â€¢ Ortom raises alarm over fresh attacks by herdsmen
John Shiklam in Kaduna and George Okoh in Makurdi
An unconfirmed number of people were reportedly killed and several houses set ablaze in Kasuwan Magani village, Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State Monday, following a violent clash between Muslims and Christian youths in the community.
Another unspecified number of people were also said to have sustained injuries as the youth engaged each other with dangerous weapons.
There was no official confirmation on the casualties but unconfirmed reports said about 12 persons died during the clash, which was said to have occurred at about 10.30 a.m. Monday.
There were conflicting reasons for the cause of the outbreak in violence, with one version claiming that some Christian men went about beating Christian girls who were dating Muslim boys.
Another version claimed that a Christian girl was abducted and converted to Islam and taken to the residence of the Sarkin (Chief of) Kasuwan Magani.
In a phone interview with THISDAY, a resident of the area, Abubakar Aliyu, alleged that Christians donâ€™t want Hausa (Muslim) boys to date their girls.
But a Christian youth also resident in the area who did not want his name in print, alleged that the Muslims were abducting Christian girls and converting them to Islam.
Sources said the problem has been a long-standing one in the community.
A source disclosed that recently a Christian girl was beaten by Christian boys, forcing her mother to report the matter to the police, but the police were chased away by other youths who were invited by the culprits.
Many residents, especially women and children, were said to have fled their homes Monday to safe areas as a result of the clash.
The community, which is about 31 kilometres away from Kaduna city, is located along the highway connecting Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue States, as well as the southern part of Kaduna State.
Commuters plying that route were stranded for several hours following the incident.
Residents alleged that security personnel did not arrive until around 2 p.m. when a combined team of soldiers and police were deployed to tackle the situation.
As of press time, the spokesman of the Kaduna State Police Command, Aliyu Mukhtar, told THISDAY on the phone that the situation had been brought under control.
Aliyu said the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of operations had relocated to the area.
â€œWe got a distress call in the morning that there was tension in Kasuwan Magani. The Assistant Commissioner of Police is already there as I am talking to you with his men.
â€œMobile policemen have been deployed to the place. So the situation has been brought under control.
â€œI cannot give details about the cause of the problem now until investigations are concluded.
â€œWe are yet to obtain the number of casualties but we are on top of the situation,â€ Mukhtar said.
Also moving to arrest the situation, the Kaduna State Government Monday directed the security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the violence and bring them to justice.
The government, in a statement by Samuel Aruwan, spokesman for Governor Nasir el-Rufai, condemned the wanton destruction of lives and property.
â€œThe Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai has directed the prosecution of all persons responsible for the Monday mayhem that occurred in Kasuwan Magani in Kajuru Local Government Area,â€ the statement said.
Aruwan added that the security agencies must investigate the unfortunate incident, arrest and make available for prosecution the perpetrators.
He said: â€œThe government condemns the violence, and regrets the wanton shattering of lives,â€ adding that government conveyed its sympathy to the victims and their families.
He said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) was directed to take an inventory of the damage and provide relief materials to those affected with immediate effect.
Aruwan said security forces were deployed to contain the situation, protect lives and properties and to prevent any further breakdown of law and order.
The statement called on all citizens and communities to reject violence and divisions and uphold their neighbours in peace and harmony.
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has again raised concern over renewed attacks by cattle herders in his state, saying there has been an influx of over one million cows into Benue after the launch of Operation Cat Race, known as the Ayem Akpatuma military exercise.
He spoke Monday at the funeral site in Makurdi of the 73 victims of herdsmen attacks who were killed on new year day, where he had taken the senior pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche, and his wife, Becky.
The governor appealed to the military to flush out the invaders so that the over 160,000 displaced persons in eight camps could return to their homes.
He alleged that well over 60 people had also been killed by armed herdsmen since the mass burial held on January 11 for the 73 victims, with three of the latest victims killed last week in Guma Local Government Area.
Enenche, who anointed the land, prayed for Godâ€™s justice and judgment against the killers and their sponsors throughout the country and prayed for the earth to rise up against them.
Threat of Retaliation
Ortomâ€™s appeal came just as a group known as the Tiv Youth Organisation (TYO) warned that if the federal government fails to protect the people of Benue State, Tiv youths may be forced to find an alternative means of defending the people, even as it called for the overhaul of the security architecture in the country to accommodate other nationalities in Nigeria.
The National President of TYO, Mr. Timothy Hembaor, at a press conference held Monday at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, said President Muhammadu Buhari had failed to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerian citizens.
He stressed that the immediate overhaul of the security infrastructure and hierarchy will give room for true intelligence gathering in the country.
He also urged the federal government to, without delay, direct the troops deployed in Benue State to strictly adhere to professional conduct and put an immediate stop to the daily attacks, wanton killings and maiming of innocent, harmless, defenceless and law-abiding Tiv people of Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States.
The group upbraided the federal government over its failure to arrest and prosecute the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and their sponsors whom they alleged had openly boasted about their plans to carry out the new year day massacre of women, children and aged persons in Tiv land.
â€œIt is preposterous that the Fulani are laying claim to being the original inhabitants of the Benue valley,â€ the group said, also pointing out that the narrative has not been supported by any historical account.
â€œThe Tiv people are entitled to the statutory rights over the lands of the Benue trough where they have lawfully dwelt and earned a living for the past three centuries and have been so recognised by law.
â€œWe will resist with all means at our disposal, the confiscation of our land and transmutation of same into grazing areas for the Fulani and their cattle. In essence, the Tiv people are saying, â€˜No to grazing areas of whatever sort in Tiv landâ€™.
â€œWe, therefore, call on President Buhari to respect his oath of office and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, both in content and spirit, and sincerely intervene now and halt the killings of the Tiv people of Nigeria by his kinsmen.
â€œFailure to do so, the Tiv people are capable of defending themselves against any occupation of our ancestral dwellings,â€ the group added.
It further warned that Benue State will never succumb to the threats of Miyetti Allah to cede any of its lands for cattle colonies, terming it as a disguise to get a foothold on the land.