No fewer than 19 people were killed in the early hours of Friday when some gunmen suspected to be killer herdsmen invaded Tawari community in Kotonkarfe local government area of Kogi state, killing at least 19 people, burning the community’s traditional ruler’s palace and places of worship, among several houses razed.
The Administrator of the local government, Hon. Musa Tanko Mohammed, who spoke on phone with our correspondent confirmed that 19 persons were killed.
It was gathered that the attack was a reprisal by the herdsmen who have been having running battles with the community
The killing of four suspected herdsmen, alleged to be kidnappers along Lokoja Abuja federal highway on December 30 by security agencies, following a tip off by vigilantes from Tawari community, was alleged to be what angered the militia to attack the community.
A source also said that one of the herdsmen was killed sometime last year and his body mutilated by suspected ritualists, a crime for which the victim’s colleagues hold the Tawari community responsible and threatened a reprisal.
But following persistent persuasion by the community head, Alhaji Yahaya Tawari, against a reprisal, the herdsmen lived in the community with their hosts in peace until few days ago when they started moving out en masse.
While efforts were made to find out their reason for the mass movement, the herdsmen said their movement was a way of life, assuring that they had no ulterior motives.
As at the time of filing this report, military personnel have been deployed to the community, while the Kogi state commissioner of police was already on ground to monitor the situation and provide support.
The Public Relations Officer of the Kogi State Police Command, Mr Williams Anya, confirmed the development in an interview in Lokoja on Friday.
He said that a police assessment team had visited the community and that many buildings, including places of worship had been burnt.
Tawari community is a few kilometres off Gegu town along the Lokoja-Abuja highway. A resident of Tawari community, Mrs Comfort Solomon, who survived the attack, said the gunmen, numbering about 100 invaded the community late on Thursday.
She said the gunmen came in their numbers on motorcycles and descended on the village, killing and burning buildings until the early hours of Friday.
Solomon said that many places of worship, including the palace of the Akuma of Tawari were burnt down by the invaders.
“The gunmen were up to 100 in number. They came into the community with motorcycles around 11:15 p.m. when villagers were sleeping. They entered selected houses, packed foodstuff and motorcycles and burnt selected houses, including homes of clerics. They killed more than 15 men. The attackers were communicating with each other in Hausa language,” Solomon stated, weeping profusely.
Similarly, a NAN correspondent in Minna, Niger, Mrs Rita Nuhu, an indigene of Tawari, who also spoke on telephone on the development, said that her father’s house was completely burnt down during the attack.
“My people have been calling me from home that my father’s house was burnt down by the attackers. My mother and her sister were ordered out of the house after which the house was set ablaze, while about 15 men were killed.”
Nuhu said that the latest information she got from her village was that the death toll would rise. “We are calling on security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice. We appeal to the federal and state governments to come to our aid,” she pleaded.
The king of Tawari, Chief Idris Yusuf, who also spoke on telephone, confirmed the incident, saying it was the first time the community was experiencing such attack. “This is the first time we are witnessing such deadly attack in our community. Our community has been very peaceful.” Yusuf, who is the Aguma of Tawari, said that he would provide details on the development as he was busy attending to sympathisers.
Meanwhile, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi, has directed the security agencies in the state to fish out perpetrators of Tawari attack for justice.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr Onogwu Muhammed, in Lokoja on Friday, said the security agencies should swing into action and ensure that those who carried out the dastardly act face the law.
The governor, who condemned the attack and warned that anyone nursing the ambition of causing crisis in the state would have himself or herself to blame assured that his administration would do everything possible to protect life and property of the people of the state.
He, therefore, urged the people to be calm and law abiding, assuring them that his administration was determined to flush out bandits and criminals out of the state.
Giving further update, the Police Command has disclosed that about 28 houses and vehicles were razed by the attackers in Tawari community among other destruction.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the command, Williams Anya, said the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ede Ayuba Ekpeji had visited the community for on the spot assessment.
He also said that the Commissioner of Police had deployed Special Police Force and Police Tactical Squad, led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, to immediately unravel those behind the heinous act with a view to bringing them to book.