Fighting between rival militias, apparently rooted in the struggle for power ahead of the forthcoming national elections in 2015, has led to the death of scores of people. President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the deployment of soldiers to reinforce the police presence in tackling the violence.
Yesterday, the senate considered asking the Federal Government to impose a state of emergency in the troubled areas.
In the earlier ambush of security personnel, the Ombatse group killed 46 policemen and 10 officers of the State Security Service (SSS) who were part of a team sent on a mission to arrest the leader of the cult that held sway in Alakyo community of Nasarawa State.
In the latest round of violence, which erupted last Thursday week, more than 30 persons were killed in the mayhem, and affected Adahu Alago community in Obi Local Government Area of the state.
The Director, Army Public Relations Department, Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru Abuja the troops deployed to the areas would join the police to stem the tide of violence in the state. Nasarawa state in the past few days has been gripped in violence following clashes between Ombatse and Alago militia group. As a result of this, several thousands of people have been displaced from their houses, which were burnt down in the violence. Over 7,000 are taking refuge in neighbouring Plateau State.
Trouble started when the animosity between Eggon, from where the Ombatse cult group sprang, and the Alago, broke into violence The Nasarawa State government has already announced the proscription of the Ombatse, which translates in the local dialect to mean ‘the time has come’. Two members of Eggon militia group were arrested after police intercepted five vehicles travelling to neighbouring Awe, following a tip-off from Alago youths in Adabu Alago. The police suspected that they were on their way to attack the Alago.
The political influence in that animosity breaking into violence can be seen in the fact that both communities had cohabitated peacefully for generations. A judicial commission was appointed by the government to hear evidence relating to the incident in May, and had begun public sittings and taken some memoranda.
The recent violence however forced the panel to adjourn further hearings indefinitely. With the benefit of hindsight, and the with experience of similar budding crises in many parts of the country that have turned into major security challenges, the government, at both the Nasarawa State and federal levels, must act decisively to nip this escalating one before it gets out of hand.
Clearly, the Nasarawa situation has political undertones and any inquiry into what has occurred must identify those behind it and their sponsors.
The state is already challenged, physically and materially, in tackling one form of crisis or another, most of it based on ethnic differences. It is either Fulani cattle herdsmen fighting it out with Tiv farmers over grazing land; or the Adara confronting the Tiv over land ownership; or one ethnic community invading farmlands in another.
This Ombatse has however developed into a much bigger security threat to the nation on account of its savagery.
Proscribing the group is only one measure of dealing with it. All its members, and those that are sympathetic to its cause, including members of the police force known to be informers for the group, should be made to provide information regarding the group’s motives and sources of finances, in addition to prosecuting them.
A state of emergency would therefore be an overkill, since this particularly incident involved just two ethnic communities, which would make it easier for the surety services to identify the perpetrators in order for the law to deal with them.