Displaced members of some communities in Taraba State are lamenting that they are facing permanent displacement as their homes and landed properties are being sold out by their attackers in cahoots with vested interest that does not want them to return to their ancestral homes, writes SAM TYAV from Jalingo, the state capital
The crisis in Taraba State which has resulted in the killing of hundreds of people and the displacement of thousands of residents has taken a more dangerous dimension. The latest information now is that landed properties belonging to some of the communities where residents fled for fear of being killed are now being sold out by unscrupulous elements.
Reports show that attackers of the fled internally displaced persons (IDPs) have allegedly resolved landed properties of their victims in order to make money for themselves. It was gathered that this idea is as a result of the plan by the state government under the leadership of Governor Darius Ishaku to work out necessary modalities so as to enable the IDPs return to their places of abode. The governor had, during his campaigns tour of the state for his governorship elections, requested for peace in then state and promised that he would in turn provide them accelerated development.
Few days after assumption of office, the governor, without hesitation, commenced work toward ensuring peaceful coexistence. He therefore met separately with religious and traditional leaders at the government house in Jalingo with the sole aim of finding out ways of ending violent killings in the state. Commendable as the steps taken by the state government was, some people are said to be hell bent on thwarting his peace agenda which has resulted in series of complaints by the displaced people that their lands are being sold out.
During the meeting with the traditional rulers, Governor Ishaku informed that one of the major concerns of his government was to ensure the return of IDPs to their homes so they could continue with farming and grazing activities. He urged the traditional rulers to ensure peaceful coexistence among the people in their domains. No chiefdom, according to the governor could exist with just one tribe or religion adding that, chiefdoms grow and prosper when leaders accommodate all irrespective of tribe and religion, particularly when the people are law-abiding.
Ishaku charged them to put in place necessary peace measures to ensure peace in their domains. “As a governor, I will not compromise the security of this state and in the same way I will expect you to help me in bringing peace which will enable me to quickly launch the state on the path of development. I will be compelled to hold you responsible if there is breakdown of law and order and will take action if there are evidences that the security of a place is compromised by a traditional ruler”, he said.
Given the position of the governor’s sympathy for the IDPs, the victims of the crisis, Nigerian Pilot learnt, were filled with joy because they were fed up with their continued stay in IDP camps.
It was observed that after the governor’s meeting with the traditional institutions, some of the victims started leaving their camps to their ancestral homes without government official pronouncement. Some of them unfortunately met their untimely death. One man identified as Zege Agbur was reportedly gunned down fortnight ago while working on his farmland. As confirmed, his relations were able to run when they heard the first gunshot which saw Zege in his pool of blood. His remain was subsequently released for burial by the police in Bali.
A similar thing happened in Dan Anacha in Gassol Local Government where three persons were killed on their farms. Nigerian Pilot learnt that people have stopped going to their farms for fear of being killed. Another lamentable incident occurred in this area when about 34 people were injured in the violent attack that was launched on them in the night while many of them were asleep.
A victim, John Shagbaor, informed that the crops which some of their members cultivated were destroyed. He said “we are not going to the farms; the herdsmen have grazed over our crops. Our lands are being sold out by our attackers in connivance with some wicked community leaders because of our faith. What remain of us are our lives. We are pleading with government to protect us as citizens of this state”.
In Anugwan Bayan Dutse in Bali town, Shagbaor, conducting journalists round his the land where his house once stood but has now become farmland, alleged that his house and that of four others in the area have been sold out by Mallam Abdulkadir (the Dekechi Bali) with the full backing of the District Head of Bali, Alhaji Inuwa Gidado Misa.
Adema Alema, Vihishima Manyi, Samson Augustine Kyambe in Anugwan Sabo Dare close to Bali disclosed that they met different people in their houses in the area and upon enquiry, the new occupants said they bought the houses from Maiaungwa Tanko Sabon Dare. While lamenting further, Alema informed that the move was a deliberate attempt by the district head of Bali, Inuwa Gidado Misa who allegedly vowed to resist their return to their areas in the council. He thus appealed to Governor Ishaku to call him to order.
The ethno-religious crisis in Taraba has a long history which has continued ceaselessly for two years in recent times. It started in December 2013. It appeared to be a non-religious and non-political but as time progressed, it became clear that the state had been engulfed by ethnic, religious and political conflict. Expectedly, accusing fingers were pointed at some top politicians in the state for the unending crisis in the state.
Worried by the sad development where pieces of land of genuine land owners were being seized by the attackers, Nigerian Pilot learnt that the victims have resolved to take to legal action in case the governor’s efforts prove abortive. Reacting to the ugly development, the secretary to the Taraba State Government, SSG, Mr. Anthony Jellason disclosed that government had not relented on his resolve to bring lasting peace to the state and urged the people to remain law abiding as the people would soon return to their homes.
Government, according him, was getting increasingly worried that the attacks were ceaseless but informed that “government is also doing everything possible to broker peace and ensure that people live harmoniously with one another, irrespective of their differences”. But in the meantime, Jellason advised the people to temporarily suspend their farm activities in order to allow government tackle the security challenge for the purposes of permanent peace in the affected areas.
According to one of the victims, “waiting is getting too long” even as they are not comfortable in their IDPs’ camps. He said they were being grossly underfed. The most annoying aspect, he said, is the fact that “the land grabbers are smiling to the banks daily on proceeds from sale of land that do not belong to them”. He therefore appealed to the authorities to quickly put a stop to selling of their houses and farmlands to other people.
The people are also calling on the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to expedite action on the petition before them in respect of the human rights abuses being perpetrated against them. It is their firm belief that the intervention of the NHRC in compliance with their letter of complaint, would reasonably address their grievances.
From the look of things, there is no hope at the moment for the victims of the crisis. Inspite of the fact that the state government has continued to give them assurances, nobody among the IDPs knows how soon the whole thing would take a definite shape.