27 April 2014

Nigeria: Fresh Nasarawa Militia War Kills Dozens

Nigeria's finance minister said, the country is preparing a special development plan for its poor, violence-hit northeast and increasing spending to ... ( Resource: Nigeria Can Handle Boko Haram, Part Of 'raw Democracy', Says Minister )

No fewer than 30 persons, including children and their mothers were killed in Igga, a town North-East of Lafia in Nasarawa State after a land tussle broke out between two men: a Gwandara and an Eggon.

The crisis, which started in the afternoon, dragged on for hours, lasting till night hours, and leaving property, including houses and vehicles in one part of the town razed down, displaced persons who fled into other towns have said.

Igga, a town in Nasarawa-Eggon has had to suffer similar bloody crisis only about a year ago after Eggon, Fulani and Gwandara people were locked in hostilities which later culminated into the May 7, 2013 incident in Alakyo, at the outskirt of Lafia, where about 74 security operatives were murdered. Law enforcement agencies and a commission of inquiry have long blamed that crisis on Ombatse, but the group insisted it never killed security operatives, but their gods did.

Five hundred and thirty-four persons were killed in some communities across the state in 10 months alone following the bloody ethnic violence that hit the state, including Igga in much of 2012 and 2013, a report to the state government had said.

The latest incident, according to the state police spokesman, ASP Umaru Ismaila, happened as a backlash of misunderstanding "between an Eggon man and a Gwandara man over a piece of land." He did not give details, insisting information on the incident was still sketchy by evening when he spoke to Sunday Trust, just as he confirmed only five killed in the crisis.

But displaced persons said a well-armed militia group stormed the town by afternoon, soon after news of the misunderstanding between the two neighbours spread, and held residents under a siege that led to the killing of over 30 persons.

Persons displaced on the side of Gwandara people said the militia group that stormed the town were from Eggon, while those displaced on the side of Eggon blamed Gwandara people.

The fleeing persons, most of them women, said they saw the militia group killed not less than five children all between the ages of infants and toddlers.

"We managed to escape. But what we saw was terrible; they killed even women and children. They left nothing. They burnt houses and cars and motorcycles," a displaced woman said.

Sunday Trust also gathered that the killing inside of the town happened in the afternoon, while the night killing happened outside of the town, as part of the militia which laid ambush outside of the town targeted and hit many displaced persons who were on their way to other towns.

Displaced persons said soldiers in three trucks rushed into the town soon after one part of the town was sacked, but only helped in evacuating injured persons for treatment, and did not go after the militia.

"Soldiers came, but did not go after the armed militia. The soldiers saw most of the boys who invaded the town, but they only drove past even when the boys were still bearing the arms used in the invasion. They did not do anything," a displaced person said.

The displaced persons also said all through the several hours the killings lasted, policemen were not on ground, giving the militia more grounds to operate.

But the police spokesman, ASP Ismaila denied that security agencies folded their arms and watched as killings went on unchallenged, although he said he will prefer to speak more on the incident after he is fully briefed. He said truckloads of armed policemen were deployed to the area to restore and maintain normalcy.

The state government described the killing as unfortunate, although declined to state numbers.

The State's Commissioner for Information, Hamza Elayo, who condemned the "activities of this militia group," expressed concerns about the killings, and called on the federal government to act on perpetrators of the crisis as well as those of previous crises to punish them.

"After the Alakyo killing, it has become obvious that certain groups are above the law and can kill with boldness. This is sad," Elayo said. He commiserated with relatives of the deceased, and appealed to them not to take laws into their hands, but to wait for authorities to give their loved ones justice.

This is just as the state House of Assembly member representing the area, Godiya Akwashiki (Nasarawa-Eggon-East) condemned the killings, and called for calm.

The killing happened the first weekend after Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura initiated a community based peace initiative to end the spate of killings in the state. The governor first met with the Tiv-speaking people, and later Fulani, with plans to meet with other ethnic groups, with the purpose of bringing them together in a final meeting for them to talk their problems over and resolve the way out of the incessant bloody crises.

Also, the killings happened less than a day after President Goodluck Jonathan held and enlarged security meeting with state governors, service chiefs and other stakeholders on the spate of insecurity in the country.

Sunday Trust recalls that when he testified at the public hearing of the commission of inquiry that investigated the May 7, 2013 killing of security operatives in Alakyo, last year, state Attorney General, Barrister Lagi Innocent, said that security operatives became passive in the spate of insecurity in the state, and hardly acted in crises because of their experience in Alakyo.

Lagi also said that most of the persons displaced in the crises of 2012 and 2013 were reluctant returning to their communities because security agencies were not there to provide security of lives and property.

The report of that commission was turned up about a month ago, with a white paper issued immediately by the government, although Senator Solomon Ewuga and some Eggon leaders have long gone to the court, challenging the documents as cooked up by the state government to profile Eggon leaders and to demonize the ethnic group in general.

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