From Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
In the last six months or so, hundreds of indigenes, majorly of Kuteb extraction have been killed, their villages sacked and properties destroyed by suspected herdsmen.
Recent upsurge in attacks in Takum and Ussa local government areas and in Yangtu Special Development Area have raised fresh worries, especially as it appeared that these attacks were primarily targeted at the Kuteb people and their villages.
Ezekiel Ande spoke to Daily Sun on the nature of the attacks: “These attacks, killings and maiming have been consistent and far too coordinated in approach to account for a mere misunderstanding between farmers and herders or between two brotherly tribes inhabiting the same space.
“What is happening to Kuteb communities is not just mere attack. This is an ethnic dimension to the warfare. The adversaries seek to wipe out the Kuleb tribe. It seems the security agencies in the state are helpless or have turned blind eyes to these atrocities.
“It has always been the plan of some people to eliminate the Kuteb people. The throne of Ukwe Takum, a first class ruler of Takum, by right is reserved for Kuteb. The last Ukwe died almost three decades ago.
“But up till now, they have refused to allow a new person to succeed the throne because the Jukun want to take over the throne. Of course, they know that if they try it, who ever they appoint will die.
“Those who are opposed to the emergence of the next Ukwe from Takum are conniving with the herdsmen, who have been plotting to take over lands in the area, to perpetrate these evil attacks on their innocent people.
“That is why you see that the government has been quiet. The governor himself is from Takum where people are being killed almost on a daily basis.”
Member representing Ussa State Constituency, Habila Timothy Anderifun, said the situation required urgent attention: “For months now, the people of Ussa whom I represent in the State House of Assembly and their kits and kin in so many communities in Takum Local Government as well as Yangtu Special Development Area have come under coordinated and sustained attacks from suspected Fulani herdsmen (bandits).”
He alleged that the villains have dislodged thousands of people from their ancestral communities and forced them into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps: “Equally worrisome is the brutal manner in which they killed and maimed their victims. The situation in Ussa is terribly bad.”
He appealed to the Nigerian authorities, the United Nations (UN) and the global community as a whole to give attention to killings in Ussa and parts of Takum: “The killings and mutilation of the bodies of the victims constitute crime against humanity and we urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to end these senseless killings.
“We are also calling on the state government to set up a high commission of inquiry to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the crisis with the view to finding a lasting solution to the conflict.
“This is very important because the Fulani and the Kuteb have been living peacefully withone other over the decades until the recent ugly development. This could be the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob.”
Several sources familiar with the dispute traced it to the traditional stool of Ukwe Takum. They argued that the stool was originally occupied by the Kuteb. However, after the death of the last Ukwe Takum way back in the eighties, there have been agitations for a Jukun to ascend to the throne, an aspiration strongly being resisted by the Kuteb.
This is responsible for the deep animosity between the two brother communities. A resident who spoke on condition of anonymity alleged:
“They (the Jakun) know what they are doing. They started it long ago.
We are all witnesses but time will tell.
“Takum is the home town of Governor Darius Ishaku. Why is he not saying anything about the killings that started since February? We have all the powerful people from this zone. Why are they not saying anything? Several soldiers were killed and nothing happened.
“No one has explained to us the role that the then chairman of the local government played and why he was released without being charged to court after his alleged arrest in connection with the attacks on soldiers. The governor has all the powers to appoint chiefs. He should go ahead and appoint a kinsman as the Ukwe so that all these senseless killings will stop. It is disheartening.”
Members of the Southern Taraba Youth Coalition for Peace (STYCOP) recently painted a sad picture of the situation. Its project director, Love John, implored the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the area with a view to addressing the killings:
“Our people are suffering silently with no help from anywhere. Every day, children die from hunger, diseases and a harsh environmental condition as helpless mothers watch them die in tears. Indeed, the
situation is pathetic.
“The attacks are unabated. The level of insecurity and vulnerability of Southern Taraba communities to attacks from bandits who have now taken over the deserted communities also casts fear in the people. There may be no election in Southern Taraba in 2023.
“Today, there is an ethnic cleansing of Kuteb people in the villages in Takum and Ussa LGAs and Yangtu Special Development Area by gun-wielding bandits. Our people are facing daily attacks from the bandits who use sophisticated weapons to maim, kill and displace thousands.
“These bandits are responsible for the death of the former Commanding Officer, 93 Battalion, Army Barracks, Takum and his six soldiers in May 2022. Since then, the attacks have increased in frequency and sophistication, leaving over 40 Kuteb villages destroyed.”
Suleiman Umar, a Fulani resident in Takum rejected the narration linking the killings of the Kuteb to Fulani herdsmen. He insisted that most of the attacks were carried out by rival Kuteb communities.
He added that the dispute started among the Kuteb themselves: “Rather than tackle their differences, they took the more convenient narrative. They dragged in the Fulani people into the fray.”
State police spokesperson, Usman Abdulahi, told Daily Sun: “The security situation in these areas have been brought under control. The people are going back to their homes.
“The police have intensified what we call feasibility patrols, confidence building patrols. Some of the critical stakeholders there are involved in the policing of the communities.
“We also have a very good synergy with the professional hunters in the area. There is a good collaboration with the military to ensure that normalcy is sustained.
“The Commissioner of Police himself went there sometimes ago. He was able to put in place a formidable force to forestall or repel further attacks.
“Our collaboration with the vigilante and professional hunters there, the involvement of critical stakeholders there and the military has ensured that there is peace there now.”