Last Monday, the traditional chief of Bokkos in Plateau state was murdered while coming from his farm. His people say the Fulani in their midst were responsible even as more violence followed. ISAAC SHOBAYO reports the unease in the community as the search for the continues.
THE prevailing peace in Plateau State, seen as one of the major achievements of Governor Simon Lalong’s administration, was shattered last Monday following the gruesome murder of a first class traditional ruler in the state, Saf Ron Kulere of Bokkos, His Royal Highness Lazarus Agai, while returning from his farm in Sha area of the local council.
The assassination of the traditional ruler, who ascended the throne in 1972, along with his orderly, Inspector Sunday Wuyah, his wife and son, Shagari, was like a bolt from the blue, considering the efforts of the government to tame the monster of violence that had dented the image of the state.
A source close to the murdered traditional ruler said he was returning from his farm at about 4:00 p.m when gunmen numbering about 10 opened fire on his convoy, killing him instantly while others who were with him escaped into a nearby bush where they were pursued and hacked to death before anyone could come to their rescue.
The source said, on that fateful day, the 78-year-old monarch who was the chairman of Bokkos Traditional Council before his death was in high spirit, during which he attended to some community-based issues before setting out for the inspection of his farm in the neighbouring community.
On hearing of the tragedy, the people of Bokkos and the entire traditional council of the state were devastated by the way and manner he was killed, considering his stance as an apostle of peace. From all indications, his death had shattered the prevailing peace in Bokkos, causing tension across the state.
Since Monday, youths in Bokkos have embarked on ceaseless demonstrations, despite detachment of security operatives deplored in the area. In the process, some houses were set on fire and a number of vehicles smashed, while major roads leading to the local government area were blocked for days.
The tragedy got worse on Thursday when security operatives shot at the protesting youths who were trying to prevent men of the Special Task Force from aiding the escape of a local Fulani chief ‘Ardo’ from the council area. In the process, four of them were gunned down, while three others sustained injuries.
To prevent the situation from degenerating further, the state government, in conjunction with the Special Task Force declared a dusk to dawn curfew.
Since the tragic incident, the natives (Bokkos) and the Fulani have been trading blames. The natives claimed the herdsmen carried out the dastardly act. But the Fulanis had vehemently disagreed, dissociating themselves from the crime.
The natives, pointing fingers at the Fulani, argued that in the recent past no fewer than three local chiefs in the community had been killed by herdsmen in horrific manner without anyone being brought to justice or any attempts made to investigate the incidents.
From all indications Bokkos Local Government Area has the largest concentration of Fulani herdsmen in Plateau State. Sunday Tribune learnt that Bokkos has become an haven for the Fulani or herdsmen experiencing challenges of either grazing or settlement from other parts of the state.
Reacting to the claim that herdsmen were responsible for the murder of the traditional ruler, Plateau State Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Mallam Nuhu Mohammed, exonerated the herdsmen, saying the notion that the murder was carried out by them had attracted reprisals on some Fulani herdsmen within the local government area.
“But we have to warn that this idea of attributing every incident to Fulani herdsmen is not healthy for good governance and peaceful co existence among diverse ethnic groups in the state,” he said.
Mallam Mohammed implored the government to investigate the cause of the death and the people behind the heinous crime and as well appealed to the media to jettison the idea of always connecting every killing in any part of the country to Fulani herdsmen without proper investigation.
The media officer, Special Task Force in charge of security in the state, Captain Ikedichi Iweha, said it is wrong for any group to label another as being responsible for murder, saying until investigation is completed, it would be wrong to point fingers in any direction.
The STF spokesman who said the people have been living peacefully with one another for a very long time further averred that the incident has caused mutual mistrust and reprisal in some parts of the local government and neighbouring council areas.
Apparently reacting to the development, Director General, Plateau State Peace Building Agency, Mr. Joe Lengmang, cautioned that people need to be careful, saying no group has yet been linked with the murder, adding that people need to be careful and desist from baseless conclusions.
According to him, “no one can emphatically establish any link with the Fulani or the natives.” He implored people to wait for the outcome of the ongoing investigation before drawing conclusions.
However, it is recalled that festering crises in the past had claimed lives of some prominent indigenes of the state. A senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Plateau North, Gyang Dantong and a member of Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Gyang Fulani, were killed some years back while on a peace mission in Barakin Ladi Local Government Area of the state.
Unfortunately, till date, no one had been fingered as being responsible for the murder of these individuals. Those who have been monitoring the trend of events in the state posited that the inability to nab those responsible for such acts and make them face prosecution is responsible for reccurrence.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. Joseph Habila has assured that the killers of the Plateau monarch would be apprehended.