Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The Ukum Development Association (UDA) has appealed to President Muhammad Buhari to urgently wade into the conflict between the Tiv and Jukun people in Benue and Taraba states.
The association also called on the Taraba State government to as a matter of urgency, address the Jukun/Tiv crisis in the state with a view to finding a lasting solution to the protracted conflicts.
In a statement signed by the group’s President General Akenawe Terzungwe and Secretary General, Dooga Vershima, the association said Ukum people of Benue State are not at war with Jukun people adding that if Jukun people have problem with Tiv people in Taraba, that problem should not be extended to Benue State.
UDA, while addressing newsmen in Makurdi on Thursday evening, alleged that few hours after the attack on Jootar community, some army officers from Wukari stormed Jootar on the claim that two of their officers were missing at Jootar that same day.
“In the early hours of Wednesday,April 8, 2020, at about 2am, Jootar a border town between Benue and Taraba states was attacked. The attackers bearing sophisticated weapons unleashed mayhem on the villagers who were deep in their sleep.
“Three persons were killed, many houses were burnt down and property including food stuffs were destroyed. Some of the villagers who were woken up by the attack fled. Others picked courage and resisted the attack.
“Later in the day on Wednesday, some army officers came from Wukari to Jootar and claimed that two of their officers were missing at Jootar that same day. We understand that the army had mobilized to Wukari, perhaps for the purpose of invading Ukum to seek for their alleged missing colleagues.
The group recalled how, in October 2001, the Nigerian Army claimed that it lost 20 soldiers in the Jukun/Tiv crises along Gbeji axis, in Ukum local government area, a development which made the Nigerian government deploy military personnel to Gbeji for the purpose of fishing out the alleged killers of the soldiers.
“These soldiers ended up deceiving the local people to assemble at the Gbeji Market Square, ostensibly to talk peace but ended up opening fire on innocent local people and murdered several of them in cold blood.
“The presence of soldiers at Jootar in the midst of a Jukun militia attack reminds us of the Gbeji incident,” the statement read in part.