Unidentified gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen have invaded Numa village in the Andaha community of the Akwanga Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
During the attack, which occurred on Sunday, the herdsmen killed 16 people, including a 100 year old man, during a naming ceremony.
The people killed were from the Mada ethnic group in the state. It was learnt that the suspected herdsmen raped a Mada girl to death.
The senator representing Nasarawa North senatorial District at the National Assembly, Philip Gyunka, who confirmed the incident in Akwanga, the headquarters of Akwanga Local Government Area, stated that the victims, comprising a man, his wife and their son, were killed during the attack.
Gyunka, who described the killings as unfortunate and barbaric, said, “The unfortunate thing is that the victims-the father, mother and their boy-were killed. A pregnant woman was involved in this attack. An aged person, above 100 years, was also involved in the attack. They did not spare women or children and these were the people that didn’t have arms.”
He said he recently moved a motion on the floor of the Senate calling on the Federal Government to establish a military base in Akwanga.
Gyunka said, “You can see the increase in kidnappings and robberies on the Akwanga – Abuja Road. This is as result of people moving with weapons unchecked.”
Also, the Paramount ruler of the Mada, HRH Samuel Gamu-Yare, in an interview with one of our correspondents said 16 persons were killed during the attack.
He said, “We have 16 deaths while several others were critically injured. The attack on this community occurred within a short period. The militias met people during the naming ceremony and they resorted to sporadic shooting.
“It is quite unfortunate and devastating that a peaceful and law-abiding community like mine, which over decades have never involved in skirmishes either internally or externally, would be attacked by Fulani herdsmen when in a celebratory mood..”
The Commissioner of Police, Nasarawa State Command, Mr Bola Longe, could not be reached on the phone as of the time of filling in this report neither had he responded to a text message sent to his mobile phone.
Herdsmen abducted 67 Taraba residents in five months
Meanwhile, no fewer than 67 persons have been kidnapped and several others killed in Taraba State between November 2018 and March 2019 in Lau, Jalingo, Donga and Takum Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State.
The Caretaker Chairman of Takum Local Government Area, Shiban Tikari, told The PUNCH in a telephone interview that 35 people had been kidnapped in his local government area from November to date.
Also, the Chairman, Donga Local Government Area, Nashuka Ipeyen, said nine persons were kidnapped in the area between January and March this year. It was learnt that six persons were reportedly abducted by gunmen in Jalingo Local Government Area within the period.
Though the Jalingo Local Government Caretaker Chairman, Abdulnaseer Boboji, told one of our correspondents that he would provide the official figure after cross-checking his records, he never did as of the time of filling this report.
However, a senior official in the council, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that six people, including the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Darius Ishaku; a prominent civil servant and the immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Jalingo branch, were kidnapped in Jalingo.
In the Lau Local Government Area of the state, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria in the area, Rev. Fr. Sunday Patrick Muke, said 17 people were kidnapped from Lau between November 2018 and March, this year.
Some residents, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the wave of kidnapping and killing in the area, blamed politicians for the rising insecurity.
A resident of the Takum Local Government Area, Mr Musa Tsokwa, lamented that if adequate measures were put in place after the kidnap and subsequent killing of a lawmaker, Hosea Ibi, the problem would have been solved.
He said, “Other than tackle the issue and properly address it, the first high-profile kidnapping in the state (Hosea Ibi’s case) was shrouded in secrecy and a particular tribe was stereotyped as brains behind the evil when it was clear that other ethnic groups were also involved in the crime.
“Has anyone cared to know why all of a sudden kidnapping has become so lucrative in Taraba? Most kidnappings in the state go unreported and the state government has not done enough to address the issue.”
Taraba not silent over killings, kidnappings – Dan Abu
But the Taraba State Government has denied allegations that it was silent over the killings and kidnappings in some parts of the state.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Darius Ishaku on Media and Publicity, Mr Dan Abu, said the state government had done enough in ending killings and kidnappings in the state.
Abu explained that several meetings between the Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, and his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, were held in Wukari with a view to finding lasting solutions to the problems.
He said, “Even now that Governor Ishaku is out of the country, the Deputy Governor, Haruna Manu, is fully on the ground and he is currently meeting with the deputy governor of Benue State in Wukari to look into the crisis there.
“The two governors have taken the issue of security on the border of the two states very seriously and that is why during their last meeting in January over border security they both agreed to offer amnesty to criminals in Taraba and Benue to end trans-border killings and kidnappings.
“At the moment, documentation of those criminals willing to accept amnesty is going on. Government officials in the affected local governments have been directed to liaise with stakeholders on their localities for the documentation and once that is completed, amnesty will be given to repentant criminals.”
However, a youth leader in Takum and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Revenue Mobilisation, Joseph Manga, has urged those involved in kidnapping and other crimes to have a rethink of their activities.
While appealing to those involved in the act to freely come out and embrace the amnesty of the state government, Manga called on the stakeholders in various areas to assist in prevailing on the young people to renounce criminality.
But the Caretaker Chairman of Takum Local Government Area, Shiban Tikari, doubted whether the amnesty would yield the needed result.
Tikari said, “One notorious criminal popularly called ‘Crack’ was given amnesty but he later returned to the criminal world, same thing with ‘Gana.’ So, I doubt if the amnesty initiative of the two governors will work.
“In my last security meeting last Wednesday, I pleaded with the traditional rulers to prevail on the criminals to release the people they are still holding.
“For instance, Alhaji Mayo was kidnapped in Takum during the presidential election and so far N105m has been paid as ransom but they are still keeping him. Dr Sule Audu was kidnapped and N7m was paid yet he is also being held by the kidnappers.
“Now that government is considering the amnesty option for them, my plea is that they should release these people they are keeping and embrace the government gesture. But my reservations remain whether they will come for the amnesty programme with one mind,” he said.
On its part, the Benue State Government said it was considering the amnesty programme for repentant criminals in the state.
The Special Adviser on Media to the Benue State Governor, Tahav Agerzua, said on Monday that Ortom had earlier in his first term in office introduced amnesty.
According to Agerzua, the governor said in Wukari that he was ready to grant amnesty to whoever was ready to surrender arms.
He said, “At the time the governor (Ortom) visited Wukari on a peace meeting with his counterpart in Taraba in January, he made it clear that he was ready to grant amnesty to anyone that was ready to surrender his arms.
“Remember that Governor Ortom introduced amnesty programme in 2016 in the state and he is ready to grant amnesty to anyone who surrenders arms again. That is the reason he made the declaration at Wukari in Taraba State during the peace meeting.”
This, Agerzua said, would help to stop the incessant killings within the border communities of Benue and Taraba states.