Daily Trust (Abuja)

7 February 2013

Nigeria: Eggon, Fulani Fight Enters Al-Makura's Home Town, Spills Into Lafia

Lafia — A five-hour long gun battle in which many are said to have been killed suspected to be between Eggon and Fulani combatants raged from noon till early evening in Kwandere, hometown to Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, and spilled into Lafia, the state capital.

Authorities including the state deputy governor, Dameshi Barau Luka - who was compelled to make a state-wide broadcast on the state owned Nasarawa Broadcasting Service (NBS) - could not confirm details including death toll. But Daily Trust learnt that many were killed between Angwan Amanza where the two ethnic groups first clashed; and Kwandere where the fight heightened; as well as Ombi II area of Lafia, where tension continued to build. At 5pm, residents were still fleeing troubled spots.

Displaced persons who ran into Lafia, said the two ethnic groups which have had weeks of bloody clashes in not less than 12 different villages in the five local government areas of Kokona, Doma, Nasarawa Eggon, Nasarawa, and now Lafia, clashed at about 12pm in Angwan Amanza, a village outside Kwandere.

They said the clash which also saw many properties destroyed through arson spilled into Kwandere, the governor's hometown, after one side retreated and fled into the town to take refuge. The fight dragged for well over five hours.

"Our people (Gwandara of Kwandere) have nothing to do in the problem between Eggon and Fulani, but we were attacked this afternoon. We had to run for our lives. But our town is still burning. Many people have been killed", a displaced person who fled with his family told newsmen in Lafia.

Al-Makura left the state on Monday, to Abuja, from where he proceeded to Lagos for talks on the merger between opposition political parties. Before he travelled, the governor had led displaced persons taking refuge in most places including Lafia and Kwandere, back to their places of origin, and assured of security.

The attack on his hometown came three days after he left the state.

Displaced persons also said they were waylaid along two major roads leading to Lafia, from Kwandere, as they tried to flee their homes, into Lafia. They said the fight dragged into the two major roads linking either College of Agriculture and Nasarawa State Polytechnic on one side, as well as Railway Line, respectively, blocking passage.

By about 3pm, tension grew at the college and polytechnic, with reports of gunmen sighted near the two institutions. At the same time, a group of injured persons fled into the Lafia Police Area Command, beside the state polytechnic, sparking rumours that some students were affected.

Mukhtar Wakeel, spokesman of the polytechnic, confirmed the rumours in a telephone chat with Daily Trust, but said the fight did not affect students and dispelled rumours that students hijacked the skirmishes to forment trouble along Lafia-Akwanga Road.

Meanwhile, Eggon and Fulani leaderships in the state, continued to blame each other, with Eggon Cultural Development Association (ECDA), alleging that Fulanis started the fight, while Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association alleged that Fulanis never had any clash with Eggons, but that Eggons opened the attack on Gwandara people of Kwandere.

Chris Mamman, national president of ECDA said his inquiries showed that a group of Fulani gunmen attacked Eggon people, and ran for protection in Kwandere, sparking up the attack on Kwandere, where he said Fulani and Eggon fought.

Mohammed Hussaini, state secretary of Miyetti Allah said his investigation showed that Eggons carried out attack on Gwandara people in Kwandere, and denied that the attack had anything to do with Fulanis.

State police spokesman, DSP Michael Adah confirmed the hours of skirmishes, but declined to state details including death toll. He said the command sent men there, leading to the arrest of six persons with an AK47 riffle and other dangerous weapons.

State deputy governor, Barau, confirmed the crisis, but called for calm, as he said security personnel were detailed to bring normalcy.

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