Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari last night condemned the latest ethnic violence in Taraba State, which left scores of people dead.
Taraba State Police Command has confirmed that 25 persons were killed and several others injured in a bloody clash between Shomo and Jole ethnic groups in Lau Local Government Area of the state.
Speaking in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jalingo yesterday, Public Relations Officer, Taraba State Police Command, Mr. David Misal, said about 100 houses were burnt down during the clash which took place in the area on Monday.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, the president, while reacting to the incident, said: “I am deeply disturbed by the resort to violence over disagreements that could be resolved through dialogue.”
Shehu also quoted the president as saying, “these frequent incidents of ethnic and communal violence is a failure of community leadership and the refusal to embrace dialogue as a means of conflict resolution.”
He explained that “disagreements over lands or fishing ponds shouldn’t be allowed to degenerate into violence and destruction of life and prosperity.”
According to him, the president said “violence has never settled any problem and, on the contrary, it makes a bad situation worse and lay the seeds of future conflicts.”
He sympathised with victims of the violence and their families and appealed to leaders at all levels in Taraba State “to seize the initiative in order to forestall outbreaks of deadly violence by thugs.”
He added: “Life is so precious that leaders in the area should take urgent and decisive actions to halt this disgraceful slaughter of people.”
Although Taraba State police spokesperson could not immediately ascertain the cause of the conflict, reliable sources from the area said disagreement over the ownership of some ancestral fish ponds was the cause of the problem between the two fishing communities.
The police also confirmed that the conflict had since become an annual occurrence between Shomo and Jole fishing communities.
“The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ahmed Azare, has stationed patrol teams on ground already and the situation has been brought under control,” he said.
NAN reported that conflicts between Shomo and Jole had been lingering for decades over claims and counter-claims of ownership of the disputed fish ponds.
At a point, the government had to ban fishing activities in the disputed ponds for a period of 10 years, but the communities resumed conflicts as soon as the ban was lifted at the return of democracy.