The police in Jalingo, Taraba State capital, have confirmed that unknown gunmen at the weekend trailed and killed 13 Fulani herdsmen who were returning from village markets in Garba-Chede and Maihula.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the state police command, ASP Joseph Kwaji, made the disclosure yesterday in Jalingo.
He said the herdsmen were waylaid and killed by unidentified group of armed youths along a bush path in the outskirts of Maihula in Bali Local Government Area of the state.
According to him, no arrest has been made but the command has beefed up security in the area to track down the perpetrators.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), he added that it was not clear why the incident took place but further investigation would be able to reveal the reasons for the attack and the people behind it.
The Chairman of Bali Local Government Area, Mr. Andrew Yerima, said the herdsmen were trailed by the armed men from Garba-Chede market where they were believed to have gone to sell their cows.
Yerima called for calm and advised residents of the area not to take the law into their hands.
He assured them that the culprits would be brought to book.
Meanwhile, the acting Governor of the state, Alhaji Garba Umar, has said he is not fighting Jukuns as being widely speculated, vowing to return lasting peace to the southern part of the state.
He described the rumour that the Jukuns were targets of the killings as false.
Umar, who spoke with journalists in Lagos through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Aaron Artimas, said those spreading the rumour of government’s complicity in the Wukari crisis want to set the state on fire by pitching the different ethnic groups and religions against each other to score cheap political points.
He said the government had continued to maintain security of lives and property in the southern part of the state, adding that in spite of this, some elements are bent on discrediting all the efforts of the government.
Artimas said those insinuating that the acting governor had declared war against the Jukuns in the southern part of the state are the real enemies of peace among the Jukuns and the region.
“Its pitiable to say the acting governor is fighting the Jukuns or southern Taraba. The Jukuns have a cordial relationship with his government. He often consults withthe Aku Uka, who is the paramount ruler of the Jukuns worldwide. He has visited the region several times since the crisis started. He led all warring parties in the region to sign a peace pact at the Aku Uka’s palace in Wukari.”
He maintained that the acting governor had a lot of respect for the Jukuns just as he has for every other tribes in the state, adding that many respected Jukuns had been appointed in his cabinet.
“Those spreading negative information about the government are the main enemies of the Jukuns. They don’t want developments to come to the region, they want the Jukun youths to remain unemployed so that they can be using them to foment trouble and destabilise the government for their selfish political interest,” he added.
He, however, denied the claim that Muslims victims in the last Wukari crisis were given special preferential treatments.
“How do you go to injured people after a crisis and begin to select Muslims for medical treatments, does the Muslims victim wear a tag to identify them as Muslims. Can the acting governor reduce himself to the extent of going to a crisis site and selecting victims of his religion?” he asked.
He added that the state government had empowered security agencies in the state through its ‘Operation, Wuta Wuta’ by providing vehicles for the police, military and State Security Service (SSS) while local vigilante groups are empowered with motorcycles to patrol villages.