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Gunmen allegedly kill 9, injure many in Kogi

About nine persons were allegedly killed and scores injured by unknown gunmen that attacked Bagana Community in Omala Local Government Area in the late hours of Tuesday night.

An eyewitness, who survived by a whisker, the staccato gunshots and who did not want his name in print for the fear of being targeted by the militias, told our correspondent that the gunmen invaded a provision shop located in the heart of the village and opened fire, killing four persons on the spot, adding that the attackers then went on shooting spree in which many other people who were running to escape were hit by stray bullets.

He disclosed that he counted five dead bodies from his hiding place, which included one Alias Barrister, a diesel oil dealer and a dispensary staff of the Local Government Health Centre at Ogba, residing in Bagana.

The Force Public Relations Officer of the state command, DSP William Aya, who confirmed the incident said one Usman Salifu called the DPO on phone around 9.30pm on Tuesday that his shop has being attacked by gunmen leading to the death of his sales boy, Bashir Sule and three other customers, while scores sustained various degrees of injury.

He added that on receipt of the distress call, the DPO mobilised his men to the scene and evacuated some of the injured to the hospital for treatment, adding that the force has commenced manhunt to bring the perpetrators to book.

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He said that peace has returned and assured the people to return home to continue with their legitimate businesses.

Another villager while recounting his ordeal to our correspondent said they were woken up from their sleep by the gunshots as they scampered into the bush for safety, while lamenting that the incessant killings of innocent citizens and wanton burning of their houses by the marauders since 2014 has become a nightmare and called on the Federal Government, Kogi State Government and security agencies to come to their aid.

He added that the village had lost over 300 of her indigenes and had lost property worth billions of naira to the unending attacks by the militias allegedly invited from Benue and Nasarawa states, adding that the crisis that started between Agatu militias and Fulani herders from Benue State has rendered the town helpless, as the efforts by the state government to curtail the rampage proved abortive.

“About five months ago, the same shop which belonged to Musa Salifu one of the sons of an embattled Onu Otutubatu Salifu Anyebe was attacked in which he sustained gunshots wounds,” he said.

The locals, while recounting their ordeal, said that since December 2014, the village has been violently attacked on two occasions 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 neighbouring villages and some other states, lamenting that no sooner that life started returning to the community than the orgy of killings resumed again.

Also, a prominent Hausa Chief, 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 visited home for Sallah celebrations, were gruesomely murdered by the vagabonds even as the video of their torture to death had gone viral.

They alleged that the trouble may not have been unconnected with the supremacy battle of who controls the resources of the town by the four major tribes, Igala, Hausa, Otutubatu and Ihankpe.

“Bagana, a multiethnic tribe, 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 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 unfortunately, the warning fell on deaf ears.

“The current 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 locals said.

A community leader, Ismaila Umar while speaking to our correspondent on phone, urged Governor Yahaya Bello to establish 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 using militias to whip everybody to order.

However, the District Head and Oga Onu Ife, a third class chief, Alih Haruna, who our correspondent gathered had literally abandoned his palace to another village for safety, could not be reached for comment.

However, the paramount ruler of Omala Local Government Area, Onuh Ife (Joogba), HRH Boniface Musa condemned the killings and urged the chairman of the council, Ibrahim Aboh and Governor Bello to enforce the earlier directive to the unauthorised chiefs in Bagana to relocate to their domains.

The paramount ruler 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, where he gave a stern directive to the chiefs of Otutubatu, Salifu Anyebe and Ihankpe’s representative to relocate back to their domains of Omagede and Patanyi, respectively.

He wondered why Onu Otutubatu, 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 invokes his powers in ensuring that the Onuh Otutubatu is forced to respect his directive on relocation, peace would continue to elude the area, and carnage would continue to be the order of the day 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 practised. The former president Olusegun Obasanjo in May 2007, two weeks to the expiration of his tenure, signed agreement with Global Tolls, the first in bridge construction in Nigeria, to construct a bridge from Bagana to Guto across the River Benue leading to the FCT through public private partnership (PPP). The bridge construction, which has reached advanced stage, has since been abandoned.

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