...Victims abandoned in Jalingo, Benue hospitals
Ayodele Samuel who was in Wukari recently writes on the unending crisis rocking southern part of Taraba State. Hundreds of lives have been lost in communal strife in southern Taraba councils of Wukari and Ibi in the past three months between the Tiv/Fulani on one hand and the Jukun/Hausa community on the other.
Residents of the community however are still in pains of the two- ethno-religious conflict that pitted the Jukun -Christians and Hausa Muslims communities in Wukari and Ibi local government areas of the state which led to destruction of properties worth millions of naira.
Southern Taraba journey to unrest begins April when unknown gunmen laid siege on the town, killing over 50 residents, although the Taraba state police command put the figure at seven.
National President of the Jukun Development Association (JDA), Mr. Benjamin Danborno however said not less than 1000 people have been killed in the past three months in the region.
"At the last count, 51 villages belonging to the Jukun and Tiv people have been completely destroyed and burnt down while farm produce worth several millions of naira destroyed," Danborno said.
During the last crisis, it was gathered that 32 persons were killed, more than 200 were injured, 1,398 houses burnt, while four filling stations and one church were completely burnt to ashes in Wukari.
The crisis, several eyewitnesses said started in Wukari at about 6.30am when youths suspected to be Christians belonging to the Jukun tribe razed down two shops near a church at Angwan Hausa, a community predominantly occupied by Hausa Muslims. The shop owners, said to be owned by two Hausa youth, mobilized others to set the church and other properties ablaze.
In Ibi, a neighboring local government of Wukari, also early hours of same day experienced a crisis in which 11 persons were killed, 21 injured, 167 houses burnt and four churches razed. Also affected were four shops, eight vehicles and three mosques, which were all razed.
Presently more than 2,130 persons have been rendered homeless, as resident flee the crisis ridden region.
"There was an argument between some boys over charging of phones; one thing lead to another and two shops were set ablaze. The next thing we heard was gunshots and several houses were set ablaze," an eyewitness said.
An eyewitness Mallam Bako Useni, said the quarrel was between a Christian and a Muslim and also led to the shooting of some soldiers, who were deployed to quell the fighting.
One of the victims, Kisani Alade, who was shot in the leg, said they were in the church around 6.30 a.m, when the Hausa Muslims stormed their church, the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN) and started shooting sporadically at the worshippers.
He said many people must have died in the process, but that he was lucky to have escaped with a bullet wound, after which some persons managed to take him away Along the Katsina-Ala Jalingo highway are residents in there large dove mostly women and children heading to Zaki Biam and other villages in Benue state.
Residents who spoke with our correspondent on their way out of Wukari accused soldiers in the area of carrying out 'hidden agenda'
A middle age woman said the crisis was escalated by people in military uniform region who descended on the people said all her life earnings have been destroyed in the crisis.
The woman who claim to own a super market in the heart of Wukari said the burning of her shop last week makes it the third attack on her business, "they (the rioters) have destroy my life, I stock my shop last weekend, with goods more than a million, have saved all years to improve my business but they burn everything down.
"its every time they use to fight and am always affected, if I should return their am sure they will kill me, I will not go back to Wukari I will stay with the people of Benue there are more peaceful than my people.
"In April my shop in the village was burnt down, have not recover again my main shop has been burnt again."
Some residents who spoke to our correspondent have accused security operatives of taking sides during last Sunday's crisis. A resident said locals live in fear of reprisal attack, saying, "We don't know what might happen because the tension is very high in the villages and the army cannot assure us of safety because of their role in the last Sunday attack."
Some victims of the crisis are still lying at the Specialist Hospital, Jalingo with are with bullets in their bodies, bleeding from gunshots and yet to receive adequate medical attention despite promise by the state government to foot their medical bills.
Sani Ibrahim had five bullets in his body, while Sanusi Mohammed Sankera had a bullet concealed in his buttocks.
Halima Sidi Umaru said they were forced by people, whom she described as illegal security operatives, to quit their homes unprepared.
Umaru, who has just fled Wukari to Jalingo, told our reporter that she had to leave Wukari because, according to her, they were not safe.
"We are living in fear; we are not safe in Wukari. We can't differentiate between original and fake army, so we don't know the real enemy. I can't count the dead bodies I saw but its more than 12″, said another witness.
She appealed to the state government to deploy more security to Wukari to ensure normalcy returns.
Halima explained that youths were mounting road blocks at Gidan Adamu Village near Gyepi to harass passengers.
The Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Rimande Ubandoma Joel explained that it was not in every part of the body that bullets should be removed, because in the process of removing the bullet, more damage could be done to the patient.
Joel said patients who still have bullets in their bodies were given professional treatment and necessary drugs based on what was allowed by laws governing the medical profession and urged their relations not to panic.
He said the acting Governor of Taraba state, Alhaji Garba Umar has mandated the hospital to do everything possible to save lives of the patients as medication were being provided, test, X-rays and surgeries conducted, adding that the patients were not to pay for any service rendered to them, as the government was footing their bills.
But victims relations who besiege the hospital lamented the poor handling of the victims, they said most of the patients where only given pain reliefs.
A senior nurse, who preferred anonymity told Peoples Daily Weekend that there was no directive from the state government to treat victims free but that they were just offering First Aid.
"we only heard of the free treatment from the news, no official communication has been made because we need more drugs and materials to carry out the instruction, our facilities is presently over stretched," she said
Also 32 persons injured during the ethno-religious crisis taken to the Federal Medical Centre, FMC Makurdi, for treatment bill is yet to be paid.
Acting Medical Director of the FMC, Dr Peteru Ihiundu, confirmed that many people were on referral to the hospital from Wukari but said the Taraba state government has not reached out to them on the payments of its bill .
"We had 32 people, who were brought in at a go with various degrees of injuries. The hospital was alerted that we were expecting 32 injured patients and we effectively mobilised the hospital community, who were battle-ready for their arrival. They came in at 4.00 PM and we operated throughout the night."
Ihiundu, who was full of joy that all the patients, except one, who had neck injury, were in stable condition.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Taraba acting governor, Garba Umar, Aaron Artimas, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said the government wants peace in all part of the state, to fast track developmental projects of the present administration.
"There won't be development if there is no peace; we want peace. The acting governor is doing everything to ensure peace returns to Southern Taraba. He recently facilitated a peace pact that was signed by all parties at the Aku-Uka's (Wukari paramount ruler's) Palace, and he has empowered the security agencies, and is meeting with all stakeholders to ensure lasting peace in the region", the governor's spokesman said.
Crisis in Southern Taraba which comprises of other towns like Takum, Donga, Ussa and Yentu Development Areas has many colourations which have continue to undermine all efforts to restore peace.
In the political arrangement of the state, Southern Taraba is expected to produce the next governor after Danbaba Suntai who had been bedridden in the one year. Political stakeholders in the region however said the reoccurrence of the crisis was to make the region unsettle and stable ahead of 2015.
A group, Southern Taraba Forum For A Just Society, coordinator, Manu Benjamin Caleb, in a letter postulated that the crisis currently engulfing the zone is a scheme to destabilize the zone. "We are miffed and stupefied by the latest onslaught on the peoples of our zone in Wukari, Takum, Donga and Ibi local government areas. Clearly, the ongoing mayhem is a well worked out blueprint to destabilize the zone and institute a reign of terror, especially now that it is clear that the zone is ready to produce the next governor in the 2015 general elections.
"The march for power shift to the zone is on, and some clowns want to scuttle it with these crises to distract the region. It took a recent outrage by Senator Joel Ikenya over his failure to visit those areas before the acting governor quickly breezed into Wukari and Ibi."
Also Senator representing the zone , Emmanuel Bwacha who recently call for a state of emergency said "The crises of the past were ethnic skirmishes largely between Tiv and Jukun, who have since embraced peace and are even working together today to repel the insurgents. The violence today is being perpetrated by armed insurgents and we have evidence that Ag. governor brought mercenaries to destroy southern Taraba so as to weaken its political base, with a desperate motive to thwart power shift to the zone in next year's election."
JDA National President, Danborno on his part demanded the immediate evacuation of all Fulani herdsmen from southern Taraba, claiming that the presence of "these violent herdsmen, driven from Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue States, was responsible for the rising cases of violence in their homeland and that the herdsmen must leave for peace to reign in the area."
He threatened that if the herdsmen refused to leave their homeland, they would take up arms against them.
He said the call to take up arms became necessary due to federal government alleged failure "to check the violence and protect the Jukun people from the clutches of the blood-thirsty Fulani herdsmen, who have been killing, maiming and burning our houses."
Danborno said the spontaneous eruption of violence at Wukari, Ibi and Rafinkada, all in southern Taraba, during worship service last Sunday have further confirmed the group's fear of a grand plan to exterminate the Jukun people.
"Everywhere you go around southern Taraba villages, Fulani herdsmen have taken over our people's farmland commandeering Jukun and Tiv's homes and their live stocks," the JDA president said.
He noted that the Jukuns were aggrieved and disappointed that both the federal and the state governments have not been able to resolve the matter leading to the avoidable bloodshed. Danborno said it is perplexing that in a country where firearms licences are not freely issued to individuals, "these herdsmen openly carry firearms with which they harm and kill innocent people, giving the impression that some people are above the law."
He said documented evidence showed that the violence which began on November 18, 2012; and another on February 23, 2013, April 5, 2013 and April 15, 2014 before the present one on June 15, 2014, are indications that all the peace agreements between the Jukun people and the Fulani herdsmen and the Muslim community of southern Taraba have been thrown to the dustbin as powerful forces are hell bent on throwing the area into political turmoil.
He therefore warned all politicians to steer clear of fueling crisis in southern Taraba especially now that it is the turn of the zone to produce the next governor of the state come 2015.
"We see in all these a grand design by some disgruntled politicians to deliberately heat up the polity of the area and render the zone incapable of being able to produce a formidable candidate for the forthcoming governorship election. Let us assure them that such gimmicks will fail like others before it. "Let us also sound a note of caution that we are all peace loving in southern Taraba and we want justice. Let politicians who are looking towards fomenting trouble for us look elsewhere as we are better engaged in thinking of solutions to the problems besetting our state," Danborno further stated.
It will be recalled that there had been serious crises in Wukari, which led to the signing of the recent peace agreement among Fulani, Tiv, Jukun and Muslims in the area on one hand, and the Taraba State Government on the other.
Also, the acting Governor, Alhaji Garba Umar, has given a marching order to the local authorities in the affected areas to maintain peace or face the music
Umar has directed local government chairmen to be security conscious and ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order in their respective areas.
the acting governor further directed the council chairmen to ensure that traditional rulers in their respective areas were carried along in the fight against insecurity in the state.
He ordered the local authorities to hold monthly security meeting in order to address grey areas for timely intervention.
Umar stressed the importance of traditional rulers in tackling security challenge, saying they could not be ignored. He therefore directed that the royal fathers must be part of distribution of relief materials to displaced persons.
Umar states that preliminary findings indicate that the outburst of the violence was as a result of the negative activities of some youth groups in Wukari and Ibi local government areas.
He also ordered the proscription of all youth groups in Wukari and Ibi local government areas, while security agencies have been directed to ensure the enforcement of the ban.
Kefas Sule is the Chief Press Secretary to Taraba State Acting Governor Alhaji Garba Umar. In this interview with Ayodele Samuel he explains that the government is doing everything possible to ensure peace returns to the Southern part of the state.
What is your principal doing to address insecurity in Taraba State, particularly in the Southern part of the state?
I think we are doing a lot, if you have been following trends in the media, you would have seen the reports emanating from Taraba regarding the efforts that the state government have been making to contain the crises right from the onset as you are very well aware, this crises is not from Taraba state, it came from somewhere in Nassarawa splits into Benue state and then enters Taraba and even long before the crises came into Taraba state, His excellency, the Acting governor of Taraba state has set up several committees and summoned several high power meetings to ensure that crises is not coming to Taraba state but unfortunately for us, it happened and since then, some of the major style have been adopted in the state which includes regular meetings with the stakeholders and by stakeholders I mean the local government chairman, the traditional rulers and other community leaders from the affected areas. In the second measure that was taken, was to make request for additional re-enforcement of security agencies in those area. You realize that the cost of the price especially in the north east is, the number of security on ground has been far over stretched, so far you will discovered that crises will break out in somewhere and you deployed them there and as they are trying to contained it, another one has broken down somewhere else in the latest case that has been experienced. So you now have to now say take some numbers of men from the one you have on ground and take them to the new place so you will discovered that these personnels have been over stretched. Now to remedy this situation, the excellency make the request to the police headquarters and the Nigerian Army headquarters to send in reinforcement which we have done severally, the police I think about two units of mobile policemen were deployed from Gombe and Adamawa state and additional military men were brought in from Adamawa state from benue state to reinforce the number that is on ground. You will recall also if you have been following reports from the media so far the state government has spent 32 numbered trailers loads of relief materials to the affected areas for distribution to victims, you know we are not saying that this should be able to adequately addressed the needs but to alleviate their plight and that has been done to all the affected areas particularly the southern part of the state. Now the other things we did was the launching of operation Wuta-Wuta which I'm sure you also know and at least you are here to witnessed the distributions of motorcycle components of the distribution campaign, the first time, police receive 35 numbered Hilux van, the Nigerian Army on the second batch received 30 numbered Hilux van and other security agencies from the state got 10 bringing the total number to 75. Now, before then, other vehicles have been given, you know 6 numbered, 3 numbered, to the army, the civil defense and the SSS like that. Last week 180 motorcycles were given to the vigilante groups with the sole aim for them to compliments the role of security agencies in ensuring that the violent conflicts and crimes are brought to the minimum level in our state. So if we aggregate all this efforts, you will discovered that the state government have invested enough resources and so much materials to ensure these crises does not go beyond the level that it will cause a continuous lost of lives and properties.
With the reoccurrence of crisis in some part of the state, don't you think the call for a state of emergency by Senator Bwacha should be reviewed
I don't know why people will call for state of emergency, if the current efforts have helped to stabilized the situation in most of the crises zone, I don't think there is a need for state of emergency in this state. And let us remembered that most of these conflicts are localized, we are not talking of a widespread situation across the state, we are talking of localized isolated cities of crises in Wukari for instance, if they wants to that is why the crises has been resolved but as I speak to you now, His excellency, the acting governor and the various stakeholders are still working on how to find a lasting and final solution to the conflicts and as per our expectations and hope, that the outcome of this last discussion they are going to have will cement the outcomes of all the efforts that have been previously done and we will not hear of conflicts in Taraba state again.