If there is anything that should give us sleepless nights in Benue, it is the wanton killings and destruction of property in the Sankera area of the state.
Benue, the hitherto, most peaceful state in North Central Nigeria is gradually becoming an uninhabitable killing field with tragic occurrences looking like a norm.
It is no longer news that Katsina Ala, Ukum and Logo have become hotbeds of attacks before and after the gruesome assassination of Terwase Akwaza a.k.a Gana who was gruesomely murdered, despite repenting and willingly presenting himself for an amnesty programme of the Benue State Government.
Since he was assassinated, the streams of attacks and killings in the area have rather increased exponentially; not even the church and the clergy are spared.
The Benue State Security Council in an attempt to minimize the attacks, recently banned the use of motorcycles and later, “duck nyash” cars but all these measures have practically yielded no much positive impact as the attacks are rather increasing day by day.
Having come to this elastic point, finding out the specific grievances of the revolting young men, disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating the militiamen in Sankera, majority of whom were said to have on their own, surrendered to the aborted amnesty initiative is imperative. Something has to be done and quickly too before these attacks would unfortunately be replicated in the entire state.
The fact remains evidently clear that the last amnesty attempt in Benue has “murdered” trust between the State Government and the group. However, it is possible to once again, re- engage the aggrieved militiamen in another round of confidence building process, with reliable mutual ceasefire agreements.
Part of the Niger Delta amnesty template can be adopted, with the Federal Government of Nigeria granting the group PRESIDENTIAL PARDON that would make them immune to arrest by the Army and criminal prosecution, while they peacefully surrender to Amnesty Programme in trust.
This calls for a thorough negotiation with the Federal Government and all leaders of Benue State; Gov. Samuel Ortom, Senator Dr George Akume, Senator David Mark, Senator Dr. Gabriel Suswam, HRM Tor Tiv, the Och’ Idoma and other relevant stakeholders should be involved in the process. I am hopeful that Sankera people would cooperate with the government in achieving this peace deal, if the process guarantees credibility and fair play.
The Catholic Church has equally become a victim of these killings and the recent assassination of Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Ngugban is a painful experience, yet, the church should not be deterred in praying and fighting for the peace of Sankera.
As it stands, the Sankera people seem helpless and to even comment on killings in the area is done reluctantly for fear of the unknown.
But there is no harm in trying again, as surrendering to fate with sealed lips is tantamount to sitting on a ticking time bomb that would soon explode and consume the whole state.
Sankera may seem far from Makurdi and other parts of the state but evil has the tendency of spreading like wide fire. Already, Otukpo has recorded two death cases that wear semblance of the Sankera attacks.
If these attacks and killings continue unchecked, they will embolden the youths of other communities to also take up arms against their people and Benue would become bloodier than the North East situation. It is better we act than be consumed in our negligence.
Sankera is the headquarters of yam production in the whole world and the youth of the area should please, give peace a chance so as to safeguard and preserve their heritage. I beg you all in the spirit of Easter to stop these killings!
Arc. Achado Asema lives in Abuja