Governor Tanko Umaru Al-Makura
Ethnic clashes in some parts of Nasarawa State are becoming too frequent. Concerned indigenes are worried about the sudden rise in ethnic violence in the hitherto peaceful state, writes George Okoh
The recent clash between two dominant tribes in Nasarawa State- the Eggons and the Alagos- as well as pockets of violence involving Fulani herdsmen have changed the temperature of the state.
Governor Tanko Umaru Al-Makura, has however deployed stringent measures. Recently, he ordered security operatives to arrest alleged sponsors of the crisis in Agyaragu area of the state.
Al-Makura, in a broadcast, said government was determined to bring to book all persons or groups involved in the crisis, irrespective of their status in the society. “It is indeed sad that our state is being made to assume the status of a theatre of a communal violence; this is regrettable and unacceptable.”
He said the Agyaragu crisis, like other recent crises in the state, was perpetrated by miscreants and enemies of the state.
“These miscreants are bent on causing communal disharmony and economic dislocation of our society and we shall not allow them to succeed,” he said, noting that government was aware that ethnic militia was being used to unleash mayhem on innocent people and therefore declared “the activities of all the ethnic and cultural militia illegal.”
He also noted that government would enforce the provision of “Nasarawa State Thuggery Law” recently passed by the state House of Assembly to bring offenders to justice.
Ironically, despite the governor’s tough talks, the issue of security breakdown has been traced more to political disagreements between him (the governor) and some elite in the state who are not comfortable with his leadership style.
The governor who many view as prudent in the management of state’s resources has been accused of running a one -man show. At several fora, the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) has made damning accusations against the governor, ranging from lack of disclosure of state finances to tampering with local government funds, a case he has had to defend during the visit of the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, to Lafia on the occasion of the good governance tour of the state.
He said the allegation was untrue and that the allocation for local government councils is too insignificant for any government to start tampering with. He said government had only fixed N2billion of their money and which has yielded interest for the councils. He said rather than accuse the state government wrongly, people should be grateful that government has saved money and has even disbursed N400million to each council in the state.
He also said government pays a monthly debt service of N250 million for loans collected by his predecessor while also paying the Plateau State government N260 million for debt owed the Paris Club. He quickly blamed the local government system for over bloated staffing and corruption while seeking an end to the ghost worker syndrome in local governments.
But the governor’s inability to stem the tide of frequent ethnic clashes in the state has led to moves by the PDP-dominated state legislature to move for his removal from office. Plans to impeach Al-Makura became evident recently after the House of Assembly completed an emergency session where a warning letter was read to the governor, threatening impeachment if he fails to end the violent crises rocking some parts of the state, with an ultimatum of seven days.
The move was made by Speaker, Hon. Musa Ahmed Mohammed (PDP, Nasarawa-Central) who declared the emergency sitting open and read out the resolution of the last sitting that asked the governor to urgently take steps to end the violence that has engulfed the southern part of the state.
House Majority Leader, Godiya Akwashiki (PDP, Nasarawa-Eggon-West), who read the day's order paper entitled: "House Resolution on Security Issues and other Sensitive Matters in the State", as well as a "Deliberation on the House Resolution on Security", however read the warning letter to the governor. This was seconded by Minority Leader, Adamu Maikatako (CPC, Lafia-Central).
Akwashiki, who spoke after the Speaker had introduced the motion, observed that the governor has failed to comply with an earlier resolution which asked him to take urgent steps to end the violence affecting many communities and displaced thousands. Unfortunately, the governor, he said has folded his hands to watch his compatriots killed daily in cold blood.
The majority leader said the governor’s reluctance to deal with the situation has led to a total breakdown of law and order, resulting in arson attacks on some communities and that in the latest case, over 10 people were killed in Agyaragu, an outskirt of Lafia. For him, this was just not disturbing but also a clear demonstration of government's insensitivity, incompetence and total disregard for the constitutional provisions which mandate him to protect lives and property in the state.
Having made his position clear, Akwashiki, on behalf of his colleagues, read that the House has resolved that Al-Makura be given seven days from the day of the sitting to end the violence in the zone, or members will invoke Section 188 (1) to impeach him.
However, in defence of the governor, Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Hamza Elayo, said government has been doing its best to control the breakdown of law and order.
"When the Asakio ethnic clash occurred, the government quickly intervened, restored order and set up a special committee to look into the crisis. We are working very hard to ensure that these crises do not occur again."
Also defending the governor, Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Town Planning, Mr. Sonny Agassi, insisted that the governor deserved commendation from the people in the management of affairs. “The governor has demonstrated his resolve and commitment to the security of lives and property; he has twice rushed out of Saudi Arabia-bound planes taking him for Hajj; he has twice turned back from Federal Government sponsored foreign trips, all of which came at periods when certain communities were hit by violent crises.
“Besides, on the day Agyaragu was attacked, my boss was in Abuja. The next minute, he was heading back to Lafia, after he approved of a prompt visit by his deputy and cabinet members.
He personally supervised the mobilisation of security personnel to the troubled spot. And to the displaced persons, what did he do? He made visits, and directed that I also make visits, where we gave reliefs in terms of materials and cash. Pleases, such a governor deserves commendation, not condemnation. Our people should think of what they can do to help the growth of our society, not what the system can do for them all times,” Agassi said.
But as the seven days ultimate runs to a close, it is yet to be seen whether the appeal extended to the lawmakers makes sense to them or not. That of course, to a large extent, observers say would determine whether or not what is presently happening in the state is political.