By Lami Ibrahim
Ethnic nationalities in Kogi State took to the streets in Abuja on Tuesday to protest the serial killings allegedly orchestrated by agents of politicians.
By 10 a.m., the ethnic nationalities under the aegis of the Coalition of Igala/Bassa Socio-Cultural Associations stormed the Garrison Command of Defence Headquarters in Abuja, chanting anti-government songs.
They carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘Stop illegal arrest and detention of Kogites’, ‘Stop the killing of Igala/Bassa people in Kogi State’, ‘Let peace reign in Kogi State’, ‘Igala, Bassa, Okun and Egbira are all brothers’, ‘Protect our lives, it’s not rocket science, save Kogi youths’ and ‘Enough of the bloodbath.’
In a petition addressed to the Service Chiefs during the protest, the coalition accused the government of orchestrating violence, arson, and ethnic cleansing against the people of Igala/Bassa Kingdom in Kogi East Senatorial District.
The petition was co-signed by representatives of various Igala/Bassa associations, including Dr. Ojoachele Akor Felix (Igala Youths Leaders Assembly), Comrade Jackson Omonu James (Okakachi Igala), Benjamin Sekpe, (Bassa Grand Alliance), Salifu Oguche Usman, (Ane Igala Restoration Network), Onogu Collins (Igala Youths Council), Chris Ukwenya (Ujuju Agbadufu Igala), Mabe Adaji (Iko Ukola Mabe), Abubakar Danmusa (Makoji Ata Foundation), and Peters Onuma (Kogi Conscience).
The coalition alleged that since 2016, there had been a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and violence against political opponents and persons with divergent political views, particularly those from the Eastern Senatorial District of the state.
The leader of the protesters and human rights activists, Jacob Okpanachi, cited incidents during the 2019 general elections and the Kogi State governorship elections where the properties of political leaders were destroyed and lives were lost.
He alleged that the violence has continued in the lead-up to the 2023 general election, with numerous incidents involving attacks on political opponents and their properties.
One such incident mentioned in the letter was the attack on Alhaji Yakubu Muritala Ajaka, a governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, on May 28.
He also said that Radio Kogi, Ochaja Broadcasting Station, was vandalised and looted on June 2, 2023, for allegedly airing news about the attack on Alhaji Ajaka.
The coalition also said thugs and even military officers had been used to perpetrate violence against the people of the Igala/Bassa Kingdom.
The petition also described how Navy Commander Nicholas Uchendu Akalezi allegedly led a contingent of the Nigerian Navy and operatives in a siege on Ejule community on June 21, 2023.
The attack, according to the coalition, resulted in several casualties and the destruction of properties, including the murder of Bala Kabiru.
They urged the Nigerian Navy and other relevant authorities to intervene and protect the people of the Igala/Bassa Kingdom from the violence and ethnic cleansing in Kogi State.
The letter reads in part, “On account of the foregoing facts, we most respectfully pray to your very exalted office as follows.
“We respectfully request that you thoroughly investigate our petition, in order to ascertain its veracity, and if found to be true, bring all persons and agencies who have participated in these horrific acts against our people to justice.
“We also request that you take all necessary constitutional steps to protect our people and secure their right to political participation.”
The group further sought intervention and protection for the people of the Igala/Bassa Kingdom from the Nigerian Navy and other relevant authorities.
They stressed that the people of Igala/Bassa have suffered greatly primarily due to their larger population size and political influence within the state.
“Our people have suffered greatly under Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s governance, which has been characterised by sheer brutality and high-handedness.
The protesters called for immediate action from the Federal Government and relevant agencies, seeking thorough investigation and justice for those involved in the alleged acts of violence.
They also asked for constitutional measures to protect their people and guarantee their right to political participation.