Thriving kidnaping activities on the fringes of Taraba and Benue States are posing ominous signs of another ethnic crisis. “It is a ticking time bomb’ writes Jethro Yerga who monitored the development.

Aondofa Aye, a father of two from Abako village, was such an unlucky fellow. He was brutally killed for a sin that was allegedly committed by his kinsmen, the Tiv people living along Takum-Wukari road. After hacking him to death, the angry attackers threw his lifeless body into the furnace of a burning building that they had set ablaze during their raid on the community. From the Abako village, the attackers proceeded to Sai, few kilometers away, another border village, set some houses ablaze and left in that middle of the night that they came.

Aondofa Aye might have taken the threat of attack on the community by the angry Jukun youths for granted. Few days before the attack, there were hints that the Jukun Youths from Wukari axis threatens to attack the attack the community, if a kidnapped Pastor was not released. The Pastor of CRCN Rafin Kada, left Rafinkada, his station on his way to Takum for a wedding of a relation, but his journey ended in the kidnappers den. The incident took place sometimes in November last year.

This is not the first incident of kidnapping in the area. Records available to Worldview indicate that Wukari-Takum road as well as Katsina Alah – Takum, is now the epicenter of kidnapping activities. Close monitoring of situation in the area by our reporters indicates that, no week passes by without recording a kidnaping incident.

Among the recent victims of kidnapping in the Takum Local Government axis is Alhaji Mayo, a Takum based oil marketer. He was kidnaped in his business premises, along Wukari, Katsina Ala junction road on the 15th of February. Selumun Mngu, a nursing mother, was also kidnaped in her business premises at Amadu village on the 18th February. Emmanuel Ivenge, proprietor of Ivenge Anointed College, Chanchanji, was kidnaped and released on the 18th February, after spending about three weeks in captivity.

Some victims of this criminality in the past include: Hon. Hosea Ibi Representing Takum I State Constituency in the Taraba State House of Assembly. He was kidnaped on December 31st, 2017 and was killed 15 days after, even as a ransom of N34m was paid by the Taraba State Government.

Among the high profile kidnapping incidents in the area include an octogenarian. Gabriel Iwambe retired 10 years ago as Director, Federal Ministry of Education.

Few weeks ago, our reporter sought to have audience with him at his Chanchanji home. But he discovered that the old man deserted the village. A family member who spoke to the reporter on condition of anonymity said, the man was so traumatized by the incident and has relocated to another community to spend the rest of his live. But the family member refused to reveal the community that the man has gone for the voluntary exile.

But who is responsible for this thriving wave of criminality? One of the victims also told our reporter that his adopters were communicating in different languages, ranging from Tiv, Jukun, Fulani and even Ibo. It is already on record that the ransom negotiator of the late Hon. Hosea Ibi, told the Taraba State House of Assembly members, during the valedictory session that, he was negotiating with people that he believed, were of typically Jukun or Hausa background.

But one fact that has always puncture the claims that membership of the kidnapping syndicate cuts across tribal communities in the area, is its concentration to a given area. Until two months ago, almost 90% of the incidents occurred in places dominated by the Tiv people; the testimonies of victims who spoke with our reporters points to this fact. For example, Mathias Rimamndeayyati, Senior Legislative Aide to Hon. Rimamnde Shawulu, was kidnaped between Gbise and Takum, his ransom was paid in Amadu village and he was released in a Tiv speaking community in Katsina Ala LGA, near Chanchanji.

Irimiya Bako, an Wukari resident, who anchored his argument on this scenario said it is either that some bad elements in the Tiv communities are doing it (kidnapping) themselves or are harbouring outsiders to unleash mayhem on the peace loving people of the area. The attack on some Tiv communities allegedly by the Jukun youths, in which Aye was killed, is stemmed from the perception expressed by Irimiya Bako.

Although the Pastor has since being released by his adopters, what is not released however is the heightened tension and bitterness within the Jukun and Tiv circle. When our reporter visited the affected communities before Christmas, the atmosphere was still charged; anger and fear of the unknown rented the air. Some angry Tiv youths, who spoke with our reporter, warned that, never again can they tolerate such an unprovoked attack on their villages.

“We were told that a Jukun Pastor was kidnaped along Wukari – Takum Road and following the development, the Jukun Youths gave an ultimatum for the release of the pastor…. “We don’t know anything about the case, besides where the pastor was allegedly kidnaped is far from our area,” Said one of the Youth Leaders, Clement Tor.

A community leader from the Ichen speaking community in Donga LGA of Taraba State, captured the grievances of the people graphically, when he told our reporter that the kidnaping imbroglio is a time bomb, waiting to explode into a vicious ethnic war.

Already, we are in a war time situation. We cannot comfortably travel in and out of our domains for fear of being kidnaped. Our children and wives no longer go to farms for fear that they would be kidnaped. Our sons and daughters, who are in other lands, have stop coming home to see us for the same reason. If they must come, they have to pay heavily to the police or army for escort. “We have only two routes linking us with the rest of the world, which are Wukari – Takum and Takum – Katsina Ala roads, and these roads are not safe for us.

I will not hide it from you, our people are provoked, they are angry. We cannot continue like this. As elders, we will continue to preach for the peaceful resolution of every crisis, but there is a limit to what we can do.” He said.

Ityokaa Kajo, a yam dealer in Chanchanji also lamented. “You have seen for yourselves that our markets are dead. Businesses have crumbled. Abako, Chanchanji and Sai markets, which are engine rooms of our survival have closed down, even the Zaki Biam yam market is down. To sale a yam, you must transport it all the way to Wukari….”

Kajo however appealed to ethnic communities, who are also victims of the ugly situation not to give the kidnapping an ethnic name. “Everybody is a victim. Let me tell you, 90% of victims are the Tiv people. We must treat this kidnapping as a common enemy for us to defeat it” He said.

Worried by the situation, especially that it is posing an ominous sign for total breakdown of law and order, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba and his Benue counterpart, Dr. Samuel Ortom have resolved to grant Amnesty to criminal elements operating along the border of the two states. This is part of the resolution reached at the end of the joint security meeting between the two states held at the Federal University Wukari in Taraba State, on the 29th of December last year.

Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State who read the communique at the end of the tour of some border communities of Abako, Sai and Dogon-Gawa said, the amnesty window takes effect immediately and will expire by the end of January 2019.

The meeting, among other things, resolved to constitute a joint security committee made up of people of proven integrity and locals of the area between the two states to address the security challenges and a joint security forces to be constituted with a police station at Sai.

At the time of filing this report, no criminal has stepped forward so far to embrace the amnesty option. The thriving kidnaping activities on the fringes of Benue and Taraba states is a ticking time bomb that can explode at any time, with devastating consequences. It is only the efforts of leaders of the affected communities and commitment of the two state governments that can neutralize it WV


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