Five people were killed and several others wounded yesterday in Wukari, Taraba State, as misguided fanatics engaged in a bloody combat.
Hundreds of residential houses, business premises and places of worship were razed down by the warring groups. Several persons were rendered homeless while others lost their means of livelihood.
The crisis, which erupted in the early hours of yesterday, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered, was caused by an argument between some young men on a football training pitch in the town.
The feud later snowballed into a bloody clash following the killing of one of the youths during a heated argument.
In the ensuing mayhem, dangerous weapons such as guns were freely used, which forced residents to flee their homes for refuge in nearby bushes and neighbouring communities.
"The crisis started as an argument between two youths on the football field and, in the course of the row, one of them was shot. In an attempt to retaliate the killing of the young man who is an adherent of one of the religions, it became a full-blown war," an eyewitness told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
A victim of the clash, Mr. Agyo Ado, whose family house was razed down, told our correspondent on phone that no fewer than 40 people were killed at different locations in the town. But a member representing Wukari in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Daniel Ishaya Gani, told newsmen that five lives were lost to the crisis while property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
He said some of the injured persons were being treated at the General Hospital, Wukari, and other health facilities in the town.
"It is unfortunate that while the country and state governments are working round the clock to ensure peace, a few individuals are still taking law in their hands. I am pleading with the warring groups to sheathe their swords and embrace peace," Hon. Gani, who is also the deputy majority leader and chairman of the House Committee on Information, said.
The state police commissioner, Ibrahim Maishanu, through the police public relations officer, Amos Olaoye, said teams of heavily armed policemen and anti-riot squad had been dispatched to Wukari to restore peace. He said the police would conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the crisis.
A community leader, Chief Mannaseh, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that thousands of residents of the town had fled to neighbouring Benue and Plateau states as well as nearby local government areas, particularly Ibi, Donga, Takum and Gassol.
A similar crisis broke out in November last year at Ibi, about 20 kilometres from Wukari, claiming over30 lives.