Nasarawa Arson: Traditional Ruler, Sister, Burnt To Death (UPDATE)

Nasarawa Arson: Traditional Ruler, Sister, Burnt To Death (UPDATE)

He ran from Gidan Rai, in the neighbouring Doma Local Government Area, to take refuge in Agyaragu in the neighbouring Jenkwe, but Zhe Meri, the district head of Gidan Rai and his elder sister were roasted to death in a house where they have been taking refuge.

His keepers ran and escaped from the attack of Wednesday, by Ombatse, a spiritual group of Eggon people of Nasarawa State, whose members stormed Agyaragu and targeted residents of Koro people for killing and burning.

The deceased traditional ruler was trapped in the house, where he was burnt alongside his elder sister, displaced persons who returned to the town to speak to a team of government officials, led by the deputy governor, Dameshi Barua Luka, said.

Reporters were shown to the building, where the charred remains of the traditional rule’s corpse and that of his sister, were sighted at a corner of the burnt one-room apartment.

Smoke was still bellowed from the building, which was part of a large compound sacked by Ombatse.  

The administrator of Jenkwe Development Area, Wuduyamba Agidi, who led the deputy governor round the now deserted town, confirmed that nine persons including children, were killed and their bodies burnt.

Related Article: Tribal Clash Kills 7 in Nasarawa

Death toll rises in Nasarawa mayhem

Death toll has continued to rise from the crisis-hit Agyaragu, at the outskirt of Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, where arsonists stormed the town along Lafia-Makurdi Road, and unleashed violence for about 10 hours on Wednesday.

By early Thursday, when the state deputy governor, Dameshi Barau Luka, and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Hamza Elayo as well as heads of security agencies in the state, paid a visit to the town, nine corpses including children were sighted at various points of the deserted town.

Most of the corpses sited had machete and axe cuts, and were burnt, either on streets or inside the many of the houses burnt down.

At a point, an elderly man, who remained speechless before the visiting government team, sat quiet on the veranda of his burnt house, with his head buried in his palms as he mourned his son whose burnt body was lying only metres away.

Agidi Dachu, the elderly man, said he watched his son being butchered, when he finally opened his mouth to speak.

“I couldn’t recognize any of the youths who stormed our house and began to burn down. They bore guns, machetes and axes, and went from home to home, burning down. They held my son and butchered him, after which they set fire on him”, the elderly man said.

At another spot, displaced persons who said they slept in the bush, had just returned and were picking up the little that was left of their burnt homes.

“We are leaving to Doma town. We will remain there”, said one of them.

But the deputy governor, Dameshi Barau Luka, appealed to them to stay back, assuring them of tighter security efforts to protect lives and property.

Truckloads of soldiers and armed policemen could be seen on ground, most of them stationed along Lafia-Makurdi Road, to secure travelers.

Members of Ombatse, a die-hard spiritual group of the Eggon tribe of Nasarawa State, morning of Wednesday, attacked and unleashed arson on Agyaragu, where they opened fire on targeted residences of Koro people in a crisis that stretched for 10 hours.

The administrator of Jenkwe Development Area, Wuduyamba Agidi, also a Koro, was attacked at about 10am, at the council secretariat along Lafia-Makurdi Road, by members of Ombatse who bore dangerous weapons including guns, machetes and axes, and led an invasion that lasted over an hour there.

Christianity and Islam are strong among Eggons, one of Nasarawa State’s most populous ethnic groups; and who spread across all of the state, but age-long traditional values including Ombatse, still have their place and roots, and are being jealously guarded against erosion.

Ombatse, which means “time has come”, and which practitioners claim is a traditional religion handed to man from heaven, is a mysticism which seeks to cleanse society of sundry ills, including adultery, fornication, public theft, drunkenness, smoking, envy, killing; to pave the way for the culture of morality and chastity.

The spiritual practice which was hitherto silent, and spoken about only at whisper level, recently became bold among the people, with its leaders claiming that heightening societal ills have provoked them into a crusade in the hope to cleanse the land.

Its day is Saturday, according to the practitioners, who have said on such days, new members are initiated, and oaths are administered to converts to cleans them of their sins. But women are never allowed near Alogani Centre, a popular initiation area in Nasarawa-Eggon, during the cleansing ceremony, except unmarried teenagers who are believed to be pure from fornication.

Young male converts wear black dresses and caps to match, and proud themselves as possessing native bullet proof to protect them against gun bullets.

Only last Saturday, hundreds of Ombatse members engaged three truckloads of soldiers and men of the State Security Service (SSS), and shot three personnel, after the security agents drove to Alogani Centre during an initiation ceremony, to make inquiries. The group later stormed out of the bush, and poured into Lafia-Akwanga Road, and obstructed traffic for about five hours, unleashing violence on travelers, until Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura drove their to plead them for calm.

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