Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
For years, Tiv and Jukun ethnic communities in Taraba State have been at each other’s throats. This resulted in recurring hostilities, many of which led to the sack of villages, destroyed property and innocent deaths.
From Wukari to Takum and from Donga to Bali in the southern part of the state, the painful scars of these endless bickerings are boldly scripted for all to see. A common trajectory along this path, where these conflicts and conflagrations are predominant and fatalities are severe, are pale, worn out, lonely villages, ravaged by different confrontations, ruined by the ageless conflicts between the two major ethnic groups in the state.
Recently, at Mararaba village in Donga Local Government Area, Tiv community and their Ichen-Jukun neigbours had a fresh fight, which led to bloodied nose. The trouble erupted after a minor misunderstanding between members of the two communities. It snowballed into a major fight, leading to the gruesome murder of over 30 persons of Tiv extraction at Mararaba market and a melee of revenge attacks and killings.
On Monday, another round of violence erupted between two warring communities in the same southern part of the state. It was between Kuteb and Chamba people in Takum Local Government Area, both of whom are minority ethnic tribes within the Jukun ethnic group.
The Chamba/Kuteb violence followed a land tussle in Jenuwa Kogi, Byeri and Fete communities. In the end, four persons were reportedly killed and three affected communities were razed down.
Witnesses told Daily Sun that the misunderstanding blew out of proportion and lost its senses, when more people from both tribes, who are not immediate parties to the dispute, joined in the disagreement:
“Soon, the quarrel resulted into physical combat. The fight turned bloody as many people joined. Some people were shot and killed with riffles others were wounded. Several homes were razed.”
Before this violence, there was a fight last week between Kuteb and Chamba. Escalation of these hostilities in the area had seen many more people die in Zaga community of Bali Local Government Area, where the Chamba speaking people had since joined the war.
The Caretaker Chairman of Bali Local Government Council, Musa Mahmud, claimed that in Bali alone, eight people were killed in the renewed fracas. He added that property estimated in millions of naira were destroyed while many were displaced from their homes. Villages destroyed included Fete, Tampa and Pyeri, Pasoki, Gidan Adamu, Gankwe Bariki, Suntai Donga, Zambana, Sanso, Kwassa Sarki, Kwassa Sabo, Dadin Kowa, Baka Koshi, Maraban Donga and Ananum.
Alhaji Mahmud, who was spotted on Monday at the Government House, Jalingo, submitting the report of the crisis in his council looked unhappy. The multi-ethnic wars are a major source of worry for critical stakeholders including Governor Darius Ishaku, who is Jukun but married a Tiv woman.
A member representing Takum/Ussa/Donga/Yangtu Federal Constituency, Rimande Shawulu, called on all stakeholders and government to work towards finding lasting solution to the crisis before the entire axis is completely ruined. He told Daily Sun on phone that it was pure madness that despite their years of integration, through inter-marriages and homogeneous religious worship in the area, the people still see themselves as enemies.
He regretted that though Southern Taraba is enormously blessed with human and natural resources, like no other region in the country, the people have continued to trail after others due to incessant crisis: “It has come to a point where trading blames is no longer fashionable. Civil society organisations and all stakeholders should come together to a round table and chart a new course for the people and posterity.
“It is so sad, the news about the killings and destruction going on in Southern Taraba at the moment. The inter-marriage in that area is so much and most of the people are also Christians. You really begin to wonder why we are doing what we are doing in that area.
“Fights only increase the problems that people have not reduce them. If we can find a way of sitting on a sincere round table, and I mean all the groups in Southern Taraba, that would be the best thing that would happen to that area.”
Spokesman of the Nigeria Police in the state, David Misal, said they have drafted a good number of policemen to the affected areas, saying normalcy had returned to the areas after the recent crisis.