Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
For Mr. Silas Dame, a resident of Kona village and, indeed, for the people of Kona in Taraba State, August 9, 2020, would go down as one of the most horrible nights of their lives. That Sunday, in the cold of the night, a gang of daredevil gunmen stormed the community and unleashed a trail of pain on the residents.
In the end, they snatched a life and left several others with various degrees of injuries and scars. At irregular intervals and with the sole intent to kill at sight, they shot at the doorposts as they drove, unchecked, through the community. In some cases, they halted their movement and set ablaze huts and houses.
Silas would have been dead and buried by now. But luck was on his side as he escaped with gunshot wounds on that fateful night. But his friend, Sunday Benjamin, was not as lucky as he was. He was killed on that cloudy night.
Telling his story in his local dialect, Silas said: “Last night (Monday), at about 12:00 mid night, when my family members were asleep, I was woken by random footsteps, only to discover that our village was being attacked.
“We still did not know who they were. They knocked at residents’ doors and if anyone came out, they fired at him instantly. But if you refused to come out, they automatically set your hut on fire. Many escaped through alternate back doors.
“I thought it was going to be the end for me. There was hardly anything I could do at that time because they were shooting sporadically. Some of us, however, summoned courage and came out.
“I must say, I am very lucky to be alive, lucky to nurse the gunshot wounds I sustained. Unfortunately, my friend was killed in the attack. He heard the knock on the door and rushed to open it and was killed.”
The whole Kona village is still in an electric-like shock, trying hard to outlive the sad memory of that horror of a night. People still peep through their windows thinking the armed men are back. They often shrugged in cold shiver at the thought of that night.
Moses Yohana, who spoke with Daily Sun in the village, could not understand why the state and Federal Government failed to secure them from these misfits. He blamed the authorities for their inability to provide reasonable security to people in the rural areas:
«This is not the first time this is happening. Last year, more than 100 persons were killed in our villages when Fulani herdsmen unleashed terror on us. As we speak, most of our people are still at the IDP camps in Jalingo, the state capital, because their homes were sacked and their farms taken over. They have to start their lives from scratch. And now this is happening again.”
Becky Lukas, a mother, decried the re occurrence of the killings: “I am alive today, but I think I am better off dead. How does one live this kind of life of total uncertainty and fear? Last year, a lot of people lost their lives here and those of us who survived are still trying to pick our pieces.
“As we speak, they (the armed herdsmen) are still occupying some of our homes. Now, it seems as if they can just wake up any day and invade our homes, destroy anything they want, kill the people just like that, and just go away. Nobody cares and nothing is done about it. Can you imagine?
“Even farming that is our main source of livelihood; they have taken over our lands. You cannot even go to the farm now, without the fear of being attacked and killed on the way to your farm.”
The traditional ruler of Kona, Chief Augustine Njemang, said most of their lands have been transformed to grazing fields: “You will recall that most of our villages came under attack last year, and were completely destroyed. Our people are still staying at the IDP camps, without any means of livelihood.
“Our farm lands have been taken over by the invaders. They have turned our lands to grazing grounds for their cattle. They destroyed our farms last year and harvested what was left, leaving us empty and hungry.
“Our people are barely trying to settle down and then this gruesome and senseless attack. What do they want? We are a peace-loving community. Our people are simple farmers and would never look for trouble. Why can’t they just let us be? Why are they destroying our villages, killing our young men? What have we done?”
Alli Kotonu, commander of the vigilance group in the area said but for his men, Sunday night attack would have been worse: “As the leader of the vigilance group here, we were alerted and I called my members to attack them.
“We exchanged fire and when they knew that we would overpower them, they escaped through this bush paths you are seeing. It is unfortunate that they succeeded in killing one of our residents.”