The Fulani were at the receiving end yesterday at the sitting of the Justice Joseph Gbadeyan panel in Lafia, Nasarawa State. They were accused of using mercenaries to attack Mada and Eggon people, reports Sanni Onogu in Lafia.
The Mada people in Bassa Zarengi District of Kokona Local Government Area of Nasarawa state yesterday accused their Fulani neighbours of conspiring with mercenaries to kill eight of them.
The community, in a memorandum it presented before the Justice Joseph Gbadeyan-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry probing the recent killing of security personnel in Lakyo village, alleged that the mercenaries burnt 96 houses in the 14 villages.
The memorandum was jointly signed by Dogolamba Ciroma, chairman of the Mada Development Association (MDA) and Chinchan Maigan Nkonkyu, secretary of the MDA.
Nkonkyu, in his evidence-in-chief, said the Mada people in Bassa Zarengi District were found mainly in 12 villages.
The Mada people, he said, are predominantly farmers while others engaged in other economic activities like trading and artisanship. He said whenever a Mada was apprehended during the attack, he would be asked if he was Eggon or Mada. He said the person would be killed if he answered in the affirmative.
He added that others were asked if they were Muslims or Christians before being killed.
Nkonkyu said those who claimed to be Muslims were usually asked to recite the Muslim prayers to ascertain their truthfulness.
The MDA scribe also accused the state government of negligence and unfair treatment of the Mada people after the attacks.
Nkonkyu said: “On the fateful day of the 8th of January 2013, gunmen (mercenaries) struck and attacked five Mada villages and the other nine villages which are mixed settlements with other ethnic nationalities.
“The five Mada villages are inhabited by people of purely Mada extraction. The 8th of January 2013 attack started from Ruwan Doma in Bassa Zarengi District which is Eggon predominant area.
“While the attack was going on, we were assured by the Hausas and Fulanis living with us that we should not panic that the attack was not targeted at Mada people.
“However later, the first Mada village that was attacked is Jigawa. It proceeded to all the five Mada villages and spread to other nine villages where Madas and other ethnic nationalities coexist. The 14 villages were attacked and scores of people were killed and several houses burnt.
“The Mada people (Community) were very apprehensive when they heard the sound of gun shots in a nearby village of Ruwan-Doma within Bassa Zarengi District but for the assurances given by both Hausa and Fulani neigbours, we were relaxed just to be surprised by an attack by the blood thirsty mercenaries.
“The mercenaries in commando style hacked down their victims with sharp swords and gunshots, thereby setting the residences ablaze and destroying lives and properties such as machines, foodstuff and razing down houses completely. Some of those killed were burnt to the point of non-recognition.”
On lives and properties destroyed during the attack, he said: “Human lives were affected in these violent unprovoked attacks by hired mercenaries. Besides human lives, properties of no mean estimation were equally destroyed. The relics remaining were houses and machines.”
He said the Mada community had never been involved in any turmoil with any ethnic group since its settlement at their present location.
He said they did not also harbour any malice against any ethnic group to warrant any attack as a remote cause.
On the causes of the crisis, Nkonkyu, who is a Supervisor with the Agwada Development Area Education Authority in Kokona Local Government Area, said: “There is no immediate cause of the unwarranted attack, except for conspiracy and deception we found at work against us which we believe our neighbours (Hausa and Fulani) hold serious hidden agenda against us which manifested itself in the 14 Mada communities that were attacked.
“During these attacks, which raged from 8th January to March 30, 2013, it was clearly manifested that whenever a Mada is apprehended, questions are thrown at the person as follows: ‘Are you Mada or Eggon?’ If the answer is in the affirmative, the victim must be killed.
“The second question is: ‘Are you a Muslim or Christian?’ If Christian, the victim must be killed. Even if the victim were Mada or Eggon that says he is Muslim, he or she will be asked to relate ‘Salat’ (Muslim prayers).
“Our worry is that despite our predicament we were surprised that the government gave no relief materials or showed concern to our people so we can be quick to accuse them of negligence and unfair treatment against our people.”
He added that eight people were killed during the attacks and 96 houses burnt among other properties affected.
Under cross-examination by the Commission’s counsel, Funso Lawal, Nkonkyu said the Mada community believed the attacks were orchestrated by the conspiracy of their Hausa/Fulani neighbours.
He said: “The same person who told you in the morning not to panic that the attack was not targeted at you, the same person attacked you in the evening.”
On why he accused the government of negligence and unfairness to his people, he said: “Government did not provide my people with relief materials; that is why we said they were unfair.”
When asked to recommend ways to end the incessant attacks and killings in the state, he said: “Government should not underestimate any violence, grazing land should be provided for the Fulani; government should provide relief materials in the event of any crisis to reduce the hardship of the affected people. There should be workshops and seminars on peace and conflict resolution.”
Counsel to the MDA, Harry Anyuabuga, objected to the counsel representing the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Socio-Cultural Association, Abubakar Dogara, appearing during the presentation of the Mada memorandum.
After a brief argument by the lawyers, the Commission rose and retired to rule on the objection.
Justice Gbadeyan upheld the objection, saying Dogara cannot appear in the case since his clients were not directly referred to in the memorandum in question.
Dogara thanked the Commission for the ruling but said he would study the ruling.
Also, yesterday Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Innocent Lagi drew the Commission’s attention to media reports, which, he said, did not represent the happenings at the panel’s sittings.
Lagi, who was represented by Sambo Vongjen, told the Commission that the reports were contained in a national daily of August 20 and 21.
Sambo said: “The publication in question does not reflect the true position of what happened at the Commission. The caption of the publication and the content are at variance with the contents of the memorandum referred to and we view this with great dismay. The caption and content of the Wednesday publication are poles apart from the memorandum referred to and we view it with great displeasure.”
The Nasarawa State Correspondent of the Daily Trust, Hir Joseph, when asked by the Commission to justify the publications in question, said he picked his story from the subhead on page three of the memorandum in question which reads: “Observation/sponsorship.”
The memorandum was submitted to the Commission by the Eggon Cultural Development Association (ECDA).
Justice Gbadeyan asked: “If it becomes a criminal case, can you wriggle yourself out of it?”
“Yes my Lord,” the reporter said.
The Chairman added: “The memo said nothing about negligence. Read the particular portion that supports your caption that the Nasarawa State Government sponsored attacks on Eggon people.”
The reporter said: “The entire memo presented by ECDA talks about attacks and invasion and they went further to say there was sponsorship. I did not go anywhere outside the memorandum.”
At this point, Sambo urged the Commission to rule that the said publications be retracted in three consecutive publications and an apology tendered to the government.
“If they fail, then we know what to do,” he said.
Justice Gbadeyan said: “During our inaugural session, we pleaded with the press that we want accurate and non-sensational reports of the proceedings of the Commission. We know you want to sell your papers. The Commission is not holding brief for the state government. The government can speak for itself. It is not our duty to so direct.”