THE Jukuns in Taraba State yesterday raised alarm over a series of killings by gunmen and suspected kidnappers in the southern part of the state within the last few weeks.
Activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) and the Junkun Development Association of Nigeria, at a news conference at the Falana and Falana law firm, Adekunle Fajuyi Way, GRA, Ikeja, expressed concern over the killings – many of which they lamented “go unreported”.
The association’s National President, Bako Benjamin, said no fewer than 148 Junkuns abducted from their houses in the last few weeks are still being held in captivity by gunmen.
He said there are other victims, who are Yoruba, Igbo, and other tribes, adding that the association could not give their names because they did not have them.
Benjamin said the situation in Takun communities in southern Taraba State is worse than what is happening in Zamfara State.
“In the past, people get removed from their cars, if you are traveling in a flashy car on the roads and they take to the bush. But today, because people have avoided the roads, they go to houses and removed people from their houses and demanded ransom and sometimes, even after ransom is paid, they still kill them.
“As we speak, one Alhaji Mayo, who runs some filling stations in Takun, he was removed from his house, taken to the bush and they used his phones to call his family and demanded N200 million. They negotiated and after selling a lot of his property, they managed to raise N105 million, which they collected.
“As if that was not enough, they told the wife to drive all the man’s cars to a location. They took all the cars and drove them away. Just yesterday (Saturday), the younger brother called and said they have been impoverished. The man is still with them in the bush in captivity.
“A hotelier, Ahmadu Emmanuel, they wanted to abduct him from his house. He resisted, he was shot dead in cold blood. That was two weeks ago.
“One Sule Audu, a medical doctor, they abducted him too from Takun. They asked for N10 million. After they mobilised and tried and sourced the money and delivered, they switched off their phones. Another group used another phone to call the family and said, ‘where is the money?’. They said ‘we’ve given you the money’ and they said they must have given it to another group. Look, your man is with us, better go and look for another N10 million to secure his release. The daughter, who is also a doctor, just collapsed and she is still in a coma as we speak.”
He listed other people abducted by from their homes as including one lawyer, Yagura Lena, who still being held after a ransom was paid; one Joy Ubadene, who is still in captivity and a member of the state assembly, Osia Aiyegbe, who was killed after a ransom was paid.
“We are in deep trouble, far worse from what is happening in Zamfara. Our people no longer travel home and those at home have started leaving to join their families in Lagos. Except something is done urgently, the Jukun communities in Taraba would become extinct,” he said.
Benjamin said commercial activities have grounded to a halt throughout Taraba.
Benjamin and Falana urged state governors, together with the president, to take charge of the situation by setting up appropriate policing agencies.
He lamented that state governors have abdicated their responsibility to the President, adding that is why the impression is being given as if what the country has is a federal police force.
Falana said the 1999 Constitution (as amended) envisaged that police powers shall be managed by the president and the governors.
“Between 2003 and now, the National Assembly has established the Civil Defence Corps with powers to bear arms. In addition, the Prison Service, Customs, Immigration, and others are also allowed to bear arms whereas Section 214 of the Constitution says, there shall be only one police force in Nigeria.
“So if the Federal Government sets up forces and other agencies that can bear arms, why are state governors shying away?” he asked.
He noted that the President once expressed the fear that a state that cannot pay salaries cannot be allowed to arm young men and women.
He contended that if the security of the country must be ensured, the salaries and allowances of security personnel for every state should be deducted from the source so that the question of not being paid would not arise.