Incessant ethnic clashes in Taraba State are becoming the norm rather than the rule. Recent happenings in the state have shown that if nothing is done and fast, the state will become a centre of death and destruction in the country.
A recent investigation by this paper revealed that in the last one month, at least 149 persons were confirmed to have died from clashes between ethnic militias. Thousands of persons were forced to move from their houses and sought refuge with neighbours. Similarly, the various clashes led to destructions of property and economy of many in the communities. The crises in the state have been lingering for many years. It is principally between Jukuns and Tivs.
The Jukuns always allege that the Tivs, who moved in from the neighbouring Benue, are taking over their land. However, recent happenings have seen an extension of hostilities among other ethnic groups, who hitherto were living peacefully. On May 5, many people were reported dead in a clash between Tiv and Ichen militias in Donga local government area. Two big towns Anano and Suntai Daji were sacked with all the houses burnt down. Earlier, on April 14, police confirmed that 15 persons were killed during a clash between Shomo and Jole ethnic militias.
Similar clashes were reported in other areas of the state. However, what is more frightening is the fact that the antagonists are always armed with sophisticated weapons, which means that all sides have strong backings from individuals and groups to carry out the dastardly acts. It is sad that a state that has all the potentials to be a reference point of peaceful coexistence between numerous ethnic groups is being allowed to descend into this. Over the years, the different ethnic groups have been living in peace with many inter marriages among the people. It is no hidden fact that many prominent citizens of the state have married from outside their ethnic groups. Furthermore, the state holds numerous strategic infrastructures, which may suffer if we allow the crises to continue. It is home to Mambila power project, which has the potential for more than 3,000 megawatts while the Kashimbila power project is awaiting inauguration to add to the nation’s electricity requirements. The Ibbi bridge is also another project that, when completed, will open up more economic activities with about four neighbouring states.
The state has agricultural potential, which if harnessed can meet our quest for not only food sufficiency but also exports and supply of raw materials. It is, therefore imperative for all those in authority to work towards reining in the spiral of violence in the state. We feel both the state and federal governments should work to see to the immediate end of this unnecessary waste of lives and property.
Non-governmental organisations can also lend a hand in this direction.
Government must investigate, fish out and punish all those who are found to be aiding and abetting the crises by supplying arms and ammunition or mobilising youths into militias. More importantly, there should be a massive enlightenment of the people to understand and cherish the principle of peaceful coexistence. It should be made clear to all that violence only begets violence and, in the end, everyone is a loser.