SUSPECTED Fulani gunmen, in the early hours of Friday, killed no fewer than 23 people in Tawari, a community in Kogi Local Government Area of Kogi State, burning buildings, including churches and the palace of the king of the community.

Tawari community is a few kilometers off Gegu town along the Lokoja-Abuja highway.

A resident told Saturday Tribune that the he believed that the attack was a reprisal by the gunmen suspected to be herdsmen.

According to him, security operatives killed four herdsmen believed to be kidnappers recently at a location along Lokoja-Abuja highway following a tip-off by members of Tawari community’s vigilance group and the latest attack on the village must have stemmed from that incident.

A resident of Tawari community, Mrs Comfort Solomon, who survived the attack, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the gunmen numbering about 100 invaded the community late on Thursday.

She said the gunmen came on motorcycles and descended on the village, killing and burning buildings until the early hours of Friday.

Solomon said many places of worship, including the palace of the Akuma of Tawari were burnt down by the invaders.

“The gunmen were up to 100 in number. They came into the community with motorcycles around 11.15 p.m. when villagers were sleeping.

“They entered selected houses, stole foodstuff and motorcycles and burnt selected houses, including homes of clerics.

“They killed more than 15 men. The attackers were communicating with one another in Hausa language,” Solomon stated amid sobs.

Similarly, a journalist in Minna, Niger State, Mrs Rita Nuhu, an indigene of Tawari, who also spoke to NAN on telephone on the development, said that her father’s house was burnt down during the attack.

“My people have been calling me from home that my father’s house was burnt down by the attackers. My mother and her sister were ordered out of the house after which the house was set ablaze, while about 15 men were killed.

Nuhu said that latest information she got from her village was that the death toll would rise.

“We are calling on security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice. We appeal to the federal and state governments to come to our aid,” she pleaded.

The king of Tawari, Chief Idris Yusuf, who also spoke to NAN on telephone, confirmed the incident, saying it was the first time the community was experiencing such attack.

“This is the first time we are witnessing such deadly attack in our community. Our community has been very peaceful.

Yusuf, who is the Aguma of Tawari, said he would provide details on the development as he was busy attending to sympathisers.

The administrator of the local government, Mr Musa Tanko Mohammed, claimed that 19 persons died in the midnight invasion.

It was also gathered by Saturday Tribune that a herdsman was killed sometime last year and his body mutilated by suspected ritualists, a tragedy for which the herdsmen blamed the community and threatened revenge.

The herdsmen were reported to have begun a mass movement out of the community a few days ago and after efforts were made to pacify them, one of their leaders was said to have explained that moving from place to place was their way of life and then ruled out any ulterior motives behind their decision.

The Public Relations Officer of the Kogi State police command, Mr Williams Anya, confirmed the Friday attack in an interview with NAN in Lokoja.

He said a police assessment team had visited the community and that many buildings, including places of worship, were found to have been burnt.

He disclosed that about 28 houses and vehicles were razed by the attackers, saying that the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ede Ayuba Ekpeji, had visited the community for on-the-spot assessment.

He also said that the commissioner had deployed Special Police Force and Police Tactical Squad, led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, to unravel those behind the heinous act with a view to bringing them to book.

Meanwhile, the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has directed security agencies in the state to fish out the perpetrators of the attack.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Onogwu Muhammed, the governor asked the security agencies to ensure that those who carried out the dastardly act faced the law.

The governor, who condemned the attack and warned against any idea of causing crises in the state, gave the assurance that his administration would do everything to protect the people of the state and their property.

He, therefore, urged the people to be calm and law abiding, assuring them that his administration was determined to flush bandits and criminals out of the state.

Buhari condemns deadly Kogi attack

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the murder of 19 people by unknown gunmen in Tawari community of Kogi Local Government Area, Kogi State.

A statement issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), in Abuja on Friday, quoted the president as saying: “There is no excuse or justification for killing innocent people by anybody or group, and for whatever motive.

“The killings and revenge killings will only aggravate the cycle of violence, creating neither safety nor security for any side.

“People should avoid taking the law into their own hands because doing so could make a bad situation worse and undermine the government’s efforts to tackle security challenges.

“I am gravely worried about frequency and temptation of  using violence to settle disputes instead of following lawful and amicable means to avoid needless destruction of lives and property.”

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