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When herdsmen left trail of death in Taraba villages


Some of the houses destroyed during the attack PHOTO: CHARLES AKPEJI

Some of the houses destroyed during the attack PHOTO: CHARLES AKPEJI

• Victims Accuse Trad. Leaders Of Complicity • Want Govt To Boost Police presence

The residents of Korum, Orawua and Gidan Bature villages in Gassol Local Government Council of Taraba State had retired to their beds May 7, 2016, hoping the night would be like any other: peaceful, offering rest to their bodies. It wasn’t to be. At about 2am, the quietness was ruptured by alarm. Armed assailants, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, unleashed mayhem. When morning came, six people had been killed and houses and other property destroyed.

While similar attacks are not uncommon across parts of the country, this incident is particularly disturbing, coming barely a week after President Muhammadu Buhari gave a marching order to security agencies to clamp down on herdsmen terrorising communities across the country.

The development is also a morale dampener to efforts by Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku to foster peaceful coexistence in the state. Upon assumption of office, last year, the new helmsman had passionately appealed to people of the state for peace in exchange for development. Moves to facilitate the return of displaced persons from camps to their individual communities have also been hampered. Rather than Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) heading to their ancestral homes, it appears camps have continued to grow.

Some people in communities ravaged by the clashes accused traditional rulers of complicity. People of Tiv extraction also seem to have borne a bitterer share of the troubles. Many have been killed. Many more have been forced to flee their homes, their farmlands taken over by the rampaging herdsmen, while security agencies and the government appear powerless to stop the menace.

At the IDP camp in Gossol Local Government Council, a worried President-General of the Tiv Cultural and Social Association (TCSA), Goodman Dan Dahida, called on President Buhari to establish a special fund for victims of attacks by herdsmen.

Community leader, Zaki Daniel Mbatere, in Bali, one of the affected councils, blamed the brazen attacks on alleged support the herdsmen have been receiving from unscrupulous traditional rulers.

He said: “There is a carefully designed agenda to dispossess the Tiv people of their ancestral lands. Local chiefs sold our land in the wake of the crisis to the Fulani, and now that Governor Ishaku wants everybody to return to his land, they are killing us, in order to scare us away. Look at all these homeless people here. There is little hope they can return to their farms this planting season, unless something urgent is done to address the problem.”

He added: “Government should call the local chiefs and those claiming ownership of the land and ask them where they were before we, the original inhabitants, were chased away by the herdsmen.”

Commenting on the fresh attack on Korum, Orawua and Gidan Bature villages, a Tiv traditional ruler, Emmanuel Chia, said: “The attack would not have happened if the monarch (name withheld) had responded to security threats in the area.”

One victim, Terver Akporogh, also alleged: “The monarch, a Fulani, does not show any concern, even when cows eat our crops and we report the matter to him. His inaction led to the attack on our community and the killing of over six people.”

Another victim, whose wife and two children were killed, and whose house was also razed, accused the police of not making good use of “intelligence reports we have been supplying to them.” Conducting the reporter round some of the destroyed houses and farmlands, he said it could take several decades for the state to recover from destruction caused by the incessant attacks, even as he urged government to boost police presence in the area.

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