New Year tragedy: How gunmen brought tears to Kogi community

Tawari, a community in Kogi Local Government Area, in Kogi State was attacked few days into the New Year. Nigerian Tribune gathered that the attack was allegedly carried out by some herdsmen who stormed the village with dangerous weapons. However after their exit from the community, they returned, killing residents, stealing and razing down several buildings before escaping.

During the attack, an old clinic established by missionaries during the colonial era and the official vehicle of the community’s traditional ruler of the area, the Aguma of Tawari, Alhaji Idris Tawari among other numerous properties, were destroyed.

It was also confirmed that the chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Tawari ward, Ibrahim Simbabi, and the Chief Imam of the community, Mallam Zakari Salihu were gruesomely murdered during the attack.

Among those who lost their lives were 20 Bassa Kwomu and three Gbagyi men, while several others including some policemen were reported to have sustained serious injuries and are presently receiving treatment at the Koton Karfe General Hospital.

It was reliably gathered that trouble started some weeks back following reported killings of four suspected herdsmen, alleged to be kidnappers along Lokoja-Abuja federal highway by security agencies.

According to sources, the herdsmen, last year, had one of them killed and his body mutilated by suspected ritualists, but this the herdsmen while pointing fingers at the Tawari community, threatened a reprisal.

But following persistent persuasion by the community head, Yahaya Tawari against a reprisal, the herdsmen lived in the community with their host in peace until few days ago when they started moving out.

The administrator of Kogi Local Government, Muhammed Osuku, who visited the community to assess the situation, described the killings as “wicked and heartless.”

Osuku said that unidentified gunmen suspected to be herdsmen attacked a Bassa Kwomu community in Tawari and killed over 20 young men aged between 20 and 40 years and above.

He promised the residents that the council would work with relevant security agencies and volunteers to ensure that the perpetrators were arrested and prosecuted.

He directed the immediate evacuation of the survivors to the hospital for proper medical care, pledging that the council would settle the medical bill. He advised residents to report their problems to the appropriate authority rather than taking laws into their hands.

Also, the Kogi State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Ede Ayuba, appealed to the families of the victims not to carry out  reprisals, assuring them that efforts were on to apprehend the killers.

Earlier, the Aguma of Tawari, Alhaji Idris Yusuf Tawari told both the administrator and police chief that the attack was allegedly perpetrated by some herdsmen.

Also a call has gone to the Federal Government to establish permanent security posts in and around the local government area and especially around Tawari locality. This was made by Shaba Ibrahim, member representing Kogi Lokoja Federal Constituency at the National Assembly.

He equally sympathised with the Christian community for the destruction done to their church in Tawari, describing the act as most unfortunate, inhuman and senseless.

The lawmaker commended the Kogi State government and security agencies in their unrelenting efforts aimed at providing security towards curtailing the escalation of the crisis. He urged for calm and unity amongst the people assuring that efforts were on to bring lasting peace in the area.

Speaking with newsmen in Lokoja, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Communication Strategy, Kingsley Fanwo said the Tawari attack further exposed the fact that some powerful individuals in the country were striving to play politics with blood by discrediting the much credited security architecture in Kogi State.

The deputy governor of the state, Edward Onoja was not left out as he visited the community. Addressing residents, Onoja described the development as unfortunate, assuring them of the commitment of the government to ensure tight security in the area.

According to him, “On behalf of the government of Kogi State, led by our governor, Chief Alhaji Yahaya Bello, we are here to see things for ourselves. It is unfortunate. It is a demonic act, but government will take steps to assist you and other affected communities. It is a pity. We have gone round all the affected communities and we have seen the level of damage.

“We shall provide security to see how to ensure that this is controlled and that it does not happen again. I am here to commiserate with the victims of the attack. We have seen the extent of the damage. We have seen that the communities have been hit so badly. People have lost lives and property worth millions of naira. We shall try to give palliatives to the victims in order to bring back the community to life.”

He therefore promised the affected communities of a reconstruction and rehabilitation package, as the settlements would be re-planned and reconstructed, including worship centers.

Onoja,  who called on the federal and state emergency management agencies to wade in, also pleaded with organisations and individuals to render assistance to the victims of the attack.

Musa commended the government of Kogi State for its timely intervention, reiterating the people’s confidence in the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello.

“Your Excellency, you have shown us love. We are hopeful that this visit of yours will bring about positive results. We trust you and we will continue to support you. Please, extend our appreciation of the governor’s kind gesture,” he said.

At the Ohimege’s palace, where the deputy governor and his entourage paid condolence visit, the paramount ruler of the area, the Ohimege Igu, Alhaji Abdulrazak Isa Koto, told the deputy governor that the  attack on Tawari was purely farmers/herders’ misunderstanding devoid of ethnic, religious or sectional consideration.

The Ohimege who is also the chairman of the Kogi local government traditional council, said the entire ethnic groups, religious organisations, professionals and visitors have been living peacefully and harmoniously with one another.

The deputy governor commended the Ohimege Igu and other traditional rulers for their leadership qualities. He said the Kogi local government peace model was worthy of emulation by other traditional councils in the state.

In the deputy governor’s entourage were the State Security Adviser, Commander Jerry Omodara (rtd) and Assembly members representing Bassa, Olamaboro state constituencies in the state House of Assembly.

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