No fewer than 50 civilians and a soldier lost their lives in attacks carried out in Wukari area in Taraba state.
Victims included women, children and the elder brother of a member representing Wukari 2 constituency in the state House of Assembly.
At least 100 people, including two soldiers, sustained varying degrees of injury in the clash and are currently on admission at the General Hospital in Wukari and other medical facilities in the ancient town.
The attacks are believed to have been organised by Fulani herdsmen fleeing Benue state.
A source confided in Blueprint that the number of people that were given massive burial were about 50 but there were some hiding in the bush because the attacks are usually carried out in the night.
Hon Daniel Ishaya Gani, who represents the Wukari 2 constituency in the state assembly, told reporters in the capital Jalingo yesterday that the casualty level was highter than that of the former Wukari crisis in which the police said 46 people died.
The new wave of attacks has taken a new dimension. In Benue, selected Tiv villages were attacked, but in Wukari the suspected herdsmen attacked both the Jukuns and the Tivs.
The latest clash was said to have been triggered by the killing of nine Jukun youths at Nwokyo village by Fulani herdsmen.
It erupted at about 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday as the Jukun and the Fulani engaged in a gun duel which lasted till 11 a.m. yesterday before the situation was brought under control by soldiers from 93 Battalion, Adda Barracks, Takum.
Speaking in an emotion-laden voice, Gani told newsmen that besides killing his brother the assailants equally set ablaze his newly constructed house which he planned to commission at the end of April.
The lawmaker berated the acting governor of the state for not heeding earlier calls to send troops and Mobile policemen to the area to forestall the clash.
The Chief Press Secretary to the acting governor, Mr. Kefas Sule, however described the allegation as baseless and unfounded.
He said the acting governor had cancelled his plan to attend a security meeting with the president because of the security challenges in the state.
Sule said the acting governor was working tirelessly with all the security agencies in the state to find a lasting solution to the problem.
He added that all top government functionaries from the southern zone were directed to go to the area and appeal for calm, “now that normalcy had returned”.
National President of Jukun Youths, Mr. Dante T. Angyo, told Blueprint that the people of the community had became helpless and vulnerable to attacks following the refusal of the state government to take pro-active measures to forestall the clashes.
Angyo, who is also the chairman of a peace committee put in place by the state government to find a lasting solution to the incessant clashes in the area, alleged that the Fulani militia that had been wrecking havoc in the area, especially those that attacked Mission quarters, wore military uniforms and were shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) before unleashing terror on their targets.
He also raised alarm that information available to him revealed that Fulani herdsmen were converging at Sansani in Gassol local government area with the aim of launching fresh attacks on Jukun and Tiv villages in the area.
The chairman urged the state government to act fast by ensuring the deployment of military personnel to the vulnerable villages and communities in the area to forestall fresh attacks.
When contacted, the Head of the Red Cross Society in the state, Malam Umar T. Waziri, confirmed that the clashes had taken place.
He noted that it was still impossible for his people to go to the field to take statistics of the casualties and extent of damage to property due to the persistent and massive exchange of fire going on in the town.
“Our men are on ground but for now no information on ground because as we are talking now, gunfire is still going on there,” Waziri said. “So it is not possible for us to get the accurate number of casualties.”
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), ASP Joseph Kwaji, said only seven persons were killed and that the police command had deployed its men to the town to restore order and forestall further escalation of the clashes.
Special Assistant to the acting governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Aron Artimas, told reporters that the state was collaborating with all the security agencies to maintain peace in the area.
He said: “Government has been supporting them morally and financially to restore lasting peace in Wukari, Ibi, Takum, Gassol and other crisis-prone areas in the state.” The military yesterday said troops deployed to restore law and order in Wukari have apprehended 14 armed men who were involved in the fighting during the civil disturbances in the town early in the week.
The fighting resulted in the burning of no fewer than 25 houses and displacement of over 200 persons.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major General Chris Olukolade, said the troops also captured a building where arms were being fabricated.
Four locally fabricated machine guns, one sub machine gun, four single-barrel guns as well as 21 live cartridges were recovered in the process, he said.
Kolade said: “Normalcy has since been restored as troops maintain patrols of the locality.
“Meanwhile, security forces have been directed to continue with the tempo of offensive on all the terrorists’ enclaves anywhere in the country.”