September 01, (THEWILL) – At least nine persons have been killed in the late hours of Tuesday and scores injured by gunmen who attacked Bagana community in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State.
A local who survived the attack told newsmen that the gunmen invaded a provision store located in the heart of the village and opened fire, killing four persons on the spot.
After which the attackers then went on shooting spree during which many people who scampered for shelter and safety were hit by stray bullets. He said.
He disclosed that he counted five dead bodies from his hiding spot, which included one Alias Barrister, a diesel oil dealer and a dispensary staff of the Local Government Health Center at Ogba, who lived in Bagana.
Confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer of the State Police Command, DSP William Aya, said one Usman Salifu called the DPO on phone around 9.30pm on Tuesday that his shop was attacked by gunmen leading to the death of his sales boy, Bashir Sule and three other customers, while scores sustained various degrees of injury.
The DPO added that on receipt of the distress call, he mobilized his men to the scene and evacuated some of the injured to the hospital for treatment, adding that the force had commenced a manhunt to bring the perpetrators to book.
He said peace had returned to the village and assured the people to return home to continue with their legitimate businesses.
Another villager while recounting his ordeal said they were awoken from their sleep by the gunshots and they scampered into the bush for safety.
He lamented the incessant killings of innocent citizens and indecent burning of their houses by the marauders since 2014 and called on the Federal Government and the Kogi State government and security agencies to come to their aid.
He added that the village had lost over 300 of her people and property worth billions of naira to the unending attacks by the militia allegedly invited from Benue and Nasarawa states.
He said the crisis which started between the Agatu militias and Fulani herders from Benue state had turned the town to a ghost, as the efforts by the state government to curtail the carnage proved futile.
According to him, about five months ago, the same shop which belonged to Musa Salifu one of the sons of an embattled Onu Otutubatu Alhaji Salifu Anyebe was attacked, during which he sustained gunshot wounds.
The locals noted that since December 2014 , the village was on two occasions violently attacked resulting in the death of scores and burning down of houses.
They said the incessant killings by the militias forced the people to evacuate their families and property from their ancestral homes to become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in neighboring villages and other states, lamenting that no sooner that lives have started returning to the community, than the orgy of killings resumed again.
According to the locals, a prominent Hausa Chief, Alhaji Audi Abdullahi and Chief of Ihankpe were at different times violently abducted and killed by yet to be apprehended bandits.
They explained that some of their children, seven of them, residing outside the state, who innocently came home for sallah celebrations were gruesomely murdered by these “vagabonds”, even as the video of their torture to death had gone viral.
One local source said, the trouble may not have been unconnected with the supremacy battle of who was to control resources of the town by the four major tribes, Igala, Hausa, Otutubatu and Ihankpe.
“Bagana, although a multi-ethnic group, used to be a haven of peace, until the chiefs of Otutubatu and Ihankpe moved their headquarters from Omagede and Patanyi. These villages are more than ten kilometres from Bagana, the Headquarters of Bagana District of Omala local Government Area.
“The two clans have been on each other’s jugular in an attempt to control economic lives of the village, using mercenaries to unleash terror on the village.
“In attempt to control the carnage, the immediate past governor, Captain Idris Wada had severally summoned the chiefs to Lokoja, and warned them to maintain peace, but the warning fell on deaf ears.
“The Governor had stationed a detachment of soldiers and mobile policemen to maintain peace, but they too became the casualty as the soldiers lost two of their men and four policemen to the Ak- 47 wielding militiamen”, the source said.
A community leader, Alhaji Ismaila Umar, urged Governor Yahaya Bello to establish a Naval post and a police post in the village, saying the location of the village on the Bank of River Benue has made it vulnerable to all kinds of criminals.
He lamented that the chiefs who were not indigenes of Bagana and whose forefathers had never been chiefs in the town would from nowhere seize the town.
However, THEWILL gathered that the District Head and Oga Onu Ife, a third class Chief, Alih Haruna, had literally abandoned his palace to another village for safety.
Meanwhile, the paramount ruler of Omala local Government Area, Onuh Ife (Joogba) HRH Boniface Musa has condemned the killings and urged the chairman of the council Hon. Ibrahim Aboh and Governor Yahaya Bello to enforce the earlier directive to the unauthorised chiefs in Bagana to relocate to their domains.
HRH Boniface Musa explained that as part of peace effort, the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs had summoned all the chiefs from the LGA to Lokoja, the capital and gave a stern directive to the chiefs of Otutubatu Alhaji Salifu Anyebe and Ihankpe’s representative to relocate to their domains of Omagede and Patanyi respectively.
He wondered why Onu Otutubatu Alhaji Salifu Anyebe has remained adamant as all peaceful negotiations with him to relocate to his domain have violently been ignored.
He said unless the Governor invoked his powers in ensuring that the Onuh Otutubatu is forced to respect his directive of relocation, peace would continue to be elusive and carnage would continue in the area.
Bagana, a riverine community with a population of about ten thousand inhabitants had played host to John Holt conglomerate during the colonial era. It has a thriving commodity market where trade by barter model of exchange is still practiced.
The former president Olusegun Obasanjo in May 2007, two weeks to the expiration of his tenure had signed an agreement with Global Tolls, to construct a bridge from Bagana to Guto across the River Benue leading to the FCT through Public Private Partnership, PPP. The bridge which had reached advanced stage has since been abandoned.