To underscore their frustration with the persistent communal clash between the Tiv and Jukun, hundreds of Taraba State indigenes and other concerned citizens yesterday staged a peaceful protest in Abuja.
They urged President Muhammadu Buhari to end the violence that has claimed many lives.
In a correspondence addressed to President Buhari, and signed by Mike Msuaan and Solomon Adodo, the protesters said the government should move against those that they alleged were undermining the peace, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
“The masses of the Jukun and Tiv communities in Taraba State are very willing to embrace peace and live in harmony for growth and development to thrive. Howbeit the elite, who seek to disparage the image of the government, have continued to stoke the embers of violence just to achieve their unpatriotic ulterior motives. These individuals must be halted before they proceed to their next level of violence propagation.”
The protesters, under the aegis of Tiv Youth Council, Guardians of Democracy and Development, and civil society organizations, urged Buhari to direct all the relevant security agencies to thoroughly investigate the masterminds of the crisis, and if found wanting, prosecute them appropriately to serve as a deterrent to others.
The groups maintained that the Jukun and Tiv could live harmoniously together and chart a course for mutually beneficial engagements if the masterminds of violence were isolated and dealt with.
The protesters were confined to the Abuja Unity Fountain by a contingent of heavily armed security personnel.
The inability of the state government to end the hostilities between the Tiv and Jukun has no doubt become a source of worry to the people and their fellow Nigerians.
The quarrel which started as a child’s play in Kente village of Wukari Local Government in April this year has not only led to massive loss of lives and property but has compelled travellers, especially those of Tiv and Jukun extractions, to access their various communities through alternative routes.
The two ethnic groups who are not ready to sheathe their swords despite efforts by the government, individuals and groups to resolve the issue, have continued to kill and maim each other along the highway.
Travelling along the Wukari and Katsina-Ala highways, as observed by The Guardian, is now a nightmare to the indigenes. While the Tiv living in Jalingo, the state capital and in the neighbouring Adamawa State, now travel through Gombe, Bauchi and Jos to access Benue State, the Jukun also go extra miles to be able to access Wukari which is the headquarters of the Jukun kingdom.
“The situation we now find ourselves in this state forced us to stop using Wukari road because of the Jukun militias who stop commercial vehicles in search of Tiv travellers who they end up killing,” a Tiv who identified himself as Tenege said.
But a Jukun lady who also spoke with The Guardian at one of the motor parks in Jalingo said: “As I am talking to you now, I am just arriving from Abuja. Ordinarily, I was supposed to travel through Markudi and the Wukari, but as you have seen, the killing of Jukun by the Tiv along the Tiv villages left me with no choice than to pass through this long distance.”
Some indigenes said the killings would have stopped had Governor Darius Ishaku visited the affected communities and engaged leaders of the two tribes in a dialogue.
A traditional ruler, who did not want his name published, said had the government deemed it fit to act when necessary “these killings between the Tiv and the Jukun would not have lasted this long.”
An indigene said that the governor’s seeming inaction might have been due to his ethnic background and that of his wife. While the governor is from the Jukun race, his wife, Anna, as observed, is a Tiv, a situation which is believed to have made it difficult for Ishaku to throw his weight behind any of the ethnic groups.
A top government official in the state said: “The truth is that the governor is disturbed about what is going on between his Jukun people and his wife’s people (Tiv). I think he is being careful in order not to be seen as supporting either of the groups. The situation is also making it difficult for him to select his cabinet because there is pressure on him not to give an appointment to any of the Tiv people in the state.”
In a reaction to the accusing finger being pointed at him and other elders in the state, Governor Ishaku, through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan-Abu said: “The statement is completely false and deserves no better treatment other than to be thrown into the dustbin. It is completely hollow as it contains nothing to support the grave and wicked allegations made against these eminent Jukun personalities.”
According to Dan-Abu, “The governor has always been at the forefront of all the efforts to end the crisis. And so is General T.Y Danjuma who has always condemned the crisis and killings in the state and openly supported efforts of the government to ensure peace.
“In the past two years, Governor Ishaku visited these Tiv/Jukun communities more than four times to preach peace and to encourage the warring factions to sheathe their sword. These he did most of the time jointly with his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom. Their deputies also did the same more than five times at their behest during the same period.”
Meanwhile, President Buhari has vowed to fight insecurity to a standstill in the country.
He also committed to bringing to justice, perpetrators of banditry, kidnapping and other related security challenges bedevilling several states.
The president spoke yesterday in Batsari Local Government of Katsina State during a sympathy visit to some 1,050 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The IDPs, who are victims of an attack by bandits, were selected from the eight council areas that share a border with the Rugu forest. The forest is a notorious hideout of bandits.
Buhari said those kidnapping and maiming hapless citizens were ignorant of divine laws, as it was “either they don’t know God or disagree with him” in what they do.
“What brought me here is to condole with you over the recent bandit attacks affecting not only you but all of us. I have nothing to add to what the emir has already spoken extensively about, but all that leaders should do right from home is to ensure justice.
‘’I assure you that we sleep and wake up with the sad moment of banditry and kidnapping activities in the state and country. By the grace of God, we will use soldiers, police and other public personnel to end banditry.
“All those whose activities are to kill people and be saying Allahu Akbar are lying because God is not wicked. You can’t carry a bomb or gun, sword or knife to go and kill an innocent person and say Allahu Akbar. This implies that you either don’t believe in God or you don’t know what you are saying,” Buhari told the IDPs.