Kogi state is in the news for the wrong reason following the gale of unwarranted killings in which more than 20 lives were lost recently. OYIBO SALIHU, in this report, writes on its implications to the economic development of the state.
It is obvious that Kogi state is passing through a turbulent security situation occasioned by arson and midnight killings that have sent many citizens to their early graves.
Although the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, since his assumption of office in January 2016 has made concerted effort to protect the lives and property of the citizens, yet the gale of killings in the eastern senatorial district and now western part has already created apprehension which may repel investors, if urgent steps are not taken.
Record has shown that in the month of April 2018, there was an attack in some parts of Bassa, Dekina and Omala Local Government Areas by herdsmen which led to the death of 44 innocent people. This outrageous figure was revealed by the report of the judicial commission of inquiry set up by the state government to look into civil disturbances in the said three council areas.
Also in the month of August 2019, two persons were killed in Omi community, Yagba West Local Government Area according to police report while the most recent killings happened in Tawari community a small village in Kogi Local Government Area where the residents are mostly farmers and fishermen.
Regrettably, Tawari community with an average population of close to 1,000 people only has three policemen expected to provide security.
The attack came when the people were celebrating the New Year around 11pm in which no fewer than 20 people were killed with many houses, including ECWA Bethel Church established in December 1952 and the oldest clinic established by the missionaries in the colonial era, were also set ablaze.
In addition, the official vehicle of the traditional ruler of the area, the Aguma of Tawari, Alhaji Idris Tawari, among other numerous properties, was destroyed by the militia.
It was also confirmed that the APC chairman Tawari Ward, Ibrahim Simbabi and the chief Imam of the village, Mallam Zakari Salihu, were slaughtered like rams in front of their houses, a situation many say may have no religious colouration.
Likely causes of the killing
While the administrator of the council, Barri Musa Tanko, was quick to attribute the attack to reprisal attack over the killing of four suspected herdsmen alleged to be kidnappers along Lokoja-Abuja highway recently by security agencies following a tip off by vigilantes from the community, some are of the view that a herdsman who resided in Tawari community sometimes last year was recently killed by suspected ritualists which may have angered the herdsmen to arrange for a reprisal attack.
Residents who survived the raid recalled that a year ago, there was a problem between the Bassas Kwomu and some nomads in the area over trespass into farmlands, but was said to have been settled on the condition that the farmers would not burn the bush to enable their cattle feed on the grasses.
Unfortunately, some unknown farmers or hunters reneged on the agreement. The herders were said to have protested, an action that did not go down well with the farmers; it therefore, sparked off physical combat leading to the death some Fulani herdsmen.
It was gathered that a truce was reached on condition that there would not be any reprisal attack by both parties.
The community was said to have suspected strange movements of nomads as the nomads were seen moving out of the area unceremoniously; however, Tawari residents did not suspect any danger as they believed it was the usual migration associated with nomads.
With the last Friday attack, they point accusing finger on herdsmen, while calling for justice.
Bello commiserates with victims, assures of justice
Irked by the killing, Gov Bello, who was away in Abuja, sent his deputy, Chief David Edward Onoja, to visit the community in order to ascertain the level of destruction.
Addressing the community, Onoja described the development as unfortunate, assuring them of the state government’s commitment towards ensuring tight security.
He said, “On behalf of the government of Kogi state led by our governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, we are here to see things for ourselves. It is unfortunate; it is a demonic act, but the government would take steps to assist you and other affected communities. We have gone round all the affected communities and we have seen the level of damage.
“We shall provide security to ensure that this is controlled so that such ugly incident does not happen again. I am here to commiserate with the victims of the attack. We have seen the extent of the damage. We have seen that the communities have been hit so badly. People have lost their love ones and property worth millions of naira destroyed. We shall try to give palliatives to the victims in order to bring back the community to life again.
Governor Bello who was still disturbed by the death toll last Sunday visited Ohimege-Igu and chairman, Koto Karfe /Lokoja traditional council Alhaji Abdulrazak Isah Koto in Koton- Karfe, to reassured him of government’s commitment to safety of the people.
He, however, reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensuring that the attackers get fished out to face the wrath of the law.
He enjoined the people to remain calm; assuring that his administration would not relent in his effort to guarantee the safety of lives and protection of property.
He described the incident as barbaric, inhuman and dastardly act, stressing that there is no amount of provocation that could warrant such actions by the militia.
He used the opportunity to thank security agencies including the state vigilante service for their prompt response at restoring peace in the community.
Residents recount sordid details
Speaking to Blueprint at Tawari village, 32-year-old Rabiat Simbabi whose father, Ibrahim Simbabi, was gruesomely murdered revealed that the attackers were Fulani as they were speaking Fulani language throughout.
“Yes, I saw three of them when they entered our house and forcefully dragged our father, took him outside and slaughtered him like ram.”
Rabiat, who was still crying profusely, urged the state government to come to their aid, saying even those that escaped being killed are not safe.
Also speaking, the Pastor of ECWA Church that was burnt by the militia, Reverend Danladi Akwoyi said, “We were sleeping while some of our youths were celebrating the New Year when suddenly around 11 pm, some gun men entered the community, firing gun shots and killing people.
“Since the occurrence of this incident, we are still in the village mourning our love ones even though we don’t know our fate yet. Though security men have been deployed, but you know they cannot continue staying with us forever; this is the basis of our apprehension as I am talking to you right now.”
Narrating his ordeal, Mallam Abdullahi Ibrahim Tawari said he was at the palace of the traditional ruler of the village when the attackers entered the community.
He added that even the monarch narrowly escaped death when the militia numbering over 200 invaded the village without any notice.
“We don’t have any problem with anybody and I cannot see the reason we should be attacked in this way. Even the police attached to our traditional ruler was seriously wounded and admitted in the hospital as I am speaking with you now.
“The saddest part of this attack was that the attackers spent close to four hours destroying our community and all effort made through phone calls by the very few policemen we have in the community for reinforcement proved abortive. So, the attackers chased us like bush meat. It is a pity that a human being can do this to his fellow human being without any provocation,” he said.
More security men deployed – Police
Commenting, the Police Public Relation Officer, Kogi State Police Command, DSP William Ayah, disclosed that more policemen and the military including men of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have been deployed to the place. He said the visit of all heads of security agencies on Wednesday identified the need for more security agents to be deployed there.
“All heads of security agencies in the state, the commissioner of police, Commander, Army Records, Commander Navy, Commander, NSCDC, the director of DSS and the security adviser to the governor went there to see for themselves with a view to do the needful in order to restore confidence in the people.”
He noted that the commissioner of police had earlier directed a deputy commissioner of Police to commence investigation to unravel the causes of the attack and the perpetrators. He however said no arrest has been made.
Commenting on the killing, a human rights activist, Chief Haruna Ahmed Osike, called on the state government to redoubled its effort to ensure that this type of gruesome killing ends.
“The other time, it was in some part of Bassa, Dekina and Omala where many people were allegedly killed by herdsmen.
“Now the massive attack had moved to Kogi West; therefore, the government should use this Tawari attack to find a lasting solution to the incessant killings in the state.
“There is no doubt that Governor Bello has prioritised security which has earned him a lot of accolades from different institutions, he should do more to end this piteous situation because no one knows their next target.