When hunting festival turns bloody
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
…As Idoma farmers and Fulani herdsmen conflict claims three lives
Nobody envisaged that a usually peaceful annual hunting festival of Otukpo clans would degenerate into a bloody conflict between Idoma farmers and Fulani herdsmen in Otukpo, an area of Benue state that hardly records such unfortunate incidents in the history of the state.
Before the outbreak of the bloody conflict, there had been an outcry by farmers along that axis of the state, of uncontrolled pollution of water sources and destruction of farmlands of host Idoma communities by herdsmen and their cattle who grazed repeatedly in the communities.
Despite the outcry, the unwholesome development continued unabated which perhaps culminated in a conflict that left three persons dead and many properties and farmlands destroyed.
To say the least, last weekends conflict would have gotten out of hand but for the quick intervention of the Otukpo local government council chairman, Dr. Innocent Onuh and the Benue State Police Command who were alive to their responsibilities and wasted no time in nipping the crisis in the bud.
Athough peace has finally returned to the affected villages, especially Amla in Otukpo Icho, security personnel have been drafted to the area to stem further break down of law and order while a manhunt for the masterminds of the devastation has commenced.
Conducting newsmen around the crisis zone and the displaced persons camp in Otukpo, the council Chairman, Dr. Innocent Onuh in company of top security personel disclosed that no fewer than 550 persons were displaced in the bloody conflict. Onuh said, “The total number of persons displaced by the crisis is a little over 550, and of this number, children are over 150 while women are about 50”.
The chairman who used the opportunity to donate relief materials to the affected persons said, “We have also provided them a makeshift camp here in Otukpo, and we have been able to avail them these relief materials to help them resettle themselves pending further assistance.”
Onuh who lamented the shed of blood and destruction of property and farmland in the belligerent villages assured that he would personally do everything possibly to ensure that the crisis did not degenerate and that there would be permanent peace among the feuding parties who hitherto had lived as brothers and sisters.
“Meanwhile, we have ensured that security is beefed up in the entire community consequent upon the decisions we reached at the councils security meeting we held on Monday.
“Aside that, we have also directed security personnel to embark on a manhunt of all those behind the crisis in order to ensure that they are made to face justice”, he said.
While appealing to public spirited individuals, Non Governmental Agencies and donor agencies, Benue State and the Federal Government to come to the assistance of the council, Onuh however appealed for calm between the Fulanis and the host communities assuring that government was on top of the situation.
In a peace meeting at the palace of the Sarki Hausawa in Otukpo, Alhaji Bala Dahiru, which had in attendance the paramount ruler of Otukpo (Ochi Otukpo) Chief John Enyimonye, the Ardoo (Chief) of Fulanis in Otukpo, Alhaji Isah Sule and other Fulani leaders in the state, Onuh lamented that the conflict was a strange phenomenon in that part of the state which should not be allowed to persist in the interest of the teeming populace.
In his speech, the Sarki Hausawa sued for peace, stressing that Hausas and Idomas were known for their peaceful coexistence in the history of the country; pleading that the spirit should be sustained despite the unfortunate crisis.
Responding, the Ardoo (Chief) of Fulanis in Otukpo, Alhaji Isah Sule who lost a 15 year old son in the crisis said he had taken the development in good fate and thanked the Council Chairman and the police for quickly stepping into the matter to avert further loss of lives and property.
In his remarks, the paramount ruler of Otukpo, (Ochi Otukpo), Chief John Enyimonye said, “this type of unfortunate crisis is strange in this part of our state; but I plead that we all take what has happened in good faith and ensure that peace reigns amongst us”.
While the Area Commander of the Otupko Police Command, Assistant Commission of Police Sam Dra-Koji who spoke on behalf of the Benue State Commissioner of Police disclosed that the Police had commenced a manhunt for the masterminds of the crisis,the Commissioner of Police assured, “We have started a thorough investigation of the crisis and from information gathered, we are already on the trail of all those behind the killings and we are positive that all the masterminds of the crisis will be apprehended; we plead for calm”, he said.