Students leave campus after scares of Mubi Poly student were murdered
SECURITY AGENTS IN NASARAWA STATE SEEM TO HAVE RECOVERED FROM THE SHOCK OF THE KILLING OF 56 OF THEIR COLLEAGUES ON MAY 7, BY SUSPECTED MEMBERS OF THE OMBASTE CULT IN LAFIA EAST. THERE IS NOW A MASSIVE MANHUNT FOR THOSE BEHIND THE GORY ATTACK, WRITES GEORGE OKOH
News of the deadly killings filtered into Lafia on May 8 after the failed mission of the security agents to arrest the 76 years old leader of the Ombatse cult whose member had been severally accused by the state government of causing violence across the state. The cult is popular among Eggon people.
Governor Tanko Almakura first broke the news in Abuja when he embarked on an emergency trip to inform the president of what took place in Alakyo. As soon as he made the report, 46 mutilated bodies of security men were recovered from the killing field and deposited at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital while 19 others narrowly escaped and returned to the police headquarters.
THISDAY investigation revealed that the men were ambushed a kilometer away from the shrine of the Ombaste in Alakyo. Various eyewitnesses gave different account of how the incident happened. While a source alleged that the men were surrounded, shot and the bodies burnt, others say that magic powders were thrown in the air to weaken the security agents before knives were used to slaughter them.
According to the Nasarawa State Police Commissioner, Mr. Abayomi Akeremale, the team of one hundred and ten men went to arrest the leader of the Ombaste “who were causing havoc and forcing innocent people to swear Oath of membership when the cult members opened fire on them.
Since then, the search for the killers has begun with the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar rushing down to Lafia to access the situation. The IGP called on elders and eminent citizens of Nasarawa State to collaborate with the Police in order fish out the perpetrators of killings.
He described the killing of the officer as “callous” and had never been heard in the history of the force. He disclosed that the militia group was still holding some officers hostage, adding that efforts were being made to ensure their release. We are making every peaceful effort to ensure that some of our men still being held hostage are released unhurt,” Abubakar said.
He expressed optimism that with the level of dialogue both at the state level and in some other quarters, the officers being held would soon be released.
¨As soon as the IG left the entire Nasarawa State witnessed heavy build up of security as they prepare to launch a manhunt. Already, 15 people, mostly policemen have been arrested in connection with the crime. According to a police source, the suspects were brought to the Lafia Police Station amid tight security.
The source told THISDAY that one of the 15 suspects, a police driver is believe to be an Eggon man and a member of the Ombaste cult as a sticker of the group was found attached to the car he was driving.â€¨ â€¨Most of the suspects so far picked up were arrested for allegedly leaking the ill-fated May 7 security operation to members of the Ombatse group. A team of detectives monitored and arrested two Eggon policemen last week, with one of them whose name was given simply as Corporal Enugu identified as one of the operatives who returned safely from the operation. Joseph, the second suspect, was linked to Corporal Enugu, although he did not participate in the operation.
As the search continues, an umbrella body of the Eggon people, Former Lafia Division Elders’ Consultative Forum (FLDECF) has called on Eggon people to assist security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the May 7 Alakyo killings. A spokesman of the group Mr James Agbo called on the people of the state, especially those of Eggon extraction to give useful information to the police. “We call on all good citizens of Nasarawa State, including the good people of Eggon extraction with good conscience, to join hands in ensuring that the perpetrators of this dastardly act are arrested and punished, accordingly.”
Eggon elders agreed that those behind the killings, who are suspected to be Ombatse, a traditional religion of the Eggons – must be fished out, investigated and punished “no matter how highly placed” they are. But the Eggon Cultural and Development Association, has denied the involvement of the Ombaste in the killings of the security agents. According to its spokesman, Comrade Chris Mamman, “Ombatse is a spiritual group of the Eggon ethnic extraction that is out to ensure peaceful co-existence and to help address immorality in Eggon land,” pointing out that the group does not believe in violence of any kind and urged Governor Al-Makura and members of the public to desist from blackmailing the group.
Mamman continued: “We condemn the politicization of the Ombatse and the crisis by the governor and certain individuals and suggested that the governor should rather be more embracing and more temperate in his actions and utterances to assure the Eggon people that he is Governor of all citizens of the state.
“Mamman who lamented that government and other members of the public have remained silent on the 21 members of the Alakyo community killed by the security operatives during the incident also questioned the rationale behind the deployment of over 100 security operatives to arrest an individual, in a non crisis situation.
As president of the Eggon Cultural and Development Association, I would have, within 24 hours surrendered the 76-year-old high priest of the Ombatse to the governor in a peaceful atmosphere if the Governor so wanted rather than an approach that has now led to the destruction of innocent souls.
According to him, “Even when there were crisis situations across the state, the governor never deemed it necessary to deploy such a number of security operatives to such areas.” Mamman further alleged that the incident had led to a selective ill-treatment of Police officers and men of the Eggon extraction even before investigation by the state police command, suggesting that dialogue should rather be employed in resolving the issues so as to avert future occurrence.
The protest and sorrow…
Since the death of the 56 security agents, wives and families of the victims find it very hard to come to terms with the reality that their breadwinners have been coldly murdered. The women protested for several days, blocking the ever-busy Akwanga-Keffi Road singing chanting war songs.
The families who saw their spouses last on the dark day are seeking to know what really happened and who killed their men. In a quick reaction, the state government released the bodies found to the families while it is also providing financial assistance to the bereaved families.
The state government announced a compensation package of N 3 million for late Mommoh Mohammed, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and N1.5 million each for the two slain Superintendent of Police, as well as N1 million to each of the over forty three other policemen killed. Cheques have been sent to the headquarters of the state command in Lafia.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone IV, Michael Zuokumor has also announced the Inspector General of Police’s (AIG’s) approval of N1 million each for the families of the slain officers. He said their Group Life Insurance packages were being worked upon too. This is just as the DCP Abiodun Ige, in charge of welfare from the Force Headquarters in Abuja, informed the widows of an ongoing facilitation of the disbursement of the immediate police intervention to them.
â€¨The Ombatse, which means “Our Time Has Come” which has been outlawed by the Nasarawa State government, is a traditional religion of the Eggon people. Members say it was handed to man from heaven, and “seeks to cleans society of sundry ills, including adultery, fornication, stealing, drunkenness, smoking, envy, killing; to pave the way for the culture of morality and chastity.” Christianity and Islam are strong among Eggons, one of Nasarawa State’s most populous ethnic groups; and who are found across the state, but age-long traditional values including Ombatse, still have their place and roots, and are being jealously guarded against erosion.
The group according to findings usually recruits new members into their folds on Saturdays, and oaths are administered to converts “to clean them of their sins. But women are never allowed near Alogani Centre, a popular initiation area in Nasarawa-Eggon, during the cleansing ceremony, except unmarried teenagers who are believed to be pure from fornication.
Young male converts wear black dresses and caps to match, and proud themselves as possessing native bullet proof to protect them against bullets.â€¨â€¨ The group first came to prominence early last year when its members engaged three truckloads of soldiers and men of the State Security Service and shot three personnel, after the security agents drove to Alogani Centre during an initiation ceremony, to make inquiries.