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FG, states sue for reconciliation to end Tiv/Jukun crisis

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Efforts to end the protracted conflict between the Tiv and the Jukun took another dimension last week when governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State hosted a mediation meeting with deputy governors of Taraba and Benue States in Lafia. The peace meeting brought together major stakeholders from the two warring tribes to a round table to find lasting solution to the lingering crisis.

While opening of the meeting, Governor Sule expressed delight with the governments of the two states for choosing Nasarawa State to host the meeting. He noted that he hurriedly accepted to mediate and host the meeting because of the importance of peaceful coexistence to the development of any society.

He said as governments, their number one responsibility was to ensure peace and secure their people to enable them go about their activities without any fear of intimidation or molestation. Sule said posterity would judge them if they failed in discharging this onerous duty and other responsibilities as leaders.

“Our children would require from us to know the roles we have played as individuals in Government House to ensure peace in our respective states,” the governor added.

Governor Sule therefore expressed the hope that giving the devastation of COVID-19 on mankind, all parties should embrace peace and end the lingering crisis.

The meeting had in attendance Governor Sule’s deputy, Emmanuel Akabe, Deputy Governor of Benue State, Benson Abonu, and his Taraba State counterpart, Haruna Manu. Others were Secretaries of State Governments from the two states, National Assembly and House of Assembly members, commissioners, traditional rulers and youth leaders among others.

While the peace meeting was going on, what appeared to be a mild drama played out as journalists who covered the event were all waiting for the outcome. The representative of the Tiv community from Wukari, led by Mr. Stephen Ikyaa and other delegates, who were sent out of the meeting, addressed journalists while the peace meeting was still ongoing at Government House, Lafia.

Mr. Ikyaa said he was nominated alongside other delegates to represent the Tiv community in Wukari only for him and his delegation to be sent out of the meeting by the chairman of Wukari Local Government Area claiming that he appointed somebody else to represent the Tiv community in the area.

“How can a Jukun man, who is the chairman of Wukari, be the person to nominate the representative of Tiv community in a peace meeting when he is not a Tiv man?”

Ikyaa explained that the lingering crisis between the two ethnic nationalities started in 1977 and has do with the Tiv being denied their claim to their ancestral land in the state.

“As we talk to you right now, Tiv people in Taraba are not allowed to participate in the politics of the state apart from voting for the Jukun or Kuteb in any election. The Tiv in Taraba are treated as settlers and aliens. We are not free except in the grave. Our farmlands and settlements that are burnt down are being confiscated.

“If this crisis must end between Jukun and Tiv, they must return our electoral constituencies and chieftaincy right if not the war continues.”

For a long time now, peace has eluded Taraba State following communal conflicts among rival ethnic groups, which also give room for other forms of criminality. Although the past couple of months have witnessed hundreds of lives reportedly lost in different parts of the state in sporadic attacks that equally left hundreds of houses burnt, the most devastating is the recurrent conflict between the Tiv and the Jukun ethnic groups in Wukari, Donga and other neighbouring local government areas in Benue State.

The inter-relationship between the two ethnic groups, dating back to centuries, is believed to have suffered as a result of politics, land ownership issues, indigene/settler syndrome, suspicion, and lack of political will to tackle emerging contemporary challenges. Researches have shown that the perennial conflict between the Tiv and the Jukun has been a recurring one with the first incident recorded in 1959. It reoccurred in 1980, 1990, 2001 and again this year.

At least over 600 persons have reportedly been killed, with several others injured and properties worth millions of naira destroyed in the past few months as a result of the Tiv/Jukun conflict in Wukari Local Government in particular. Apart from the deaths recorded, several people were injured while houses, farmlands, markets, and vehicles valued at millions of naira were either razed or vandalized.

The renewed conflict between Tiv/Jukun began last year in Kente village in Wukari Local Government Area over a minor disagreement, arising from sale of yams in a market bordering Taraba and Benue States. Among the buildings set ablaze during the recent conflict was Government Day Secondary School, Kente. Like a wildfire, the hostility spread to Wukari, headquarters of the local government and the neighbouring Donga Local Government Area.

As a consequence of the current hostilities, residents of most affected communities had deserted their ancestral homestead and fled to nearby communities in different parts of the two states. Commercial activities have also been brought to an abrupt end, while transporters ferrying passengers into the state from the southern part of the country have had to seek alternative routes.

Hostilities also spread to Tiv communities in Benue state living in border communities with their Taraba State counterparts where many lives have allegedly been lost in the process and property destroyed on both sides. Efforts made by Taraba and Benue State Governments to intervene in the current crisis have so far yielded little or no results.

Security operatives, including Operation Whirl Stroke, headed by Major General Adeyemi Yekini, also played reconciliatory roles yet the crisis remains intractable to the extent that schooling activities are paralyzed in areas affected.

There are, however, those alleging that political masterminds are behind the unending ‘war’, even as others have adduced traditional/political and land grabbing as reasons for the crisis. While the Tiv people claim that they are agitating for traditional and political recognition in Taraba State, the Jukun claim that their Tiv neighbours are merely out to grab lands that do not belong to them.

All the Tiv people claim they want is a recognised cultural identity, so they could have first, second and third class chiefs where some of their grievances could be channeled through to the government. The negative impact of the crisis has led to desertion of Tiv villages in Taraba, with many of the displaced people moved to Makurdi as well as other parts of Benue State for refuge.

Sule

The national leader of Jukun Youth Council, Zando Hoku, had on several fora, said if the Tiv in Taraba were ready to lay down their arms, the Jukuns were also ready to stay together peacefully. Hoku has also alleged that the Tiv people who are indigenous to Taraba would never want the crisis to last beyond two weeks, saying that the Tiv in Benue think otherwise.

Meanwhile, Hoku also raised a fundamental question, wondering how many Jukun communities or persons have been given such recognition in Benue State, whether political or traditional. He cited the example of Abinsi, a Jukun community in Benue, which he alleged had no such status or any recognition.

Now that the two warring neighbours have opened up on their grievances, the federal government must use the apparatus of the existing law to solve the conflict to end the prolong crisis and not pay lips service.

At the end of recent peace mediation hosted by governor Sule in Lafia, the followings decisions were reached as ways forward to ending the tribal war in Taraba: All parties agreed that the meeting was necessitated by the continued crisis between Tiv and Jukun communities along borders of Benue and Taraba States. Participants condemned in strong terms the wanton destruction of lives and property and agreed on nine-point resolution as follows:

They agreed that there should be cessation of hostilities from the parties to pave way for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their communities. Participants also agreed that the governors of Benue and Taraba should meet with traditional rulers of the affected communities and sensitise them on the need to embrace peace. They further agreed that the governor of Nasarawa State should facilitate another review meeting within one month.
Participants further agreed that all IDPs from the two states be allowed to return to their homes immediately under the supervision of the security agencies.

They agreed that henceforth the two states would expose and apprehend militia groups and hand them over to the security agencies for necessary action. They also agreed that the governors of the two states should ensure deployment of security to the affected communities to checkmate the excesses of criminals.

Finally, they agreed that the governors of Benue and Taraba would provide palliatives to the IDPs to cushion the effects of the crisis among others.

The true test of the federal government’s seriousness to end the Tiv/Jukun crisis is its determination to follow up and provide every necessary support to the two states, which have agreed to end the tribal war.


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