HOPES that peace may soon return to parts of Taraba State, including Kerim-Lamido Local Council, that have suffered loss of lives and property are fading.
Rather than ease, the wanton destruction continues to spread and has now reached Takum, the home council of General T.Y Danjuma (rtd) the governor elect, Darius D. Ishaku and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mark Useni.
As at the time of filing this report, no fewer than 34 persons were said to have been killed in the crisis that erupted between the Tiv and the Kutep communities, bringing the death toll in the upsurge to over 70.
In the re-ignited Kerim-Lamido conflict which occurred Sunday evening, over 25 people were killed following a reprisal attack allegedly carried out by soldiers who had earlier lost nine of their men to unknown gunmen in one of the villages.
It would be recalled that suspected Fulani gunmen a few days ago, attacked and killed six soldiers who were on routine patrol between Amar and Kambari villages in Karim Lamido Local Council. Three of the soldiers were declared missing only for their bodies to be discovered a few days later.
The killings in Takum, which took place in the early hours of yesterday, were said to be the handiwork of some aggrieved youths who The Guardian learnt, were on a revenge mission following the killing of 13 of their kinsmen by assailants from the other tribe.
Though a-24 hour curfew has been imposed on the Takum area, the measure does not seem to be having much effect as the aggrieved youths continued their rampage.
A Takum native who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian he is saddened at the rising number of people being killed. “It is very unfortunate that while people are being killed, the police are trying to play hide- and-seek, telling the public that only nine persons were killed. “This is far from the true position.
As I am talking to you now, the death toll is getting close to 40 if not more. Some bodies were even dumped in churches, and some of those killed were innocent travellers who ran into the rampaging killers.”
Claiming that he had a narrow escape, the man said: “As far as we are concerned, the security agencies, especially the police, have their own share of the blame because they are not pro-active at all .
“Takum council in the southern part of the state is prone to crisis, yet security operatives posted to this area always seem not to be perturbed by the way and manner youths carry out their activities.
Had security operatives and the state government made necessary effort to halt the outbreak of upheaval, the killings we have experienced this morning would have been prevented.
‘‘But they all went to bed immediately after the elections thinking that since the dream of the zone to produce a governor has been achieved, the killings would stop.”
The nearby local councils of Donga and Wukari, as well as Katsina-Ala in the neighbouring Benue State, The Guardian further learnt, are playing host to people fleeing the troubled Takum area.
Another eyewitness told our correspondent that the unrest was as a result of the killing of members of one tribe by assailants from another which according to him, “led youths to go on a reprisal attack to avenge the deaths of their kinsmen.”
He felt sad that while the killings and massive destruction of property were going on, the security operatives on ground were too few to contain the situation, stating that “some of them even took to their heels because they were not well equipped.”
Following the unending crisis in the southern parts of the state, stakeholders from the zone urged the Federal Government to intervene by establishing a Police Mobile Unit in the area.
When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Joseph Kwaji, denied knowledge of the killings in Karim-Lamido, but declared that only nine persons were killed in Takum as a result of the unrest that erupted between the Tiv and Kuteb.
He said, though no arrests have been made, relative peace has returned to the area, a claim which indigenes of the council described as false. Some natives claimed that armed youths were still going round the town, looking for members of the opposing tribe to kill.
Kwaji was certain that those behind the crisis would soon be rounded up by the police and brought to justice. He said police are patrolling the town and its environs in order to prevent the crisis from escalating.