Sankera and the security measures

By Denen Achussah

The people of Sankera have accepted their fate. The snag is that rather than consider why the security measures in Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs, many commenting on the restriction on mode of transportation in the LGAs say it is what (Governor Samuel) Ortom wills for them.

There are no motorcycles, which hitherto were the fastest and commonest means of transportation in our rural areas. No “Duck Nyash” Toyota car is permitted to ply Sankera roads. It is about the fifth month now, since tough security measures were put in place to tame rising wave of insecurity in Sankera.

The problem

On 29th December, 2020, the Benue State Security Council slammed ban on operation of motorcycles in Katsina-Ala and Ukum LGAs, imposing a dusk to dawn curfew in addition. This came following nearly daily reports of killings and other elements of criminality and banditry in the two LGAs.

In spite the measures, killings and kidnappings continued unabated. On 4th March, 2021, the council would extend the measures to Logo, following the murder of Chief Terkula, elder brother of former Governor and Benue North East Senator Gabriel Suswam, with his aide, Solomon. Sankera has come fully, under the watch list of the security apparatus of state.

The heightened insecurity was without reason, according to findings. Based on investigation, the so-called militia were protesting two things: One, the murder of Terwase Akwaza a.k.a Gana by the Nigerian Special Forces and two, that they are tagged bandits and or militia, having helped politicians win elections, in addition to struggle over control of revenue in markets.

So, even after the murder of Terkula, and after he was burried, pockets of broad day light attack on markets and a Catholic Mission Agu, in the areas under curfew were recorded.

The current situation

The murder of Rev.Fr Ferdinand Ngugban of Aye Twar parish, Agu Centre, in the Easter period of 2021 seems to have changed the course of events in Sankera. It is over a month now and no killing or kidnap has been reported, save for the Friday, 23rd and Saturday 24th April, 2021, military invasion of the Palaces of Mue Ter Cha, HRH Utambe Nyagba and Zaki Teran Kwaghbo, Tyoor Lumbuv.

No life was lost in the invasion. However, there is evidence of humongous economic lost due to burning of storage produce, domestic machinery, fertilizer, vandalised Peugeot 504 and what pundits describe as looting.

Could it be the full enforcement of the security measures that has checked activities of “bandits” or the murder of Rev. Ngugban or the peace meetings that are engineered at the various levels that are bringing about relative peace in Sankera?

This, and the fact that transporters have taken advantage of the security measures to exploit locals and the reason of the farming season, there are pitch high calls for review of the measures.

Why the calls

But Katsina-Ala, Zaki Biam, Ugba, which are council headquarters and semi-urban areas, Sankera is largely a rural area. Over 90 per cent of the population depends on agriculture and agriculture related activities with the remaining 10 per cent engaging in other sectors of the economy.

Now, transportation fare has increased significantly, even with the relocation of transporters to Sankera to augment the already existent allowed means of transportation. Intra town transportation is limited to tricycles (Keke NAPEP) and available taxis.

A “drop,” which ordinarily costs N50 in Makurdi is N100 in Sankera. Fare has also increased significantly in connecting communities. Ugba to Zaki Biam, which hitherto was for N300 Naira is now N400.

It becomes more challenging, having to access hinterlands. And because of the curfew, it is dangerous accepting to be conveyed on motorcycle for fear of the unknown. You never can tell when you will be apprehended for violating the measure.

Apart from that, it is observed that the 6pm to 6am curfew has been relaxed, even though there is no communication to that effect by the State Security Council. Locals say the development is in view of the Ramadan period. “Uke mba a igbinda ve (Muslims have their own ways over us). So, if with the relaxation, nothing untoward has happened, then, there is cause to hold that there is justification in the call for review of some of the measures.

It is gratifying, the role of the Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese and Administrator Sede Vacante of Katsina-Ala Diocese Most Revd. William Amove Avenya in ensuring that peace returns to Sankera.

Politicians, who are accused of breeding this cankerworm are also making significant efforts in ensuring that Sankera knows peace.

Last weekend, at a reception in honour of Rep Richard Gbande, at Government Science and Technical College Sankera, the Ukum LGC Chair Steve Ayua said Sankera is at the verge of knowing peace again.

With the absence of killings, up to a period of over one month now and in view of the difficulties due to transportation, may it please the Benue State Security Council, under the leadership of His Excellency Samuel Ortom, the Executive Governor of Benue State to cause a meeting of the council to review the measures in Sankera to further enhance peace process in the area.

Kwagh hemba liam ga. Ijua kpa ngi anôr kpa iyav sha Ake. Shi se de nen u nôngon ayol a ase; ka nahan man se kôr chio u hemban mba ve kase ityav sha a vese la e.

Truly, when I came about one barricade on the Abuku-Ugba-Zaki Biam Road, at Gbanyam, what came to my mind was the fence at the border area between north and south Korea.

Sankera has been cut off from the rest of the state? You have to change vehicles (especially if you are travelling on motorcycle or Duck Nyash), at the border to cross into Sankera. It is something I’ve experienced personally. Haba angbianev; Sankera is not Afghanistan.

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