- Category: Society
- Published on Saturday, 25 June 2011 07:57
- Written by Hir Joseph
- Hits: 1024
He herded them to Gyundu, a neighbouring village, where he kept them, and dashed back to fetch some necessities the family will rely on for that day or more, pending when it will be clear that calm has returned to the village which has been engulfed by violent attacks between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers. He returned with half a sack of elubo (flour), some ingredients and a couple of wrappers in his wheelbarrow. But he did not meet his family for which he risked his life.
Whether they took off, apparently to run from gun fire, or they were shot, or abducted, is what Ataka, a peasant farmer has lived with for over a week now, as he lies face up in a refugee camp at Daudu LEA Primary School in the neighbouring Benue State, where over 20,000 displaced people are camped.
Also sharing his fate is Halilu Adamu, a septuagenarian herdsman who was lucky to have escaped with his family intact from a settlement not far away from Dooga Village. But where he lies at the refugee camp at Mararaba Akunza in Lafia, Nasarawa State, Adamu is beset by many troubles, ranging from failing health to the immense trauma of the killings of the last two months.
Ataka’s experience is what hundreds of thousands of his Tiv kinsmen share. Thousands of Adamu’s Fulani kinsmen also share his experience. Both were displaced by hostilities that raged between them in the last two months.
Two soldiers, one of them an officer, Lt. Chinedu Anyanwu who just returned to his duty post from a honeymoon with his recent bride, were killed in the hostilities on the Benue side, the police said. Eight suspected mercenaries have so far been arrested and are detained at the Benue State CID in Makurdi.
Weekly Trust visited some of the sacked villages as well as the refugee camps on both sides, and captured vividly, the tales by survivors, and their condition at the camps, as well as the many troubles that led to, and have attended the hostilities, especially during its renewed outbreak.
The journey to the sacked villages began from Kadarko. The journey lasted over an hour. At Kwara, a dog barked and retreated into a burnt compound made up of zinc and grass houses. This compound was hit hard, and no building was spared from the violence in the village of Adootu.
“Six persons were killed in this village,” Joseph Gyor said as he gestured towards another burnt compound that belonged to his younger brother, a teacher, who was also killed in the violence. The deceased, Moses Gyor, was said to have ran out of his house into the range of the attackers who opened fire, splitting his chest and head. Not far from Gyor’s residence, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) was also shot at point blank range when the attackers laid siege on the village on Thursday of last week. Some of the buildings were still billowing with smoke as grain silos that were set on fire continue to burn, emitting smoke.
Shimsenge Igye, a cousin of one of the deceased, Dennis Ingbaa, also a teacher in the neighboruing Ekye, said all seven persons killed in Adootu were men with families. “Some were killed in their farms,” he said.
Danladi Tanger lost his entire compound to the attacks, but he and members of his entire household escaped. On that day, he had travelled with the entire family for the burial of his wife. He heard of the attack and the destruction of his house from there. “There was no need to return,”,said Joseph Gyor.
Felix Msee, a peasant at the village talked of how he escaped just metres from a gun muzzle. “I heard of gun shots in the neighboring compounds, and dashed out of my house to head to the barn where my wife and children were removing some foodstuff for breakfast. I came face to face with a gun muzzle. I dashed back and jumped through the window to the backyard. I saw my wife and children already heading into the distance through the thick bush. That was how I also escaped.” he was at the village to sift through the burnt barn and pick some food for the family which has been staying in a relative’s place at Kadarko.
In the neighbouring villages of Antsa, Dooga, Dooshima, Kyaior, and Angwaha, tales of agony flowed. Andoor Philip of Kyaior said his kinsman was shot behind him while the two of them were running from the attackers.
At the Fulani settlements, Weekly Trust visited Rugan Alhaji Mai Mota, Rugan Kadir Adamu, Rugan Waziri and Rugan Kudu. There was no life in sight. Displaced Fulanis spoken to at different locations where they are scattered said some of them fled the areas during the first killings in Benue. “We were afraid it was going to spill over to our places. We left and are scattered around,” said Muhammadu Waziri at Agyaragu.
State police commissioner, Emmanuel Obiakor confirmed fighting between herdsmen and farmers in the areas.
Meanwhile, Tiv and Fulani community leaders had met on May 20 and come up with a committee of 16 persons, eight from each side, to try and keep the fighting in the neighbouring Benue from spilling further. This committee, according to the Nasarawa State secretary of Miyetti Allah, a Fulani socio-cultural group, and Peter Agbache, president of Tiv Youth Organization, sat throughout this period of renewed crisis, and decided to work together with Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Sarkin Fulani of Nasarawa State, Senator Walid Jibrin was reported to have advocated for the implementation of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar-led Tiv/Fulani committee recommendation which was adopted in 2007 between him and Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam. He said the recommendations made by that committee have identified the problems, with suggestions for resolutions.
Meanwhile, the governments of the two states have continued to sit for meetings, with hardly any action to show for their long talks and promises. Only yesterday, the two governors met at Yelwata, a border town for discussion, during which they made the same promises, with advises for the two communities to embrace peace. Yelwata is one of the communities deserted by people, because throughout the over one week period the new hostilities have lasted, there were no security men in sight there. But yesterday’s meeting of the two governors there, attracted not less than 70 armed soldiers and policemen put together.
The meeting had only Tiv people in attendance, with no single Fulani man in sight. “We wonder what the meeting seeks to address, when the people we have been having problems with are not here,” a displaced community leader said. He was happy that youths who attended the meeting brought with them placards bearing messages of criticism of the attitude of the two governors who have continued to look the other way while their people get killed in violent crisis.
At Daudu Primary School, Weekly Trust came face to face with the worsening condition of refugees there. Displaced persons there said they were served with some loaves of bread and gari on Wednesday, one week after they had been there. When the distribution of bread was about to begin displaced persons got into a stampede. Some threatened to beat up officials of the State Emergency Management Board (SEMA) which provided the relief, for promising more than they delivered.
Mrs. Fransisca Nyigba, who is coordinating records for displaced persons from Kadarko, Asakyo, Agyaragu, Akanga, Giza, Obi, Kaior and Kuduku, confirmed that her people did not receive any relief from any government. “They brought some loaves of bread, but you know, people scrambled and it did not go round. We have not had anything from government yet,” she said.
At the corner of the classroom where she took down the names of refugees pouring into the camp sat an elderly man, Thomas Gbayiin of Utondu village of Angwan Yara area. He clasped his son, Aondongu. “You can see his condition is getting bad. No food, no medication; nothing,” he said. In his village, three persons were killed on Saturday when it was attacked. “I thank God that we are alive, but alive to die for want of food?” he asked.
Esther Iorjaan, Elizabeth Nyigba, Mbakaseve Akume, all of Sootuma Kyaior village sat like Gbayin, tending their babies. “My baby has continued to suck. But he is sucking nothing because I too have eaten nothing since I arrived here. My husband’s first wife brought food from her relatives who came from Makurdi the other day. It is all I have eaten, apart from drinking water,” one of them said.
Two Red Cross officers, Gabriel Anjov and Otokpa Sunday, were there to see things for themselves and to return with a report. They confirmed the worsening condition of the displaced persons especially women and children. “Mosquitoes, we understand, are having a feast on women and children here,” one of them said.
At the refugee camps occupied by Fulanis, the situation is the same. It was difficult tracking them because of their nomadic nature. “We ran from Rugan Kudu, and have stayed here at Mararaban Akunza since then, said an elderly man, Halilu Adamu who could not walk because of a spinal cord disease. He lied face up as he talked, and gesture for his daughter, Aisha who is in her early 20s.
His wife, Hauwa, tried to mend a hut, and her last daughter, Kadijat, struggled to sieve some millet for lunch at the back of the makeshift hut.
Some of them were camped at the golf course. Idris Halilu, a rearer said, “We have suffered so much: violent crisis, now lack of a place to settle. We pay for grazing around here. We pay for this camp. Everything; we pay for. We have to sell cattle to meet these financial demands on us.”
Meanwhile, security has relaxed around the border communities few days after the hostilities have ceased. Lafia-Makurdi Road, which links most of these communities, has for now only one checkpoint at Daudu, with only a handful of soldiers and policemen. Within Nasarawa State, none exists at the moment as the last ones mounted along the road were there only during election period. But the two governors have been speaking much about the security efforts they have been making. (Weekend Trust)