By SAM EYOBOKA
A STATEMENT credited to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) dismissing claims that the ongoing crisis in Taraba State was religiously motivated, has attracted reaction from a Northern-based Christian organisation, saying that Christians in the state are indeed being targeted.
Northern States Christian Elders Forum (NOSCEF), in a statement jointly signed by Sunday Oibe and Emmanuel Subilim, voiced its astonishment at the denials coming from the NGF following recent reports of conflict between Islamic militants and other predominantly Christian ethnic groups.
According to the forum. “For the NGF to suggest that the conflict in Taraba State is not religiously motivated is in complete contradiction to what members of NOSCEF have been telling us for several months.
“Approximately six months ago, NOSCEF members began to raise concerns following a sudden and unprecedented influx of people from outside of the state who gave the appearance of cattle herders. Unlike the cattle herders they are accustomed too, this new group travelled without family, arrived outside of the normal seasonal movements and were armed with sophisticated weaponry.
“Our members complained that shortly after their arrival, Christians in the state began to report an increase in conflict with this new group, which included armed robbery and confrontations.
“Since January this year, there have been many reports of violence in Taraba State against the predominantly Christian Tiv population at the hands of Islamic extremists. Hundreds of members of the Tiv community have been murdered and thousands forced from their homes. They destroyed their villages, their farms and their churches.
“Although many in the media have reported these fracas between ‘farmers and herdsmen’, our members tell us that the basis for these attacks is purely religious. After attacking the Tiv community, the Islamic extremists attacked the predominantly Christian Jukun ethnic group.
“The NGF should ask themselves why the attacks around Wakuri, which consumed so many lives, including many NOSCEF members, came just weeks after a ceasefire was agreed upon between the communities? Our members have given us the answer.
“NOSCEF would therefore urge the NGF to follow our call for the Federal and State Governments to provide the necessary resources so that our security services bring a swift end to the violence. We must keep our nation united and protect the rights of every Nigerian B regardless of ethnicity, religion or region. We must not hide from the root cause of the violence, but admit the truth so we can understand the violence and bring it to an end.”