ATABOR JULIUS our Kogi state Correspondent on the incessant attack on the
village leading to over 200 deaths and property worth millions of naira being
torched twice in less than four years.
The ancient town of Bagana in Omala Local Government Area of
Kogi state.which is bounded on the north to River Benue separating it from
Guto, Umaisha , Obatukwu and Loko in Nasarawa state ,and on the East by Agatu
LGA of Benue state and 15km away from Abejukolo, headquarters of the LGA
, with a riverine access to Lokoja the kogi state capital .
Bagana with a rough population of over 35 thousand
inhabitants has diverse ethnic tribes , such as Igala, Agatu, Hausa, Nupe;
Kakanda, Yoruba , Ebira koto, Ibo, Kanuri, Eppe and so many other minor
tribes living today in peace and harmony.
Its diversity and location on bank of river Benue and her
proximity to the Federal capital territory (FCT) has earned her over the
years the reputation of being the hub of doing business in
Omala LGA ,which boast of a thriving and prosperous
commodity and cow markets that to date respected the intellectual
postulation of the legend of the 19th century economist ”
Adams Smith’ s Trade by Barter.”.
Although modernity has changed the trade in most part of Nigeria, the trade by barter as a means of exchange has largely remained intact in Bagana market. In the market, one does not really need to have money to buy what he or she wants, but with farm produce such as yams, cassava flour, millets and guinea corn which are produced by farmers from the hinterlands are being exchanged with fishes and other aquatic lives, beans and cereals which are produced in abundant by the riverine people of Nasarawa state thereby eliminating the incidence of inflation that has ravaged the business spectrum across the country
Another thing that made Bagana unique was that it played host to colonial traders of John Holt conglomerate in the early 19th century. The trading giant established their warehouses for their goods and built residential settlements for their officials, which today have remained historical relics.
Unfortunately, all these uniqueness of the town have change for booming guns and bellowing smoke that have twice in four years ruined the communities with no fewer than 200 lives lost, and property worth millions of naira razed down.
Alhaji Shaibu Audu, a retired civil servant. He had hoped to retire to his village to continue with the textile business that his late father left behind. He had used his long time savings to remodel his buildings in the village and built new shops that will warehouse his would be business. He had concluded plans to move to the village with his family to start the business, alas that was not to be as a week to his planned relocation ,the whole property went in flames by the Fulani herdsmen and Agatu militias from Benue state.
Another victim of the fulani/ Agatu violent clash in
Bagana is an Architect Gambo Ogwaje, a lecturer with the Federal Polytechnic
Nassarawa, who within a few months built a master piece apartment in honour of
his birthplace, even though his family have technically relocated to
Nassawa state was razed down by Agatu / Fulani militias.
Alhaji Shaibu and Mallam Gambo were not alone in the tales of
woes as thousands have been rendered homeless; many maimed and killed creating
huge humanitarian challenges. Bagana, had lived together in peace before
the influx of the displaced Fulani / Agatu people from Benue
state in 2013 to borderline communities of Ajokpachi-Odo, Agojeju-Odo,
Obakume Icheke and of course Bagana with its peculiarly of a multi tribal
community which has now altered the hitherto mutual trust and
peaceful coexistence among the people for the booming guns and
arsons that had reduced it to rubbles.
Bagana got entangled for its magnanimity, for allowing the
warring factions, who have inflicted pains on each other in Benue state to take
refuge in her domain. The aftermath of her generosity has permanently
created insecurity in the whole communities of Omala LGA. Out of these
borderline villages Bagana was the worst hit by the Fulani / Agatu clashes.
They have turned the village to a theatre of war with attendant destruction to
lives and properties.
Bagana is noted as the hub of business in Omala LGA, had a
striving cattle market. It has sizeable Fulani and Hausa indigenes as well as Agatus before
the displaced Agatu and Fulani herders in Benue state to the area. Trouble
seemed to have been ignited when the Agatu refugees returned to
their native villages to fortify themselves. However , despite peace moves to
restore mutual trust through the deployment of the detachment of
Army personnel to keep vigil over these villages in the late 2014 , the
Agatu Militias numbering over thirty armed with sophisticated weapons stormed
the Bagana cattle market who shot sporadically into the crowd killing
four persons, scores wounded, and over 32 cows killed.
According to the Agatu militias, the attack on the cattle market
which was being managed by the Hausas and other related tribes in Bagana was a
signal to stop aiding and abetting the Fulani attackers. With the successful
deadly operation, the militias have turned Hausa/ Fulani source of livelihood
as cows were hunted for and killed without provocation.
In order to stem the tide of the destruction of lives and
property, the then chairman of the council Hon. Labaran Oyigebe constituted a
peace committee on the crisis headed by the then Secretary to Council, Hon,
Atabor Julius, the District head, Alhaji Ali Haruna, the chiefs of Hausa,
Otutubatu and Ihankpe , youth leader as members.
However , the gains of the committee was short-lived as on 14th December ,2014, the Fulani herdsmen, launched deadly reprisals killing over 50 persons ,completely razed down, the town with property worth millions of naira lost to the inferno rendering thousands as internally displaced persons who have to flee to the neighbouring communities, such as Idirisu, Okpotala Umaisha, Loko in Nasarawa state Obakume, Abejukolo , the headquarters of the Council and infact just anywhere within and outside the state.
With determined efforts of the government at reassuring the people of their security, people started to return home to rebuilding their houses and businesses. And when the people thought that peace has actually been achieved, and plans were at advance stage to roll out drums to celebrate four years of achieving peace, rumours of reprisal from the Agatu gunmen attack on Fulani settlement enveloped the area.
True to their fears, four young men from Bagana were ambushed and massacred on their farms. The palpable fears of attack continued till on Sunday 7th April, 2019 when the herders invaded Bagana , killed some police men on guard of the town, burnt down some houses , while no fewer than 15 persons mostly women and children were killed.
Sadly, on the following day, youths from Agatu took their turn and burnt down houses belonging to the Hausas elements in which scores were also killed even as the destruction spree moved to Ogba and Patanyi villages where houses were torched and about 16 persons mostly the elderly and women were massacred.
According to some indigenous people, the crises could only
be resolved if the people and the government are determined to resolve the
Hitherto, Bagana is being ruled by Gago. But when Bagana was made a District, Alhaji Allih Haruna was appointed a district head and a third class chief of Oga Onu Ife. As it won’t with change, there was initial protest from mostly the Hausa elements over his qualification. Although, the protest was swiftly resolved, the District head was not quick to forget the revolt against him.
In the same breadth, two hostile clans– Otutubatu and Ihankpe have started to put their foothold on the town. Otutubatu with its headquarters at Omagede and Ihankpe dominate Patanyi until a retired Army lieutenant Mr Ochi ascended the throne of Ihankpe. Instead of running his palace from Patanyi, the headquarters of his clan he relocated the domain to Bagana. His actions was considered affront by the Otutubatu clan as chains of events led to violent deaths on either side and uninterrupted litigators.
However, the new Otutubatu chief Alhaji Salifu equally
relocated his palace to Bagana brandied court judgement ceding Bagana to him.
The no love lost continued until 2013 when refugees from Agatu / Fulani crisis
in Benue state pushed the belligerents to Bagana and other borderline villages
of Omala LGA.
Ironically, the Hausa elements was marked and designated as settlers
who must be crushed. Their business was targeted. The cow market mostly traded
by the Hausa elements was systematically attacked. Fulani herders considered the
some people in the village as collaborators who randomly attacked and kill
their cows allegedly using Agatu militias as killer joy. According to some
pundits, the two clan heads should relocate back to their domain while the
District head should assume total control of his district as a panacea for peace.
The Public Private partnership on bridge constructions on river Benue at Bagana and Guto in Nassarawa state was a fertile ground for hatred. The compensation was ill managed. The tax as revenue from markets and other resources were fiercely contested, as government become disinterested or lacked political will to directly collect the revenues.
Indigenes and Settlers Dichotomy
With the Sheriffs of the District head, Chief of Otutubatu and Ihankpe dictating the shots, the Hausa elements whose progenitors have lived in Bagana for more than 200 years were labelled as settlers who must be subjugated. Hate speeches against them was widely circulated.
with the fallout of Agatu / Fulani war which closed down once thriving Oweto and Ogwumogbo markets in Agatu LGA in Benue state, the people have not hid their envy on Bagana Market.
of Security Presence
With a rough population estimate of over 50,000 inhabitants, no single security outpost in the town and its three surrounding villages. Bagana with its peculiar location on the bank of River Benue, it attracts criminal activities from the neighbouring Nasarawa and Benue states which requires the naval outpost and police station to curtail crimes and criminality.