villagers were taken unawares. 

The villagers believed the attack was not unconnected with the recent killing of four suspected kidnappers and armed robbers along Lokoja-Abuja federal highway by security agencies, following a tip off by vigilantes.

MEANWHILE, the Kogi State Government has warned that “stern measures” will be taken to neutralise those behind the attacks, saying government is working hard to unlock strong suspicions of external sponsorship of terror against the people. Speaking to newsmen in Lokoja, yesterday, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Communication Strategy, Evangelist Kingsley Fanwo, said the Tawari Attack has further exposed the fact that some powerful individuals in the country are striving to play politics with blood by discrediting the security architecture in the state, assuring that those behind the attack will be apprehended and made to face the music.

He said: “There are certain individuals who thought we did not know the roles they played in the build up and even during the November 16 Governorship election in the state when they worked against the party because their second eye was already on the 2023 Presidential election. 

“We call on the security agencies to dig deeper than normal to unravel the masterminds of the Tawari attack and their sponsors. The state government will do everything within the Constitutional to protect her citizens. Our people should keep working with security agencies by giving information to prevent crimes. The state government will refocused towards maintaining peace and order in the state,” he said.

Fanwo also reassured the people that the Security Committee will soon be meeting to open up more conversations on security, adding that the state is looking at injecting more technology into its security architecture to combat the new strategies of criminal elements in the state.

For the meantime, security agencies have taken over Tawari community, while the Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has directed Kogi State Emergency Management Agency to start taking stock of damages in the community.

However, The Guardian gathered that security men were drafted to the community to avoid further attack. According to the administrator of the local government council, Barr. Tanko the presence of security agencies brought hope to the people, as those who ran away have started returning home.One of the villagers, Mallam Mohammed Musa, who also spoke with The Guardian, said the attackers were killing people as if they were slaughtering chicken, adding they do not have human feelings.

The Kogi State Police Command Public Relation Officer, (PPRO), DSP William Ayah, said the situation is presently calm.Speaking on phone with The Guardian said that the Commissioner of Police, CP Ede Ayuba, visited the community and met the traditional rulers, Pastor of the Church that was razed and school heads. He noted that special forces, fully armed policemen, State Security Service and other security agencies have been deployed to the community.

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