The war in Ebira, Kogi State has degenerated into hostage taking but government has bared its fangs to curtail it
By Jones Ojieh
In Ebiraland, Kogi State, there is an age long custom that makes it a taboo for an average Ebiraman to attack a non-native in crisis period, no matter the severity of the provocation. That was the reason why many non-natives did not leave the town despite all the crises that happened in the area. This age long custom, however seems to have been jettisoned. Apart from the fact that non-natives are no longer safe, they have become objects of kidnap.
On September 17 this year, Joe Azikiwe, leader of Igbo community in Ebiraland led a delegation to Governor Ibrahim Idris demanding his intervention. He told the governor that four armed youths invaded their shops along Liberty Road, Okene, demanding the sum of N50,000 each from the traders, adding, “in the process, the unruly youths fired sporadic shots but nobody was injured.” But that was not all, Azikiwe said it took the intervention of Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Okene, for an Ibo trader held hostage by the youths to be released even though a ransom of N150 million was placed on his release.
The Ebiraland war has claimed many casualties. It has sent many to their early graves. Those who survived escaped from the town. The war has also created monsters in the name of armed militants. Regrettably, it introduced clannish politics.
In a bid to stop the dangerous trend the war is taking, Governor Idris told the people that he has adopted some measures to nip the problem in the bud. This magazine gathered that after a three-hour closed door meeting with traditional rulers from the area, local government chairmen from the area as well as the State Security Service, the Army and the Police, a marching order was given to the security agencies to crack down the perpetrators of these acts. Traditional rulers in the area were threatened with deposition if it is proved that any of them is providing cover for the boys. The governor who was obviously angry over the turn of events in the enclave said, “I am prepared to lay down my life in the battle to save Ebiraland and innocent people including the Ibo peoples from being molested by these miscreants,” Idris further stated.
Government has equally issued a two-week ultimatum to the warring factions to lay down their arms and submit them to the appropriate authority after which a search would commence in the area. A 7-man committee headed by the secretary to the state government, Hon. Musa Ahmodu was set up to produce a white paper on the earlier committee headed by Major- General Chris Ali, the former chief of army staff, on the issue.
Chairman of Okene local government, Hon. Yahaya Karaku who escaped death by whiskers when he was attacked by one of the warring groups called on the people to lay down their arms. “My mission in politics goes beyond clannish sentiment; my mandate in politics is to satisfy the collective yearnings of my people, but not to continue seeing blood flowing in our place,” Karaku who lost one of his close aides to the crisis, declared.
Government has however accused the opposition party of fuelling the conflict.