Taraba State Deputy Governor, Mr. Haruna Manu, recently led a high-powered delegation sent by Governor Darius Ishaku to Atta, Adamawa province in Cameroon, where the displaced people affected by last Juneâ€™s crisis between the Fulani and Mambila had taken refuge, to access the situation preparatory to their return. Manu fielded questions from reporters after the visit. Excerpts:
Security was one of the many issues raised by the displaced people from your state during your visit to them. What is the security situation right now in Mambila?
Right now I can tell you that the security situation is calm in Mambila. There has not been any kind of trouble since last June. We have not had any disruption of peace of any kind, no crisis since what happened towards the end of June. I can safely say there is calm in Mambila Plateau.
How soon do you expect the refugees back to the state?
When the delegation was there, apart from the general assembly, I also discussed separately with individuals asking them this same question, asking them precisely when they will come back. Itâ€™s not really easy when somebody is uprooted and you ask him to just come back. We have heard their presentations, we have heard their demands and one of their requests to the state governor is for security in the area. I have assured them that by the grace of God there wonâ€™t be any insecurity again. This is something the government and their leaders will discuss. I told them the governor has created an enabling environment for dialogue with their leaders so we can continue to engage them and that the process of bringing them back home will soon start. Hopefully, by the time I get back home we will initiate this process with their leaders. Remember we have the Walikin Fulani and representative of the Mambila with us. We will now sit down together and try to address these areas of their concern.
Can you put an economic value on the crisis; how much it has cost Taraba state?
Quite frankly I cannot tell you the economic cost offhand. We should be able to get it from the relevant authorities, from the state emergency management agency. They have gone there, visited some of the affected villages to access the situation. They have firsthand information about the damage done in the area. Needless to say the destruction is enormous.
What has been the response of the federal government to the crisis?
We are collaborating with the Federal Government regarding the crisis. We have had about two or three delegations from the Federal Government, just like the state government did; they also sent some relief materials to the affected areas. Although before the Federal Government came, we had already intervened. The governor sent me to Gembu, Sardauna LGA with relief materials. Also relief materials were taken to those who fled to Gashaka LGA. Preliminary reports regarding the extent of damage and destruction of properties and loss of lives were done by SEMA. To this end, the governor has also given materials to returnees so that they can reconstruct their damaged houses. All these are positive responses by the governor.
What advice do you have for both communities involved in the crisis?
You heard my speech at the camp. The Fulani and Mambila have been living together even in Cameroon. In some of the villages, the Fulani are the majority, while in some, the Mambila are in the majority. Like the community that we visited in Cameroon, the paramount ruler of that village where the displaced persons are hosted is a Mambila man. This goes to show you that the Fulani and Mambila will continue to live together. Like I said the Fulani left Taraba state as a result of the crisis with the Mambila, but when they now came here in Cameroon, they are being hosted by the Mambila. This shows that they will continue to live together; nobody will leave the land for another person, since Nigeria belongs to all of them and I believe they will continue to live together. I can tell you that majority of the Fulani and majority of the Mambila want peace. What happened is just a minor misunderstanding between two people and then it erupted into violence. Of course you know there are miscreants who want to take advantage of situations like this and I can tell you this is exactly what happened in Mambila. Majority of the people didnâ€™t want this crisis and the perpetrators are a small group of people, not more than two percent or so.
Have these perpetrators been identified by government and the security agencies?
Government is doing everything to do just that. A committee has been set up to identify the genesis of the crisis and that committee is already at work. They have started identifying some of the problems. I really donâ€™t want to preempt the work of the committee.
How do you foresee the future on the plateau?
Although, you never can predict human beings but we are certain that the people want peace for real. I foresee a plateau with different people inhabiting it and tolerating one another and working collectively towards making it a prima-ballerina of tourism to be reckoned with in the whole world. I also foresee a plateau that is an investorsâ€™ haven in Nigeria.