Members of Ombatse, a spiritual group of the Eggon tribe of Nasarawa State, today attacked and unleashed terror on Agyaragu, an outskirt of Lafia, where they opened fire on targeted residences of Koro people.
Daily Trust counted three injured persons rushed into Dalhatu Araf Specialists’ Hospital (DASH), at about 3pm by a team of armed policemen, while unconfirmed sources said the tribal group had earlier on the evening of Tuesday killed three.
Several properties including the residence of Reverend Samson Agidi, a prominent Christian leader in the state, was burnt down, just as displaced persons fleeing from the arson said not less than 10 houses were burnt down, sending thick smoke which bellowed into the sky continually for 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 cleans 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.
The trouble at Agyaragu, according to fleeing residents, started around Angwan Yakubu, an area notorious for sundry crimes, after Eggon youths of the Ombaste spiritual group stormed out of a meeting, and headed after Koro people, unleashing violence on their way.
“We heard gunshots, from all directions, first at about 9am. They began to burn houses and run after people with guns and machetes and axes”, said a female youth corps member who had escaped and fled to Lafia.
The development area administration, Agidi, said he escaped an axe by a violent youth he came face to face with, when he managed to escape dozens who stormed the secretariat.
“They stormed the secretariat and began to smash vehicles and doors and window glasses. We rushed out to find ourselves before dozens of violent youths charging at us. I thank God I managed to escape”, he said.
Director of the SSS in Nasarawa State, Abubakar Bubuche told Daily Trust on phone that “there was trouble in Agyaragu”, but added that “a prompt security meeting has dispatched policemen and soldiers there, and they have brought the situation under control.”
Hamza Elayo, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), told Daily Trust at about 4pm that seven truckloads of armed soldiers sent there to reinforce security provided by policemen. “We are on top of the situation, and by God’s grace, there is peace there”, he said.
State commissioner of police, Abayomi Akeremale, confirmed widespread violence in the area, but said “it was factional clash), just as he confirmed that “three persons were injured before we got to the scene.” He said the situation was put under control by the combine efforts of armed policemen and soldiers.