Acting Governor; Taraba, Alhaji Garba Umar
By Wole Ayodele
Barely three months after scores of people were killed and properties worth billions of naira destroyed, the ancient city of Wukari in Taraba State again erupted in violent clashes and wanton destruction of properties Friday, which has claimed several lives.
This is coming 24 hours after the state Acting Governor; Alhaji Garba Umar inaugurated a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the violence that occurred in the town in February including the crises that occurred at Ibi in November, last year.
The current violence, THISDAY investigations reveal, was ignited by an attempt by the Hausa community at Karofi area in the town to prevent some traditionalists who were on procession as part of burial rites for a deceased traditional Chief, Abe Ashumate who was the Abon Ziken of the town.
Though the number of casualties is yet to be ascertained as well as the level of destruction as at the time of going to press, THISDAY learnt that the magnitude of the crises was bigger than that of February.
Confirming the incident to newsmen, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Joseph Kwali said the State Police Command has deployed enough men to the troubled town in a bid to restore normalcy.
According to him “The crisis was caused by the burial programme for a late Chief but the Command has deployed enough men to the town to restore normalcy and as I am talking to you, the situation is under control”, he assured.
As part of burial rites accorded ranking Chiefs in line with the Jukun tradition, the remains of the Abon Ziken was carried round the ancient city in a procession as a prelude for his interment and on getting to Karofi Street, they were pelted with stones by residents of the area who are said to be mostly Hausas.
On their way back from the burial ground, the traditionalists were said to have passed through the street again during which they clashed with the Hausas which soon spread to other areas in the town.
Immediate past Chairman of Taraba State Council of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Comrade Lynn Adda told THISDAY that the procession was purely a traditional affair and has nothing to do with Islam or Christianity as it has been the tradition of the town for ages.
Inaugurating the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the February crisis in the town which was given one month to submit its report, Alhaji Garba Umar urged the Commission to investigate the role of religious and traditional rulers in the crisis and come up with appropriate sanctions for the perpetrators.
The acting governor however warned that henceforth, the state government would hold local government council Chairmen responsible for any outbreak of violence in their respective domains.
The seven-man Commission, headed by Justice Philibus Andetur is also expected to ascertain the levels of damage in the two councils and come up with measures of compensation for the victims of the clashes.