BY ABEL DANIEL & JOSEPH ERUNKE
LAFIA — Two federal law makers from Nasarawa State, Senator Solomon Ewuga and Hon. Joseph Kigbu have been indicted by the Justice Joseph Gbadeyan- led Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the activities of Ombatse Militia group in Alakyo, area of Nasarawa State, which reportedly killed 534 people in the area last year.
Among those killed were about 148 security officers, including mainly policemen and officials of the Department of State Services, DSS.
They were killed in an ambush allegedly mounted by the Ombatse group while on their way to quell the crisis in Alakyo.
According to a government White Paper in Lafia, the state capital yesterday, others indicted along with the two legislators for allegedly financing and promoting Ombatse include Hon. Nathaniel Agyo Mesa, the Village Head of Agyaragu, Alhaji Sale Angulu; and an Eggon Thlocal musician (chara), Mr Yohana Laraban.
The panel further blamed the Federal Government for its alleged indifference to the killing even when its agents were the victims.
It said that the Federal Government did not help in the containment of the violence, pointing out that its action had given ‘’room for tendentious interpretations (that were) largely political in nature.
The panel then recommended further investigation and prosecution of Ewuga and other indicted Eggon leaders over the killings.
But in their swift reactions to the development, the National President of the Eggon Cultural Association Mr. Chris Mamman, described
‘’the report as a calculated political attempt to tarnish the image of both political leaders and the Eggon people in the eyes of the world,’’ adding even as it ‘’was the confirmation to what I told the commission when I was called upon to state my position at the commission.”
“The governor and his clicks have set out to perpetuate mischief against the Eggon nation. The state government hired the commission to rob a chicken tongue on the political and traditional leadership, the cultural association, the youth movement and virtually the entire Eggon nation,” he said.
In his own reaction, Senator Ewuga also described the report of the Commission of Enquiry as premeditated.
Ewuga, who said he was yet to get a copy of the report, alleged that the Nasarawa State government, headed by Governor Umaru Al-makura, was on a mission to tarnish his reputation, vowing that he would challenge the white-paper that linked him with wrongdoings through constitutional means, adding that already, he had asked his lawyers to get a copy of the report to enable him to go through before taking the next line of action.
The White Paper noted with deep regret the unfortunate roles played by the Eggon Traditional Council and its elders through their alleged tacit support for the activities of the Ombatse group and recommended the formal admonition and reprimand of the council and its elders in the interim over their failure to call the Ombatse and other affiliated Eggon groups to order
The government then directed the Ministry of Local Government Affairs and the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, to take appropriate action as recommended by the commission.
Meanwhile, addressing newsmen in Abuja, yesterday on the matter, Senator Ewuga, who represents Nasarawa North Senatorial District, said he would make a categorical statement when he sees the report.
He accused the state government of allegedly embarking on a mission to tarnish his reputation due to his political influence in Nasarawa,
His words, “I have not seen the white paper on the panel’s recommendation. But whatever my response is today is based on what I saw in the media, first on AIT yesterday and on the pages of newspapers today (yesterday).
“The report was handed in on Friday, but by Sunday I was not in doubt as to the content of what would be. For the fact that a whitepaper is already out indicates a pre-disposition because it is an ingenious thing to have read those volumes and deciphered the appropriateness of punishment or otherwise within two days. That was the first thing that came to my mind.”
Ewuga further accused the panel of inquiry of not cross-examining him when he was invited to appear, saying that by doing that, the panel failed to give him fair hearing.
“I was invited as a witness to the panel and not as an accused person and I was not availed of any cross-examination of purported accusations against me which by virtue of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, breaches my fundamental rights to fair hearing and to the understanding of the issues.
“My invitation as a witness was supposed to establish the credibility or otherwise of what I know within purview of the events related to whatever circumstance the Ombatse is involved in.
“I am Eggon and by extension the whitepaper indicates that ‘Eggon Elites’ were abetting or aiding. So it is presumed that every member who is Eggon had a disposition towards Ombatse, ”he added.
Ewuga, who also alleged that some prominent indigenes of Eggon tribe, were singled out by the state government to be disgraced, describing the action as criminal.
“Not only did it stop there, it even indicts our traditional council. Yet the report at one point, said it is not every Eggon person that is in Ombatse. So, there is a wholesale criminalization…
“And I think this is where I fall in. I am very visible, I have a political role in Nasarawa State and I am sure this no doubt accounts for what has happened.
“The second thing about it is that it talks about false statement; that is perjury. That again, is a subject of another kind of discussion within the facts before me; that I perjured before the panel. The issue of me financing the Ombatse is very curious. Gracefully, it is not a law court because I am supposed to be prosecuted so it is good to establish the import of whatever the criminality is going to be.
“The last one was the issue of suspicion. Our laws have a different orientation from what I am hearing of being suspected. I don’t know whether our laws allow suspicion to be a ground upon which you classify anybody in this country. I think these are the issues that I understand from the limited knowledge that I have now,” Ewuga further added, even as he threatened to expose the alleged unknown evils going on in the state.
“I would want to make a very formal statement once I get the white paper. I would give you the history of certain events that took place.
And it is for the history to be told the way things have emerged.
“But it is pertinent to note that I stood for Senate in 2011 under difficult circumstances. I was in court for one year and one month before
I got to the Senate. This problem had started by the time I became Senator and I campaigned across the state and not only in my zone for the present government to come into being.
“I have told you the criminalization of every visible Eggon person by this government and I am very visible. So, some of the conclusions can be drawn from the reading of those things.
“Like I told you, I am going to give you the full history when I have the prepared statement,” he said.