It is probably too early to be sure but there might be a new rulebook in the Nigeria Police. In what appears to be the most suggestive move in this regard, the Benue State Police Command has removed Idris Ibrahim Yusuf, the Divisional Police Officer for Ugbokolo under whom the two warring Benue State villages in central Nigeria fall. Not only has he been removed, he has also been demoted from the rank of a Superintendent to Deputy Superintendent of Police and he will never be a DPO again. Above all, the signal enacting these pronouncements will be out later tomorrow, (February 21st, 2019).
The DPO came under the intense gaze of the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Omololu Bishi who questioned his professionalism, declaring him to have been the one who escalated the conflict because he has been compromised. Some persons who attended a stakeholders’ meeting conveyed in Makurdi, the Benue State capital over the crisis said they heard words such as “you are very stupid”, “you fuelled the crisis” directed against Mr. Yusuf who might have irked his superiors for not reporting the issue even after community leaders complained to him officially; for allowing some people bear arms against a directive against that and for allegedly fraternizing with one faction.
But it is not only the former DPO who has become a casualty of the violence. The Police Commissioner has also declared wanted a local actor popularly known as De Kobo. He is the Community Chairman of Olanyega, the other village in the two day reign of violence. His offence is failure to honour the Police Commissioner’s invitation to the stakeholders’ session from which most of the leaders from the Olanyega side were absent. This is in contrast to those from the Iwewe side whose Councillor, Community Chairman, Ward Head and Clan Head were in attendance.
Meanwhile, the over 80-year old primary school appears to have ceased to exist as the school which was razed to the ground in the current violence will now transform into a Police Station. This is one of the pronouncements of the Commissioner of Police at the session. If the pronouncement stands, then the latest round of violence might have resolved a conflict that is as old as the school itself and is currently before the Supreme Court of Nigeria for adjudication.
Known initially as St Peters Primary School, Olanyega, it was the closest to a finishing school for that part of what is Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State today. They were just about five of them scattered around the vast Edumoga District in the LGA. Designed and built by colonial District Officers, these schools were located in choice sites in the communities. However, that of Olanyega was mistakenly located at a marshy site and had to be relocated. In doing that, the colonialists chose a location that fell on the other side of what is now the Otukpo-Enugu Federal Highway but with the name Olanyega retained. Born in trouble as it were, the school has never had a signboard, Intervention was told. It will never have again as no other authorities might want to reverse the decision of the Commissioner of Police after examining the level of violence that preceded it.
The violence came after a series of wiping and re-writing each other’s name from signboards bearing the name of the school by the two communities until last Monday when shops and houses were burnt on one side and then retaliation on the other two days later. Intervention understands that “terrible boys who used AK-47 participated in the last wave of violence on one side or the other” and that the burning in each case was both extensive and intensive but selective in all cases.
All the stakeholders are returning to Makurdi for another session with Mr Omololu Bishi, the Benue State Commissioner of Police on February 27th, 2019. Perhaps, by then, the meeting would not last as long as from midday to 6. p.m as did the first session. And more and more local notables and actors with deeper grasp of the different dimensions of the conflict might have had inputs in relation to restoring communal and inter-group trust.