Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tension high at Gwagwalada after Fulani/Gbagyi clash

Okechukwu Onuegbu

Uneasy calm and palpable fear still hovers in the air like dark rain clouds in Paiko; near Gwagwalada in the Federal Capital Territory where four people were killed and 19 others were injured in a clash between Gbagyi farmers and Fulani herdsmen on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Although the Gwagwalada Police Division, which confirmed the death toll, dispatched units of heavily armed anti-riot policemen to patrol the scene and restore peace, the fear of reprisal attacks can still be seen plainly written on the faces of villagers who have managed to return to their businesses.
Divisional Police Officer in the area, Mr. Patrick Daaor told our reporter in a telephone interview that normalcy has been restored to the area and while confirming that only four villagers died from this year’s skirmish, he added that the death toll was reduced due to the quick intervention of the police.
Also, the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) in Gwagwalada confirmed that about five people were discharged from the hospital on Tuesday when our reporter visited the scene to assess the situation and check on those injured in what has now become an annual clash.
A villager in Paiko, Mallam Sadiq Ibrahim alleged that what caused this year’s disagreement between the famers and the herdsmen was the invasion of farms by some cattle belonging to Fulani people.
He said the cattle destroyed many crops on the farm owned by Gbagyi villagers while the boys tending to the cattle watched and did nothing to prevent the crops from being destroyed.
It was gathered that when the herdsmen were cautioned by the villagers, there were arguments and each side soon mobilised to engage in a free for all fight with each side using any type of dangerous weapon at their disposal until about two people were killed on the spot.
The other two victims allegedly died in the hospital from injuries inflicted on them during the melee, witnesses said. Several houses and properties worth thousands of naira were also burnt or destroyed in the fracas.
Chairman of Gwagwalada Area council, Alhaji Abubakar Jibrin Giri, has already visited the area to personally assess the level of damages and he called on the people to restore peace in the community. Jibrin equally visited the hospital to commiserate with the wounded while describing the situation as unfortunate and disturbing.
He promised that displaced persons would be assisted by the council and the bills of those hospitalised would be picked up and settled by the government. The FCTA has equally intervened by sending relief materials with cash to the victims and promising further compensation for those who lost crops and other property.
The perennial clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Paiko; Gwagwalada Area Council of the FCT has become an annual event, which attracts condemnation from groups and influential personalities in the territory but does nothing to stop the reoccurrence of the confrontation.
When it happened last year, the Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA) and the Alliance for Credible Election (ACE) said it is not enough for government to just fold its arms and hope that the confrontation between the cattle rearers and farmers would go away on its own.
President, Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA), Pastor Danladi Jeji, warned in a statement that it would be counter-productive for government to ignore the deep ethnic problems between Fulani cattle rearers and Gbagyi farmers especially in Gwagwalada Area Council which leads often to loss of lives and destruction of properties.
Although he commended the authorities of the Federal Capital Territory Administration and security agencies in the FCT for their swift and prompt response to contain the communal clashes that occurred in the past, he stated however that a permanent solution needs to be found for the conflict.
More than ten people have now died in skirmishes between the two groups since 2012. Two persons were killed while four sustained various degrees of injuries and 27 community settlements were burnt in the first clash in 2012 while others died in revenge attacks in 2013 and this year, the toll so far was put at four dead and 19 wounded.
Investigations showed that politicians, who benefit from the confrontations between the communities, are to be blamed for the constant clashes. Already, youths in the communities are now being mobilised by certain elements to protest against the compensation process going on, with each group accusing the compensation committee of favoritism against the other tribe.
Pastor Danladi Jeji of OIDA commended the prompt investigation of the disturbances by the FCT Commissioner of Police, pleading that the remote causes of the frequent clashes should be sought to prevent the annual recurrence of confrontations between the two disputing parties.
Already, community leaders of the areas have agreed at a meeting with government officials that the groups would maintain the peace but can politicians be effectively restrained and stopped from inciting disturbances with their utterances and actions?   
Serious dialogue between the Fulani and the Gbagyi, the two communities at logger-heads has become absolutely necessary to avert the annual ritual of shedding further innocent blood through preventable misunderstandings.



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