1 March 2002

Nigeria: 'Tiv, Jukun Crisis: Judicial Inquiry Remains Panacea for Peace'

Markurdi — The Special Assistant on Inter-Party Relations to the Benue State governor, Mr. Shima Ayati, has declared that lasting peace in the Jukun/Tiv crisis may remain elusive unless the federal government inaugurates a judicial commission of inquiry into the crisis.

A presidential retreat on peace and crisis resolution was recently held in Kuru, Jos, for the crisis-ridden states of Taraba, Plateau, Benue and Nassarawa.

But Ayati, who spoke to THISDAY, explained that although some of the displaced Tiv people from Nassarawa have started to return to their homes, it is only the inauguration of the judicial committee that would ensure lasting and enduring peace in the crisis areas.

According to him, with the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry, certain things would be exposed that even if the perpetrators are at the end granted amnesty, there would be greater relief and satisfaction among the affected groups.

"Certain things when they are exposed will go along way to heal the wounds. There is no way you will pretend that a great atrocity like this was committed and they just come and say people should go back, there is peace. There will be uneasy peace," Ayati stressed.

Speaking further, the Special Assistant maintained that if President Obasanjo failed to inaugurate the committee, it would "create a lot of suspicion among the people. A suspicion which is already existing that the federal government of General Obasanjo has a hand in the genocide against the Tiv. And to douse off such a suspicion, he should inaugurate the committee."

Advancing more reasons for President Obasanjo to establish the committee, Ayati said "it will help the electoral fortunes of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) as a party. Even the electoral fortunes of Mr. president if God finally agrees that he should recontest."

"But if the if the inquiry committee is not is not inaugurated, it will be very difficult for the people, very difficult to convince the people," the governor's assistant added.

Commenting on the allegation that the state governor, George Akume, might have dumped his campaign for the inauguration of the commission, the aide maintained that "those making such suggestions are pessimists who do not want the efforts of the governor to be appreciated.

"The governor is for the judicial commission and for anybody to think otherwise is mischievous," he added.

It would be recalled that the federal government last October announced a nine-member judicial commission of inquiry at the heat of the Tiv/Jukun crisis in Nassarawa and Taraba states. The commission is expected to unearth the immediate and remote causes of the protracted crisis among other terms of reference.

The members include: Justice Okechukwu Opene (Chairman); Alhaji Mohammed Liman; Mr. Macleans Dikwel; Mr. Daniel Agogo; and Alhaji Haruna Ahmadu.

Others are Ambassador Yahaya Abdullahi; Chief Patrick Okon and Mrs. Ruth Akafa.

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