By Segun Adeyemi
In a leaked letter obtained by DAILY NIGERIAN, the Taraba State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Yusufu Akirikwen, has urged the State Police command to release arrested members of a local militia allegedly responsible for the killings of Fulanis on Mambila Plateau in Saudana Local Government Area of Taraba State.
The recent Taraba crisis, which erupted June 17, 2017 between local militia and Fulani sedentary pastoralists, had led to the loss of lives and property.
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, a patron of a leading Fulani socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah, had claimed in a recent interview that over 800 Fulani herdsmen lost their lives as a result of the Taraba crisis.
“In one case, a pregnant woman was killed, her stomach was ripped open and the baby was brought out and slaughtered. I personally handed over to the Federal Government a dossier with the names and pictures of the 800 or so people slaughtered as well as the names and addresses of persons known to have participated in these acts of ethnic cleansing.
“Nothing has happened. I also ensured that authorities received video and audio evidence of senior politicians in Taraba State, who were involved in this act of genocide. No one has been arrested. Fulanis were also murdered in Kajuru and Numan,” the emir said.
But in the letter to the commissioner of police, dated September 8, 2017, Mr Akirikwen faulted the arrest of the suspected members of the militia.
“Reports and/or complaints reaching my office, of recent, indicate that following the aftermath of the communal crisis on the Mambilla Plateau of Sardauna Local Government Area which broke out between 17th-20th June, 2017, incessant, indiscriminate arrests, detention and prosecution of perceived suspects alleged to be involved in the said crisis is said to be carried out by your office,” the letter read.
According to him, since judicial commission of inquiry was instituted, and they were making enquiry on the issue, the arrests were “contempt and contradictory” to the judicial principle.
“It has been noticed that while the judicial commission of enquiry is ongoing, your Command has embarked on the arrest, detention, and prosecution of those allegedly suspected to be involved in the crisis by whatever yardstick; your action is viewed and does not only constitute contempt of matters that are sub-judice but also negate the cherished principle of double jeopardy in the event that the same person now being prosecuted by you are subsequently recommended by the commission to be prosecuted and punished,” the letter said.
He also noted that shortly before the beginning of the crisis, the federal government had set up the judicial commission of inquiry to prevent the breakdown of law and order as regards land dispute within the community to enable individuals and groups to ventilate their grievances before the judicial panel.
The commissioner, therefore, directed the commissioner to immediately release the suspects and withdraw charges against them.
“In view of the above circumstances and the interest of public peace and harmonious co-existence, it is my candid advice that all suspects in your custody and/or arraigned before the court(s) be forthwith released from detention, and all charges or First Information Reports brought against them withdrawn,” the letter said.
Following the June 2017 mayhem, an estimated 17,000 Fulani’s from different communities were displaced by the crisis.
Some of the Fulani communities affected are Nguroje, Mambila Plateau, Babagasa, Donadda, Katibu and Megoge.
When DAILY NIGERIAN contacted the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Taraba State, he neither confirmed nor denied writing the letter, insisting that a copy of the letter be mailed to him before responding.
Even when our reporter read a portion of the letter to him, Mr Akirikwen still insisted on getting a copy of the letter before commenting.
However, the commissioner is yet to provide the email address through which the copies could be sent to him for perusal.