Declare state of emergency in southern zone; Taraba youth cry out to FG
By Jethro Yerga, Jalingo
Youth of Taraba State under the umbrella of Southern Taraba Youth Coalition for Peace (STYCOP), have cried out to the Federal Government to declare state of emergency in the Southern Zone of Taraba State with special Security operatives that would defend their communities against communal crises and rampaging terrorists that are gradually wrecking the zone.
The group which made the call during a world press conference held in Abuja, Nigeria Federal Capital Territory, lamented that at the moment, Wukari, Donga, Takum and Lissam towns of the zone are now IDP camps due to the ongoing insecurity and banditry that had sent people out of their villages and farmlands.
Addressing the press on behalf of the group, Project Director, Southern Taraba Youths Coalition For Peace (STYCOP), Hajara Love John, said at the moment, several communities in the zone are under siege, especially in Takum, Ussa and Yangtu Special Development Areas due to what she described as sad realities in their land.
She noted that the sad situation had led to a major humanitarian crisis in the zone with urgent need for relief items including drugs, food and shelter for the Internally displaced persons as the people, including women and children had continue to languish silently in the dreaded jaws of hunger, diseases and harsh environmental conditions.
“Our people are suffering silently with no help from anywhere. Everyday, children die from hunger, diseases and harsh environmental conditions as helpless mothers watch in tears. Indeed, the situation is pathetic”. He stated.
Hajara disclosed that the level of insecurity and vulnerability of Southern Taraba communities to attacks by the bandits who had now taken over the deserted communities had also casts fear in the people that there may be no election in Southern Taraba in 2023.
She emphasized that the two candidates of the major political parties in the state, the PDP and APC are all from Southern Taraba and should there be no election, the sad reality could spelled doom for the zone in particular and the entire state.
In her words, “this fear is backed with the reality that with the spate of ongoing nonstop attacks, the local government headquarters in Southern Taraba are under threat. Should bandits finally attack our local government headquarters like Wukari, Takum, Donga, Ibi and Lissam, few days to the general election as they have been threatening, we doubt the possibility of elections in the 5 local government areas in Southern Taraba and Yangtu Special Development Area”.
“Today It is no longer news that due to Jukun–Tiv crisis, 70% of Jukun and Tiv villages in Wukari and Donga Local Government Areas have been destroyed and deserted. Currently, there is ongoing ethnic cleansing of Kuteb people in villages in Takum LGA, Ussa LGA and Yangtu Special Development Area by gun wielding bandits.
“Our people are facing daily attacks from the bandits who use sophisticated weapons to maim, kill and displace thousands. These bandits are responsible for the death of the former Commanding Officer of 93 Battalion Army Barracks Takum and his six soldiers in May 2022. Since then, the attacks have heightened in frequency and sophistication leaving over 40 kuteb villages destroyed. Just yesterday, scores were killed in five (5) villages bordering Lissam, the headquarter of Ussa Local Government Area”. She added.
Hajara further stated that (STYCOP) was particularly traumatized over the ugly development because despite the volume of destruction and displacement of people in the Southern Taraba, there was no special security operation by government to provide protection for their people.
She said the soldiers in 93 Battalion Army Barracks Takum were overstretched and with only little support from the state government to keep the men on constant patrol, adding that Operation whirl stroke had no base in Ussa and Yangtu, the epicenter of the current genocide, thus given the bandits upper hand in every attack they launched.
While calling on the State and Federal Governments to be proactive to prevent more bloodshed in the zone, the group asked the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency, declared state of emergency in the zone, maintaining that it was the best option to enthrone sanity and make it possible for elections to hold in the zone, even as they described Southern Taraba as the zone with the largest electoral bloc in Taraba state.
They advised that the state government should partner with Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) to train and sensitize the people of the area, including politicians, community and traditional leaders on the need for sustainable Intercultural dialogue in the zone as doing so would reduce suspicion, tension and promote peaceful coexistence among their people and sustain the reintegration of their Communities.
The group called on National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA ) and Nongovernmental, Humanitarian organizations to quickly respond to the humanitarian crisis in the zone especially Takum, Ussa and Yangtu as the people, according to them are really at the cross road and their future bleak.
They also called on “INEC and the law enforcement agencies to closely monitor the campaigns in the zone to prevent hate speech and foul language that may fuel the tension in our communities. We also plead that members of the press should visit the zone so as to get first hand information on the suffering of our people. This will validate our claims because we have never had it so badly in our history than now”.
The youths sued for unity and pleaded with leaders in the zone to come together in the interest of peace and security so as to protect the future of the younger generations even as they prayed for light at the end of the tunnel.