BEING PROCEEEDINGS OF A MEETING OF SOME OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF THE BENUE; AND SOME OF THE NEGHBOURING DIOCESES OF THE BENUE WITH HIS ROYAL MAJESTY, DR ALFRED AKAWE TORKULA, TOR TIV IV IN GBOKO AT THE TORTIV PALACE ON THE 30TH OCTOBER 2015.

  1. OPENING PRAYER

At 10:30am the meeting started with the opening prayer led by His Lordship, Most Rev William AVENYA.

  1. ISSUES OF THE DAY

After a brief welcome to the Palace by the Secretary to His Royal Majesty, the Archbishop of Jos laid bare the reason for this encounter. He disclosed that this meeting is a follow up of the meeting previously held with His Royal Majesty, Aku-Uka (Paramount Traditional Ruler of Jukun). The meeting was aimed at ensuring sustainable peaceful coexistence between the Tiv People and the Jukun. This according to the Archbishop is one of the efforts towards crisis prevention and our readiness to respond to such upheavals when unfortunately they occur. The Archbishop was quick to observe that the role of Traditional rulers among other things is to be vanguards of peace. In this way, the Catholic Church in Benue State, Taraba and Jos oblige the Traditional rulers in these domains their unflinching solidarity to facilitate this process towards an enduring peace. Conflicts and wars according to the Archbishop have only offered our people a bad pill of recurrent poverty and impoverishment.

More worrisome, according to the Archbishop is the increasing animosity experienced today between the Tiv and the Jukun who had lived together peacefully for long, shared their dreams and struggles together and even intermarried. We have therefore come to knock on the door of the Tor Tiv Palace to invite him to join us in this our little efforts so that our people will once again experience peace and trust each other and grow as friends. In this way, our efforts towards inter and intra ethnic dialogue will be much more enhanced with the support of our rulers.

The Archbishop quickly turned the searchlight on the difficulties these conflicts have equally distracted the Church and her members. The bishops, priests are daily trying to curb and live with the displaced people while the displaced continue to live under very inhuman conditions. He then called on the Federal, State and Local Government to do her best where possible initiate programs and measures or even laws that can solve the problem of indigene or even settlers question in Nigeria.

  1. RESPONSE AND WELCOME SPEECH BY THE TOR TIV DR ALFRED AKAWE TORKULA IV

 

Permit me to warmly welcome you on behalf of the family of the Tiv Area Traditional Council and Benue State Council of Chiefs to this noble palace this morning.

I want to express my profound appreciation and gratitude for the patriotism of your Lordships, for putting in place your concerted efforts in order to find a lasting solution to the persistent conflicts between the Tiv and their neighbours in Taraba, Nasarawa and to a certain extent, Plateau States.

 

Let me hasten to say that the focus of my address is on the way forward. Therefore, I have tried not to apportion blames or say who is guilty or not guilty. Rather, I wish to highlight in my opinion what is the main reason for the conflict and to suggest possible remedies to forestall future crises in the affected areas and even beyond.

 

Since the 17th century, Your Lordships, the Tiv, Jukun and Alago having migrated from different parts of the world, found themselves living side by side in the Benue Valley, now created into Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States. Before then, particularly with the arrival of colonialism, the entire Benue Valley underwent many administrative changes:

 

  • In 1905, the entire region was known as Muri Province.
  • In 1918, the colonial Administration again changed the setup from Muri Province to Munchi Province having brought together all the tribes therein namely: Tiv, Jukun, Alago, Bassa, Idoma, Igala, Kuteb, Chamba, Koro, Gwandara, Kamberi and others.
  • Again, in 1926, Lord Palmer, the then Governor of the Northern Nigeria split Munchi Province into Benue and Kabba provinces. The Tiv tribe was balkanized and ruled from these various directions:
  1. Katsina-Ala District was merged with Ibi District to form Wukari Division under the Authority of Aku Uka.
  2. All areas west of River Katsina-Ala were placed under Ogoja and Obudu in the present Cross River State.
  3. The rest of Tiv land was placed under Lafia.
  4. In 1933, Tiv Division was created. Katsina-Ala and other areas were brought back to form this Division. But many Tiv Clans were left under Wukari Division.

3.1 CREATION OF STATE

The relationship between the Tiv people and their neighbours, particularly the Jukuns and the Alago noticeably started drifting towards socio-political hostilities with the creation of states in 1976. Before then, the Tiv, Jukun, Alago, Koro, Kamberi, Chamba, Kuteb and many others lived together in Benue-Plateau State with little or no friction.

Things started going sour in 1976 when Gongola and Benue States were created with Wukari Division Merged with parts of Adamawa province to form Gongola State and part of Kabba, (the Igala Division) excised and merged with Tiv and Idoma Divisions to form Benue State.

The Jukun and some Tiv clans went to Gongola State while other Tiv clans, the Alago, Kamberi and others were left in the new state called Plateau. The bulk of the Tiv people together with the Idoma and Igala etc., constituted Benue State.

3.2 FEAR OF DOMINATION BY THE TIV CLANS IN GONGOLA AND PLATEAU STATES

As Wukari Division comprising the Jukun and some Tiv clans went to Gongola, the Jukun felt that all socio-political opportunities and amenities coming from the Gongola Sate government to Wukari Division exclusively belonged to them. But this feeling seemed threatened by the growing population of the Tiv clans in their midst. Consequently, the Jukuns were more infuriated when Alhaji Abubakar Barde brought some Tiv people into his administration in Gongola State. To the Jukun, Alhaji Barde’s act re-echoed a painful political event in 1959 when Mr. C.T Gaza, a Tiv man defeated Alhaji Usman Sangari (Jukun), in the elections into the House of Representatives to represent Wukari Division.

3.3 STRATEGIES TO CONTAIN THE PERCIEVED TIV DOMINATION

The following strategies were mounted to flush out the Tiv people from Wukari Division, now made up of Wukari, Ibi, Donga, Usa and Takum Local Government Areas and even beyond.

  1. CONFISCATION OF FARMLANDS BELONGING TO THE TIV PEOPLE

In 1977, the Aku Uka seized all the farmlands belonging to the Mbatinyam clan without any compensation. When the inhabitants complained, their villages were set ablaze and their properties destroyed and many of them massacred by the Jukun youths. Besides, by 1990, Barrister Baba Adi and Group Captain Ibrahim Kefas forcefully seized farmlands belonging to the Tiv people. This happened because the Jukun people knew that the Tiv people were predominantly subsistent farmers and the way to incapacitate them was to dispossess them of their farmlands.

  1. SETTLERSHIP STATUS

The Tiv people have since the 17th Century lived together with the Jukuns and intermingled in such a manner that when Dr. R. Baikie of the Royal Niger Company in 1954 in Ibi, wanted to know the boundary between the Tiv and Jukun, he was simply told that the two tribes were inseparable. It is therefore difficult to understand why the same Tiv people suddenly became settlers from 1976 with the creation of Gongola and later Taraba States.

Considered non-indigenes, the Jukun feel that the Tivs should not be protected by the law in spite of their overwhelming population and the fact that they are generators of the economy of the region. They are often denied voting rights by waging war against them when general elections and registration of voters approach; the Tivs in turn are forced to flee and save their lives. Where this strategy does not seem feasible, the polling units of the Tivs are starved of electoral materials.

3.4 NASARAWA STATE

In Nasarawa State too my dear men of God, the problem has been the same as that in Taraba State. The Alago who lived peacefully with their Tiv neighbours since the 17th Century in the Benue Valley became worried of the teaming growth of the Tivs. Note that they too like the Jukun feel Nasarawa State is exclusively theirs and the overwhelming population of the Tiv people especially in Awe, Obi, Doma, Keana, and Lafia local governments only constitutes a hindrance to the Alago supremacy.

The Tiv people who helped them in wars against the Kamberi of Lafia in the early 19th Century, were all of a sudden branded 'settlers, and people not entitled to the protection of the law of the state. The Abdullahi Adamu administration of Nasarawa State in 1999 systematically coopted Tiv people into the government. This turned out to be the last straw that broke the Carmel's back. The Alago's resented this decision of the government and decided to use force in a bid to drive out the Tiv people who were now sharing socio-political opportunities with them. The Kamberi people it should be noted, migrated from Ngazaramu, present day Yobe State in 1770 (18th C) to Lafia after the Tiv people had long occupied the area. These are not regarded as settlers. The Emir of Lafia, a Kamberi, is the paramount Traditional Ruler and Chairman of the Council of Chiefs, Nasarawa State.

3.5 THE WAY FORWARD

Considering some of the aforementioned factors, I find it difficult to believe that the land and boundary disputes, strictly speaking, are responsible for the persistent conflicts between the Tiv and their neighbours: Jukun in Taraba and Alago in Nasarawa. Against this background, I would like to suggest the way forward as follows:

  1. In general terms, the fear of domination of one ethnic group over another arises from the competition for scarce opportunities in the country.
  2. Communities should learn to live in peace and in harmony with persons outside their ethnic enclaves bearing in mind that, no person, not even any ethnic group owns Nigeria and that Nigeria belongs to all and to God alone.
  3. Traditional Rulers should be in the vanguard to ease tensions in their domains and not generators of, or accomplices in communal feuds. Any breach of this should be seriously sanctioned.
  4. The Federal Government should come up with appropriate legislation to address the categorization of other ethnic groups as indigenes, settlers or immigrants which in my opinion is the source of socio-political and economic problems of this country.

Finally, may I thank all of you for listening and may we all be abundantly blessed.

  1. VOTE OF THANKS

In his vote of thanks the Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama expressed his profound appreciation on behalf of all the bishops. He commended the quality and success of our interaction. He made a confessional statement that the address of the Tor Tiv truly opened his eyes to see that these efforts should indeed go beyond just Jukun and Tiv but also to include Nasarawa State.

The meeting came to an end at 12:45pm with the closing prayer led by His Lordship, Most Rev Wilfred Anagbe CMF.

  1. ATTENDANCE
  1. His Royal Majesty, DR Alfred Torkula Tor Tiv IV
  2. His Grace, Most Rev Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos
  3. His Lordship, Most Rev William Avenya, Bishop of Gboko
  4. His Lordship, Most Rev Wilfred Anagbe, CMF Bishop of Makurdi
  5. His Lordship, Most Rev Charles Hammawa, Bishop of Jalingo (Represented by his Vicar General)
  6. His Lordship, Most Rev Peter Adoboh, Bishop of Katsina Ala (Represented by his Vicar General)
  7. His Royal Highness, Ter IKyoor, Thomas Jam Gbinde
  8. His Royal Highness, Ter Katsina Ala, Dr Vezanga Wombo
  9. His Royal Highness, Ter Buruku, David Afatyo Ajoko
  10. His Royal Highness, Ter Makurdi, Dr. J.D Sule Abenga
  11. His Royal Highness, Ter Kwande, Hilary Ikyima
  12. His Royal Highness, Ter Gwer East, Dominic Ortseega Akpe
  13. His Royal Highness, Ter Gboko II, Gabriel Shosum.
  14. Some priests from Gboko, Jos, Jalingo, Katsina Ala dioceses and
  15. Gentlemen of the Press