Crisis, controversy trails allegations of Plateau’s Tarok taking Taraba villages

For the past six years Ibbi town, part of Sarkin Kudu and Dampar district, all in Ibbi Local Government Area (LGA) of Taraba State has been a war zone of sorts, following religious and communal conflicts that engulfed the once peaceful area. Crises of different dimensions claimed the lives of about 216 persons, including women and children, with over 518 commercial and residential buildings burnt, according to records provided to Daily Trust by Ibbi Citizens Forum.
Findings revealed that crises, allegedly sponsored by some elites and politicians within and outside the state, have crippled both social and economic activities in the area. Hundreds of innocent travellers, including children and women were murdered by a terror group along roads leading to Wukari and from Wukari to Ibbi town.

The militia, alleged to be of Tarok lineage, from neigbouring Langtang South LGA of Plateau State and Jukun from Wukari, have constituted a serious threat to peace and security in the area over the years. 
“The militia group were behind most of the attacks in Dampar and Arkin Kudu and even in Ibbi town,” a resident of Tapga village, Mallam Yakubu Garba said, adding that the Tarok militia, who were heavily armed, attacked his village twice and killed about 12 persons and burnt several houses. “They sacked our chief, Malam Ayuba Mairiga and installed a Tarok man, Mr Tapa Bimbut from Langtang South LGA of Plateau State,” he lamented.
Malam Bello Dauda, a resident of Mala village who fled, said his community suffered several attacks from the Tarok people. During the attacks, about 14 people were killed, while several houses were burnt. As a result, residents had to relocate to safer areas.
From the village of Tapga, Malam Ayuba Mairiga told Daily Trust that he is now a refugee in Dampar town because the Tarok have taken away his land, allocated to their people and forced his people out of the area. He alleged that the militia were lords unto themselves and moved with arms freely in the area, giving orders. The villages allegedly sacked include Tapga, Anguwan Kwalla, Kurmin Sauri, Bada Koshi, Ruwan Dutse and Zantun. Others are Maje Biyu, Mala, Kogin Wase, Dan Wase, Koso, Gidan Yamare and Gidan Kye.
Daily Trust findings also revealed that the Tarok leaders installed in the sacked communities were Mr Tapa Bimbut from Langtang South for Tapga, Mr.Namdul from Langtang South forAnguwan Kwalla, Mr Shehu Sarkin Tasha a Tarok from Wase as village head of Kurmin Sauri, Mr. Dandam Kwangila a Tarok from Wase as village head of Ruwan Dutse and Mr.Nanven a Tarok from Langtang South for  Maje Biyu.
Others are Mr. Danjuma Sarki from Langtang South as village head of Mala, Mr Danladi from Langtang South for Kogin Wase, Mr. Ayuba, a Tarok from Langtang South for Koso and Mr. Bimbo, a Tarok from Wase for Kati.
It was also gathered that the area located across River Benue and at the border between Taraba and Plateau states is about 200km and about three hours on engine boat is no longer safe because the militant group attacks at will.
A victim, Alhaji Awwal Sani, from Kogin Wase said that the area under Tarok control has fertile land for farming rice and other crops, as well as solid minerals. He said religion and ethnicity was introduced into the conflict as cover, with the real issue at stake being resource control.
Alhaji Awwal further stated that the Tarok who are mainly farmers, hired the Jukun Wannu who are fishermen, and sacked the community, all in an attempt to have total control of resources in the area.
The chairman and secretary of Ibbi Citizens Forum, Malam Adamu Inusa and  Garba Ibbi,  told  Daily Trust in Jalingo that crises in the area, which  started in  November 18, 2011 has claimed the lives of about 216 persons, while over 519 houses were burnt. He accused the elite, and politicians for sponsoring the crises. 
The chairman, Ibbi Local Government Council, Mr. Jonathan Adasho, could not be reached for comment as he did not answer his phone. Efforts to contact the Public Relations Officer, Taraba Police Command, DSP Joseph Kwaji for comment, failed.  
Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku confirmed that he was aware of the sacking of the 13 communities in Ibbi LGA by persons from Plateau State. He said in Jalingo that he had informed his Plateau State counterpart about the matter and that “we arranged for a meeting with him, as well as governors of Benue and Nasarawa states, in order to resolve the matter”.
Ishaku also expressed dismay over the insecurity in the state and said he would do his best to ensure security. 
Reacting, Plateau State government said reports that certain Tarok people from Langtang South had sacked communities in Taraba State and installed their tribesmen as village heads came as embarrassing to the government. It said it has no official security report that such a thing had happened, but there have been past reports of attacks and counter-attacks between Tarok communities in Langtang South, North and Wase LGAs of Plateau State and communities in Ibbi LGAs of Taraba State who share a boundary. 
Yakubu Ponsak, a Tarok youth leader in Plateau State said reports of Tarok people sacking certain communities were being peddled to give the Tarok a bad name and portray them as expansionists. He also said the logical explanation to the reason why a Tarok man could hold a position in any community within Taraba State may be that there are Tarok people who have lived in certain communities such as Zantun, for ages.
Also, Hon. Nicholas Vongsing, the Management Committee Chairman of Langtang South, said the allegation that Tarok people had sacked communities in Taraba State came to his knowledge in February. “I took a trip to Barracks, which is the last boundary community between Plateau and Taraba State. But what I noticed was that our people who had fled the community as a result of violent crisis around 2013 and 2014 were returning and some of them were rebuilding their homes. There was also an allegation that the beacon demarcating the boundary had been removed, but I saw that it was still there, though attempts have been made to uproot it, because I noticeda hole had been dug around it,” he said. 
The claims that there are some Tarok people living in certain communities of Taraba State was confirmed by Hon. Vongsing, who said “Half of the population in Kogin Wase are Tarok people, if you go to Zantun you find a large number of Tarok people. The crisis displaced some people in that area, so it is possible they are returning to those places, but to say that a Tarok man from Langtang South has now moved to sack communities in Taraba and even installed village heads, then I cannot say that we know anything about that, because we know the boundary and Federal government has demarcated it.” 
The chairman said: “Danbar District Peace Committee under Ibbi LGA had written to the government and copied me on some of the allegations, I called for a meeting with the acting district head in Langtang South and the DPO and SSS, we sat down and asked the acting district head if he had installed any leader outside our territory and he said no. The procedure is that after any selection, the district head is to write to the chairman notifying that he wants to install someone and I know that I have not seen any letter to that effect.” 
But there is hope for dialogue. Vongsing said he has arranged with the Chairman of Ibbi LGA to visit some of those communities in order to see what is going on. “When we get to the place and discover what is happening, we can start the roundtable dialogue. The last time I went to Barracks to verify the claim, I could not go beyond our territory because that would amount to encroaching into Taraba State. But now we have agreed to go there before the weekend to see things for ourselves,” he said.

- Daily Trust