Not fewer than 51 persons have been feared killed in the latest clash between the herders and farmers in Taraba State, a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Kamai, said on Friday.
The 51 farmers were reportedly killed in 11 villages of Ardo-Kola Local Government Area and suburbs of the state capital, Jalingo.
However, the casualty figure of the herdsmen, and the quantity of the properties destroyed on both sides have not been released.
April and May had been months of bloodbath in Taraba. While herdsmen and natives were fighting in northern Taraba, Jukun and Tiv also had a fierce clash in the southern part of the state leaving many dead.
Both crises erupted because of the drive for farming lands and grazing fields.
Rev. Fr. Kamai, a native of Kona in Jalingo who delivered a sermon at the Remembrance Mass for the 51 deceased held at the Church of Assumption in Kona village yesterday, said the 51 dead have been buried.
The names and photos of the people killed were printed on elegant bill boards at the church were the their Remembrance was held.
The congregation was in mourning mood.
According to the cleric, the crisis has displaced 8,494 people from their ancestral homes in Murkunu, Murtia, Yaukani, Murbai, Yawai, Somporo, Jekunuhou, Sembe, Ndayaro, Kaudad and Keshabro villages.
The priest who said the Kona people, though with so much pains in their hearts, had forgiven the herdsmen who carried out the attacks and killings, urged them to repent. “In this crisis, there is no winner and no vanquished. I know it is painful to say this, looking at the number of casualties we have had.
”But we pray God to turn the hearts of the bereaved, the injured, the displaced, widows and orphans and above all rest the dead.
”We also pray God to turn the hearts of those who commit the evil to true conversion of God’s desire.
”All the people who died are not dead but asleep with the Lord,” he said.
The cleric called on the government to ensure the immediate repatriation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their original homes so that they can go back to their farms.
He also called for truce and “reunion of purpose between the warring communities.”
The cleric, who visited President Muhammad Buhari in Aso Villa over the killings, thanked the president for promptly deploying soldiers who came stopped the killings.
The Chief of Kona, Kuru Augustine attributed what has happened to the “will of God and called on the warring communities to give peace a chance.”
He said: “Development can only be achieved in an atmosphere of peace, so we must give peace a chance,” he said.