By John Shiaondo, Makurdi
Fear still lingers in the air following reprisal attacks on residents of Fiidi settlement, a suburb in Makurdi the Benue state capital which resulted to the burning of over twenty houses including that of a traditional ruler.
The reprisal, a fallout of the crises which erupted in the area early hours of May 23, leading to the death of a 17 year- old boy and destruction of over 120 houses has generated concern as both government and residents keeping wondering about what has gone wrong with the once peaceful community.
Fiidi settlement, a suburb in Makurdi is located about eight kilometres along Makurdi-Gboko road, and is situated directly opposite the Nigeria Air force base Makurdi.
Settlers of the area which comprises primarily the Tiv and Jukun have lived together in harmony for several years until the recent crises which seems to be now putting a dent in the relationship between the two tribes.
In the past, incidents involving the two communities were identified to be over land dispute, however, the reason surrounding the Fiidi crisis, has remained unclear. There had been several tales as to the reason for the current dispute. Daily Asset has learnt that the incident was triggered by disagreements between youths of both tribes at a drinking bar at the Fiidi market. But others said it was as a result of disagreement in a market place, where a Tiv trader was beaten to pulp by Jukun youths.
Others believe the crisis was started by some criminal elements in the area to cause confusion and use the opportunity to gain entrance in the area to loot residents.
But a resident who did not want his name mentioned said, there have been disputes over a piece of land between some residents from both communities which he believes could be responsible for the outrage.
Whatever the reason might be, there was loss of life and destruction of property by the assailants who also succeeded in setting members of the community against each other.
One of the residents, who simply identified himself as Thomas said the attack was sparked by a quarrel between a Jukun and Tiv man in a drinking joint at the popular Fiidi Market.
“It is difficult to clearly say what sparked off the crisis, but I heard that Tiv and Jukun men had a quarrel at the Fiidi market in a drinking joint and the misunderstanding led to a serious fight.
“I also learnt that when they were separated, the Jukun boy went home and mobilised his brothers to come for a revenge mission but was resisted by friends of the Tiv boy, that was why they went back and reinforced to start burning houses of the Tiv people in the area,” he said.
Another resident of the area Ali Gado said the Jukuns in the area have lived with their Tiv brothers for a long time without problems, he blamed the crisis on some hoodlums who he said are bent on causing disaffection between the two tribes.
“There have been some disputes involving members of the two tribes but they are always resolved without any problems, I wonder why this one has degenerated to this level,” he lamented.
It could be noted that governor Samuel Ortom in the wake of the crises visited the area with members of the State Executive and Security Councils to carry out on the spot assessment of damage caused.
Addressing people in the area, governor Ortom condemned the crisis and lamented the devastation caused by the attackers, describing it as unwarranted.
Governor Ortom who also described the attack as an act of stupidity, wondered why an argument in a drinking bar could degenerate to a bloody clash resulting in the taking of lives and destruction of that magnitude.
“This is an act of stupidity, I wonder how a misunderstanding between two persons in drinking joint could degenerate to this level of destruction,” he lamented.
The governor directed the police to beef up security in the area and also fish out the masterminds of the crisis.
With the visit of the governor and stationing of security in the area, it was thought security would return to the area.
But three weeks after, the Jukun mobilized and launched another attack, razing over twenty houses and looting properties. Many people were displaced from their homes as a result of the crisis.
When DAILY ASSET visited the area, elderly people, children and women were seen carrying their luggages heading towards the main Makurdi town, while others took refuge around the Air force base gate where soldiers mounted a roadblock.
Narrating his ordeal, a traditional ruler, the Kindred Head of Kyurav, Ugondo, Chief Uor Adi, whose house was destroyed by the raging attackers, said he was in his house in the middle of the night when he heard sporadic gunshot.
He said when he rushed outside, he heard a deafening explosion around the house and it was engulfed by fire.
“When I saw my house in flames, I gathered my family members in the compound to escape through the fence and I discovered my place was already surrounded with youths some of whom I identified as my subjects from Jukun.
“I escaped and ran to the premises of Tactical Air Command Headquarters where the soldiers who were manning the area drove me and other members of my family to a safe place.”
According to Chief Uor Adi, when the crisis started, the Governor, Samuel Ortom, set a reconciliatory committee with ten members each from both Tiv and Jukun side to ascertain causes of the crises and look for ways to resolve same.
He wondered why the attackers had returned despite efforts by government and committee to end the matter.
Another resident, who gave his name as Aondoakura, said the attackers came with a mission to also loot.
“The attackers came through the main road with J5 Peugeot car, some came through boats and stationed by the river side. “They shot sporadically in the air to scare people before they started burning houses. They also looted and loaded their loots in the J5 and drove away,” he said.
In his comment, the Ter Makurdi, Chief Sule Abenga condemned the attack and cautioned youths from both sides against issues that will bring about crisis.
He warned that any subject involved in act that will bring about disaffection or further worsen the crisis between the two communities will be severely dealt with.
Reacting to the incident, Governor Samuel Ortom, expressed worry over the continued attack despite effort to reconcile the two waring factions.
He said, “I have invited the security agencies to unearth what is really happening in that place. “We held a security meeting with stakeholders in the area few days ago and no one could come out with the reason why these attacks are going on and today to hear that they came and destroyed the chief’s house, we are taken aback.
“But we are going into it, we have met with the security agencies this morning and I want them to unearth the real cause of the crisis. “They have already arrested one person with an AK 47 and has charged him to court.
“I want to know the cause of the crisis, whether it is over land dispute or whatever, but uptil now nobody has come out to tell me that this is the root cause of the problem.
“But with this second attack, we will go deeper and know where these people are coming, because the Abinsi people have been accused I confronted the chief, he claimed ignorant but I told him to go deeper.
“I am sending out the security agencies to find the real cause, when they get into the root cause we will know what to do next.”
The crisis has created a social problem as several families, including women and children have been displaced with others taking shelter under tree shields.
Linus Faga, a father of eight whose house was destroyed in the crisis lamented the hardship he is facing with his family members.
He said all his belongings including foodstuff have been destroyed. “Everything I laboured for have been destroyed, I have no food to even feed my children, we have been turned into beggars. I am pleading with government to come to our aid, I have no money, my children cannot even continue with their school,” he noted.