There is need for the critical stakeholders to sit down and sink their differences

At an average elevation of about 1,600 metres above sea level, the highest in Nigeria, with many of the adjoining villages situated on hills, Mambilla Plateau is a beautiful highland that ordinarily should be a money-spinning tourist attraction for the country. Unfortunately, the plateau has in recent years been turned into another theatre of violent killings not only between farmers and pastoralists but also by different ethnic groups in Taraba State in the violence-prone northeastern part of the country.

Aside hosting one of the hydro power plants in Nigeria, Mambilla Plateau has a unique temperature that makes it the coldest region in the country while its lush green provides an attractive environment for cattle herders who have for decades co-habited with tea farmers. The Gashaka Gumti National Park and the Ngel Nyaki Forest Reserve both of which harbour rare plant and animal species are also located within this rich plateau that has now become a killing field.

In the latest of such madness which occurred last week, several Fulani villages were invaded by some ethnic militiamen, leaving a trail of blood and anguish. While we condemn the violence and urge the authorities to apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice, it is also important for the warring parties to find a way to resolve whatever their differences are.

We commend Acting President Yemi Osinbajo for his prompt intervention not only in the deployment of the military, police and other securities agencies but also in directing that relief materials be delivered to the affected communities of Toffi, Mayo Daga, Mayo Sina, Tamiya, Kwara-Kwara, Tungan Lugere, Timjire, Nguroje and other villages in the hinterlands of Mambilla Plateau.

However, we consider it unfortunate that what was initially considered to be no more than the usual skirmishes between herdsmen and farmers is now purely a sectarian conflict with both religious and political dimensions. It is therefore our hope that all the critical stakeholders in the state and the relevant security authorities will take note and nip in the bud what could engender another round of violence. What is particularly noteworthy is that it is not the first time the area has witnessed such sectarian fumes. What is always disturbing is the dangerous politicisation of the whole affair with the parties involved trading blame.

As communities in the southern part of Taraba State grapple with various forms of internecine clashes and with casualty figures steadily rising, the state government has come under criticism. Indeed leaders from the zone accused the government of taking sides in the matter, accusations which Governor Darius Ishaku has denied.

Unfortunately, while the accusations and counter-accusations are trending, scores of people die daily in suspicious circumstances. We therefore urge the warring parties to engage in extensive dialogue and stop fuelling the problem. For instance, the war of words between Governor Ishaku and the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf–over the number of people killed and the call by the latter for a state of emergency was unfortunate and could only aggravate the situation.

While we call for a speedy resolution of the current crisis, there is an urgent need to look more closely at the complex interrelationships of security, development and peaceful coexistence between pastoral communities and their more sedentary neighbours not only in Taraba State but across Nigeria. There is also the need to urgently take pro-active measures to address these developmental and security challenges and more specifically, the exploitation of these conflicts by agent provocateurs to destabilise the peace and stability of the country.