By Fanen Ihyongo Darius Dickson Ishaku
At last, the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groupsof southern Taraba have agreed to a ceasefire. Fresh moves by keystakeholders to resolve the crisis seem to bear fruits.
Tiv/Jukun Crisis: Taraba govt raise 30 Man committee to restore peace(Opens in a new browser tab)
At the end of a two-day peace talksheld at Government House, Jalingo, a 30-man committee, set up by GovernorDarius Ishaku, succeeded in making the warring communities sign a newpeace deal and to call for the suspension of hostilities. Theyhave directed that all road-blocks in the affected communities should bedismantled local markets in the areas reopened and called for the release of kidnap victims,
Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups of Southern Taraba have been at daggers drawn for some time now and the crisis has claimed many lives and properties worth millions. It has also left many people homeless. Several efforts made in the past to bring peace between these closely tied neighbours had been futile. The latest outbreak of hostilities has been on for over six months.
The crisis reached acrescendo when a 42-year-old cleric, Rev. Fr. David Tanko, a peace broker, waskilled and his corpse set ablaze. The priest’s murder prompted PresidentMuhammaduBuhari to call for a peace dialogue between Tiv and Jukun from Tarabaand Benue states respectively.
During the meeting, whichwas held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Benue State Governor SamuelOrtom proposed that the Federal Government should set up a commission ofenquiry into the crisis. But Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku,strongly objected to the idea of bringing ‘strangers’ into the matter. Hesuggested that “the problem is ours; it’s an internal problem; we shall lookinto it and resolve it.”
Upon his return to thestate, Ishaku set up the new committee and gave the warring groups a seven-dayultimatum to sheathe their swords for the committee to work effectively.
The new peace committee,which has been hailed by all as likely to succeed, is to examine and bring toan end all issues underlying persistent violent clashes between Jukun and Tivethnic groups. The committee has 15 representatives each from Tiv andJukun communities, drawn from the affected areas which include Wukari, Dongaand Takum.
The committee held apeace dialogue in the Executive Chamber of Government House, Jalingo -theTaraba State capital. In their midst were the Secretary to the State Government(SSG) Anthony Jellason, representatives of the police, army, Civil DefenceCorps and the Department of State Services (DSS).
Others in attendanceincluded representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) andother religious bodies as well as representatives of the Jukun, Tiv and Etulocommunities from the affected local government areas. All the attending groupsmade their presentations.
The meeting was chairedby the Taraba State Deputy Governor, Haruna Manu, who, together with the SSG onbehalf of the state government, signed the communique that was issued at theend of the meeting. DanjumaAdamu, Markus Ikitsombika and John Mammansigned the communiqué for the Jukun community while JimeYongo, Kurason Kura andIsaac Waakaa signed for the Tiv community.
The communiqué reads:”Speakers at the meeting condemned the crisis and stressed the need for thecessation of all forms of hostilities between the two communities to pave wayfor the peace building effort being spearheaded by the Taraba state government.
“The crisis has beenhijacked by criminals from both the Jukun and Tiv communities and therefore,the two communities should expose the criminals among them.
“We also resolved to,henceforth, stop reprisal attacks or revenge from both parties, but report allforms of security breaches to security agencies for appropriate action.
“The government shouldtake deliberate steps to encourage the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) toreturn to their homes, since adequate security operatives have been deployed inthe affected communities to protect lives and property
It was gathered that theTiv/Jukun crisis is an offshoot of a protracted feud based on a claim by theJukun that the Tiv are “settlers,” in Taraba State, and therefore, have noownership rights to the land they occupy. The conflict, reverberating inintervals of 10 and 20 years, first erupted in 1959. It reoccurred in 1980,1990, 2001 and 2019, according to records.
The Tiv, on the otherhand, use the longevity of their stay in Taraba to reject their settler statusby claiming both land ownership and political rights in the area. Theseseeming claims, passed on to Jukun/Tiv offsprings, generate bloody scenes, asboth groups try to prove they are no weaklings.
But all of this fracasmay soon become history as Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba, whose wife, wife,Anna, hails from Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, is determinedto bring to an end to the age-long conflict that has unwittingly stifled the spiritof brotherhood between the two tribes.
It is worthy of note too,that Ishaku’s children are equally naturally Jukun and naturally Tiv.
They havea compound blood of Jukun-Tiv in their veins and arteries. Governor Ishaku doesnot hate any tribe in the state and has demonstrated this by providingprojects, appointments and services across the length and breadth of the statesince coming on board and is still doing more.
It is worthy of note thatthe governor’s wife, on her part, has done a lot in trying to broker peacebetween Jukun and Tiv.
Governor Ishaku has alreadysolved one aspect of the impasse, by declaring that Tiv in Taraba areindigenes, not settlers. This justifies why the governor, in his first term,appointed many Tivs as advisers and senior aides. He named Rebecca Manasseh, aTiv woman, as Commissioner of Environment, in defiance to the stand of hiskinsmen.
In 2014 when the Tiv inTaraba State were displaced from their ancestral homes by herdsmen marauders,Governor Ishaku immediately rehabilitated the displaced persons once he came onboard as governor in 2015. The governor, a peace maker, with his popular”Give me Peace, I will Give you Development” slogan, went a step further,to suspend 10 traditional rulers accused of tampering with land belonging toTiv people. By these actions, Ishakubecame the ‘messiah’ and cynosure of praise by Tiv.
In his ‘Rescue Mission’in education during his first term, Ishaku rehabilitated schools and providedfurniture and writing materials. To deliver quality education, he recruited3000 teachers which were trained to update and enhance capacity. Out of the3000 employed teachers, Tiv alone got 400 slots. How many Tiv people outsideTaraba know this? How many, among those who know, have said thank you Mr.Governor?
He has brokered peace betweenTiv and his Jukun kinsmen, and is looking forward to resolving the aged-longconflict to ensure there is lasting peace. He has been disturbed by the crisisso much that he did not celebrate his birthday on Tuesday, July 30, whenhe clocked 65 years.
It is hoped the new peaceinitiative by Governor Ishaku will bring the needed magic wand to cement thespirit of peace and unity between the Tiv and the Junkun of Taraba State onceand for all.