Benue ethnic leader chides Jukun group over alleged marginalisation
Benue State ethnic leader under the umbrella of Mdzough u Tiv (MUT) Worldwide yesterday chided the National Association of Jukun-Wanu (NAJUWA) over allegations of Tiv people’s encroachment on Jukun land, marginalisation and denial of rights to employment in the state civil service and interference in Jukun traditional affairs.
Mzough-u-Tiv President-General, Chief Edwards Ujege, accompanied by Secretary-General of the association, Mr. Boniface Ukende, told a news conference in Makurdi that the allegation was untrue even as it was aimed at heating up the polity.
Ujege, who described the allegation as shocking, also accused the Jukun group of giving a false history of their settlements in Abetse, a suburb of Makurdi metropolis and the Benue Valley.
He said Benue and Taraba states were not at war, noting that the comments came at a time the two states and the Federal Government were making frantic efforts to end years of intractable crisis between the two groups.
He said: “This is coming on the heels of some committed efforts by federal and state governments of Benue and Taraba to resolve the lingering conflict between Tiv and in Benue and Jukun in Taraba states, respectively.”
The association’s president-general noted, however, that since the conclusion of the peace meeting held in Abuja, Taraba State governor had convened another peace meeting in Jalingo, the state capital, but that Jukun militants had continued their attacks on Tiv settlements and the targeted killing of the Tivs in the state.
Ujege denied encroachment of Jukun land by Tiv people as alleged by the their Jukun counterpart, adding that the Jukun-Wanu’s claim that they founded Abetse, now called Abinsi, settlement was false.
“It is on record that at the advent of the Europeans, ‘Tiv country’ extended from a hundred miles above Lokoja to Ibi, covering twenty thousand square miles on both banks of the River Benue. Abetse as it was then called was a Tiv settlement. The name was corrupted in colonial records to Abinsi. It must also be understood that before the Europeans established direct commercial relations with Tiv people, trade along the River Benue was dominated by Igbirra middlemen, who traded in dry fish, ivory, Tiv textiles and slaves at Abetse.”
Ujege regretted that the humanitarian gesture of the Tiv in protecting the Jukun as seasonal fishermen on the banks of the Benue River was now misconstrued as a show of weakness and a basis to falsify the settlement history of the Benue Valley.
The MUT viewed allegation by Jukun-Wanu of marginalisation as ill-motivated and tacitly designed to undermine peace and tranquillity in Benue State by importing the crises currently going on between the Tiv and Jukun of Taraba into Benue.
He further maintained that the allegation “is intended to mischievously portray to the world that the Tiv are a troublesome people who are always bent on creating unrest in different parts of Nigeria.”
The MUT, Ujege said was committed to the peaceful resolution of the grievances of all groups living in Benue State, stressing that the state cannot develop without peace and the total commitment of its people and the different groups in the state.