The Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups’ peaceful relations date back centuries, sadly peace eluded the duo blamed on politics, land ownership issues, indigene/settler syndrome, suspicion, and lack of political will to tackle emerging contemporary challenges between both communities. Other factors that have led to unrest in the state include the activities of armed bandits, kidnappers, headers, and farmers conflicts as well as communal conflicts among rival ethnic groups.
Amid the lingering crisis, hundreds of lives were reportedly lost in different parts of the state in sporadic attacks that equally left hundreds of houses burnt.
Records show that the perennial conflict between the Tiv/Jukun has been recurring at intervals with the first incident recorded in 1959. It reoccurred in 1980, 1990, 2001, 2019 to date. Like in the past, the latest resurgence bore a familiar trademark in the theory of balance of terror; Jukun militia descending on Tiv residents at the slightest provocation, maiming, killing while burning their homes, and vice versa.
It was reported that about 1,000 persons have been reportedly killed, several others injured and property worth millions of Naira destroyed over the years as a result of Tiv/Jukun conflicts in Wukari Local Government. Apart from the deaths recorded, several people were injured while houses, farmlands, markets, vehicles valued at millions of naira were either razed or vandalized.
Apparently worried by the lingering conflict between the Tiv and Jukun, President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier ordered the governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, and his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, to immediately end the crisis which has claimed hundreds of lives.
The President’s directive was issued in the wake of the wave of hostilities between the two ethnic groups. It would be recalled also that President Buhari in a State House statement by the senior special assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, asked Royal fathers, specifically the Tor Tiv and the Aku Uka of Wukari, religious and community leaders in the two states to convene meetings to find a lasting solution to the perennial conflict.
The President said the conflict was unacceptable, adding, “I have watched with trepidation and disbelief how hate and bigotry have inhabited the human soul, resulting in brothers killing brothers.’’
He continued: “On behalf of the federal government and the entire people of the country, I offer my condolences to the Catholic community, the government and people of Taraba over the losses arising from recent incidents involving the warring communities.
“The persistent deaths and destruction and the seeming desire by the warring sides to push each other to extinction is embarrassing, and this is against the essence of our ethnic and religious diversity in the country.
“Progress is impossible where violence and destruction are allowed to dominate our daily lives,” adding that the Tiv/Jukun conflict was among “Nigeria’s most persistent and intractable security problems.”
As part of efforts to ensure that all parties bury their hatchet, on Monday, the 20th of December, 2021 the Tor Tiv and chairman Benue State Council of Traditional rulers Prof. James Ortese Ayatse alongside seven of his first-class chiefs and four local government council chairmen from Benue state stormed Wukari, the headquarters of the Kwararafa Kingdom in Taraba State.
The visit was to condole the immediate family of Aku Uka, Jukun race, Wukari people, the Taraba State Government, and the entire Kwararafa Kingdom over the death of the Aku Uka the 27th Shakarau Angyu Masa Ibi who died October 2021. The Aku Uka who died at the age of 84 years ruled the Kwararafa kingdom for 45 years.
The Tor Tiv while in Wukari was received by the Gara Of Donga Sanvala Vorzoa Shimbura who also led the traditional rulers from the Jukun race in Taraba state to welcome the Benue top monarch.
Ayatse during his presentation of the condolence message sue for peace among Jukun and Tiv people both in Taraba and Benue states, his comment was due to the long time dispute between the Tiv and Jukun over years.
It would be recalled that in 2019 after the general elections, a disagreement ensued between Tiv and Jukun communities in Kente village of Wukari local government area of Taraba state which renewed the long ages enmity that has been among the Tiv and Jukun for decades.
The dispute escalated to a large extent, leading to the destruction of properties and killings in Wukari, Donga, Ibi, and Takum local government areas of Taraba State, the crisis further extended to attacks on Ukum and Katsina/Ala local government areas of Benue State.
During the crisis, several homes of both belonging to the Tivs and Jukuns were destroyed while properties worth billions of naira were destroyed.
The federal government under the watch of the Secretary to the Government of Federation Boss Mustapha in 2020 initiated a peace meeting between the two states (Benue and Taraba), after a series of federal government efforts to stop the crisis via reconciliatory efforts did not yield expected results.
Consequently, after the failure of the federal government, both the Benue and Taraba State government constituted conflict resolution committees headed by their deputy governors, the efforts to resolve the dispute among the two tribes by their governors did not yield good results as killings and attacks persisted till 2021.
Homes of both Jukuns and Tivs were attacked including, Lafin Kada, Tor Musa, Jande Kyula, Chonku, Kente, Gboko Ikpaa Ake, and Sukundi in Wukari.
Others are Tor Tsee, Amadu, Yongugba, Takum, Demevav, Dongon Gawa, Gbor Gbor in Takum local government area, and Ananum, Donga, Tor Damsa, Shagogo in Donga local government area all of Taraba State.
Also, some villages were attacked in Ukum and Katsina/ala local government areas of Benue state.
Those who were displaced as a result of the attacks are still residing as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The displaced persons particularly from Wukari local government area are yet to return to their various homes, most of the displaced people who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend claim that their places were not yet self to return as they continue to be attacked whenever they make attempts to return home.
Speaking during the Tor Tiv visit, the chief of Staff Taraba State Government Hon. Istifanus Gbana who represented governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State stated that both the Tiv and Jukun have since returned to their displaced homes and they were harvesting their farm products peacefully.
The displaced villages in Wukari were still wearing ghost outlook as at the time of the report while the people of Takum, Donga, Katsina/Ala, and Ukum have since returned to their normal lives though still residing with fear of further attacks.
Stakeholders, however, reiterated that it would be of benefit if the displaced persons return to reside in peace and continue with their farming activities to improve their economy.
Tor Tiv during his condolence speech called on the Jukun race to crown a successor of the late Aku Uka who would build on the peace, unity, and harmony among all tribes within the area.
Ayatse lamented the level of destruction of lives and properties being experienced from the constant crisis between the Tiv and Jukun. He regretted that the economic value of both Taraba and Benue States would have been advanced should the two prominent tribes agree to work together in peace.
The monarch further stated that the crisis recently engulfed the area between Tivs and Jukuns has caused set back among the two tribes and the entire communities both in Benue and Taraba states.
The Tor Tiv also emphasized that before the death of Aku Uka who was the chairman of the Taraba State Council of Traditional Rulers, both of them were on peace initiatives for the two states and their subjects.
He called on the Taraba State Government under the leadership of governor Darius Ishaku to ensure that the peace moves initiated by the late Aku Uka are sustained for the good of all tribes within the southern zone of Taraba State.
According to him, “Is not time to shift blames, let’s bygone be bygone, let people return to their ancestral homes where they were displaced, let’s come together in one entity, there is nowhere on earth development strive amid crisis, am here with a message of love, peace, and unity, let the peace initiatives of the late Aku Uka my friend unit the Jukun and Tiv race both in Benue and Taraba States.”
He also decried that crisis brings poverty, stressing the need for everyone to bury the hatchet.
He continued: “Am appealing to all and sundry, crisis brings poverty, poverty doesn’t know tribe nor religion, let’s leave as brothers and sisters.
“While I was on my way to Wukari, I saw so many empty homes destroyed, burnt, scattered, the areas were occupied by humans, let them return, let us join hands to work for peace, it is for the good of our unborn generations.
“The late Aku Uka who was a man of peace wanted peace, he was working for peace and he died as a peacemaker, let his legacies be sustained, I dream that one day, Wukari will return to his normal glorious days, let’s shun crisis and embrace peace for development to strive.
The chairman Logo Local Government Council Hon. Tersee Agber, his Ukum counterpart Hon. Steven Ayua both from Benue State while speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend during the visit expressed their readiness to cooperate with their counterparts from Taraba State to restore peace at the border communities.
The Gara Donga Shimbura while responding to the message of the Tor Tiv thanked the Benue council of traditional rulers for the show of love and level of encouragement by the Tor Tiv.
Shimbura also urged the people of Taraba state to accept the message of peace from the Tor Tiv and allow peace to reign within the area between the Tiv and Jukun for the general development of the two states.
LEADERSHIP weekend at the event discovered that both the Jukun and Tiv friends who have lost contacts and have not met since after two years of the Tiv Jukun crisis were seen embracing themselves and exchanging pleasantries at the venue of the condolence visit.
The chairman Wukari local government council of Taraba state Hon. Daniel Adigrace who was visibly happy over the visit told our correspondent that the Tor Tiv visit was a stepping stone toward absolute peace not just between the Tiv and Jukun but the entire Benue and Taraba states.