SEVEN YEARS AFTER THE OMBATSE KILLINGS, PERPETRATORS ARE YET TO BE BROUGHT TO BOOK
On Tuesday the seventh of May 2013, Seventy-four security officers died in one of the most ruthless attacks on security forces by a local militia, in Alakyo, Nasarawa State.
The slain security officers, 64 police officers and 10 DSS died in an ambush on their way to arrest the spiritual leader of the Ombatse cult, Baba Alakyo.
Seven years after, the killers are yet to be brought to book. The Ombatse cult is growing stronger, the country is moving on- but the families of the slain await to get justice.
Background to the Killings
The Nasarawa state government banned all ethnic militia in 2012 because of the high level of communal violence in the state. But there were reports that the Ombatse militia continued unabated.
The morning of the ill-fated Tuesday, 11 Hilux trucks filled with 115 officers embarked on a mission to arrest the leader of a cult who security reports claim was responsible for forceful initiation of young men into Ombatse, a proscribed religious cult.
Unknown to security officials, a mole had leaked the information to the members of the Ombatse, who waited in ambush.
Two police corporals of Eggon origin, Enugu Baba and Haruna Joseph alleged to have been the moles were arrested and paraded.
[LEFT] MOHAMMED DIKKO ABUBAKAR FORMER IGP [2012-2014]
[RIGHT]MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR ADAMU CURRENT POLICE IGP
One would expect that the Federal Government would use its full might to make a lesson out
of the cult members responsible for the death of federal agents but sadly, that is not the case.
It has been seven harrowing years, and the Nigerian court has not concluded trials of the accused suspects because of different stalling tactics.
As at September 2019, Enugu Baba, and three others accused of having a connection in the killings of the 74 law enforcement officers were in court, but the hearing of the case could not progress because the prosecuting counsel, Williams Akika, told the court that the third witness was out of the country.
The first hint that the Federal Government would not aggressively bring the murderers to book was at the candlelight service held in honour of the 10 DSS officials murdered. The then Director-General of the DSS, Ita Ekpeyong was quoted to have announced that the DSS had "forgiven" the ruthless killers of its members.
[LEFT] Ita Ekpeyong former Director-General DSS [2010-2015]
[RIGHT] Yusuf Magaji Bichi Current Director General DSS
J M Ayuba in his book, 'Ombatse An invention of Tradition and Understanding Communal Conflicts in Nasarawa state, quoted Ekpeyong: "even though our spirits and will are cast in iron, yet we have forgiven you." Ekpeyong went on to hand over the murderers to the "Almighty God since HE taught us vengeance is mine."
Such words might be appropriate around religious circles but what happens to the families of the deceased? Would they not get justice? More grave is the message such a stance sends to the people.
Image of a poster of the 10 DSS officials killed in Nasarawa
Colleagues who barely escaped with their lives witnessed what would have been the aftermath of their death- the country will forgive and forget.
A country that forgives the unforgivable
Nigeria has built a reputation of pardoning criminals who wreak havoc on the country.
Case in point, President Muhammad Buhari, a retired military general granted amnesty to "repentant" Boko Haram militants- a sect whose decade-long armed campaign has so far killed about 36,000 people and displaced nearly two million in northeastern Nigeria, according to the United Nations.
Scores of military men and other security officers lost their lives in the battle against the insurgency, yet Nigeria chose to "forgive."
President Umaru Yar' Adua also offered unconditional payment and Amnesty to Niger Delta militants who agreed to lay down their arms. And the government still funds their rehabilitation programs to date. Their sins of killings, kidnappings, bombings, economic sabotage all "forgiven."
The unintended and wry message these precedents is reinforcing is that Nigeria is not worth dying for- A troubling thought in times like these when the survival of countries around the world is based on the patriotic acts and selfless sacrifices of its citizens.
There are indications that the Ombatse militia enjoys the protection and support of the government.
Senator Umaru Tanko Al Makura, the then Governor of Nasarawa state, denied sponsoring the Ombatse militia but admitted to newsmen that he gave them One million naira as "transport" after 11 of them came visiting.
"Since I did not offer them lunch, I did not give them any refreshment, I felt the one million naira can take care of their transportation," Senator Al Makura said in 2013.
[LEFT] UMARU TANKO EX GOVERNOR OF NASARAWA STATE
[RIGHT]ABDULLAHI SULE PRESENT NASARAWA STATE GOV
The Commission of Inquiry on the Ombatse killings in 2014, indicted Senator Ewuga, who was representing Nasarawa North Senatorial District, Haruna Kigbu, the then Representative member of Lagos Obi Federal Constituency, and Nathaniel Mesa, who was the Nasarawa House of Assembly member representing Lafia North constituency.
The commission said it discovered that Senator Ewuga and other Eggon elders were financing and supporting the Ombatse militia.
All the indicted persons are still active in politics.
It is safe to infer that this explains the reason the Ombatse cult is still thriving despite the death of its leader Baba Alakyo. And why seven years later, the court is yet to give judgement on the case.
This echoes former President Jonathan's controversial assertion in 2012, when he said sympathisers of the Boko Haram group were in his government.
The events over the years show that a militant is more likely to get a presidential pardon, a scholarship, and a slush government job than the average law-abiding and hardworking citizens.
If heed is not taken, other militia's will begin to rise. The Nigerian government must nip the Ombatse cult in the bud before things spiral out of control.
But first, the DSS and other law enforcement agencies must insist that the perpetrators of the killing of their dead colleagues, though forgiven, must be brought to book.
One of the widows of the slain officials weeping burial
It is pertinent to state here that the DSS do take care of their own. The agency gave families of the fallen heroes in Ombatse N15 million each in addition to death benefits. We have no evidence that the police gave anything more than the statutory required death benefits.
But then, money can not plug all holes. The families crave justice.
Today and always, Eons Intelligence remembers the 64 policemen and 10 DSS officers who paid the ultimate price for Nigeria on the seventh of May, 2013.
We honour Nimsel Ponfa, Salihu Suhununu, Paul Samuel, Alliu Shehu, Daniel John Paul, Julius Ber, Durfa Nandu Timman, Benjamin Abughul, Mohammad Isah Gobir, Thomas Nomsule Terzungwe and others whose names we do not know.