The Nigerian Police suffered a heavy casualty yesterday when 23 of a 60-man Mobile Police squad deployed to raid a suspected armoury belonging to a militia group at Alakyo in Lafia Local Government Area of Nasarawa State were murdered.
It was gathered that only nine of the police squad returned safely to Lafia, the state capital after the bloody encounter with Ombaste, an Eggon ethnic militia group.
The group, which had in recent time unleashed mayhem in several communities across the state, ambushed the police squad on its way to raid its armoury.
Guns boomed and after the dust settled, no fewer than 23 policemen lay dead. Many members of the squad suffered injuries and are receiving treatment at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia.
No fewer than nine police vans which conveyed the policemen to the community were set ablaze by the militia group.
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the Nasarawa State Command, Michael Ada, a DSP, who confirmed the figure in a telephone interview with Daily Sun, described the incident as unfortunate.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abayomi Akeremale who had confirmed the incident to journalists in his office earlier, explained that the command had on Tuesday evening, dispatched a team of mobile policemen to raid a suspected armoury belonging to the Ombatse. But the team was ambushed following which nine members of the team were injured with the attackers escaping into the bush.
He warned that the command would not fold its arms as members of the Ombatse, continued to kill members of security forces. He recalled that some months back, the militia group opened fire on a team of soldiers on patrol in Nasarawa Eggon, along Akwanga-Lafia Road before relocating to Alakyo with their shrine, and resorting to kidnapping and forcing their victims to an oath of allegiance.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Gov Al-Makura confirmed the killing of over 20 policemen by the Ombatse militia group.
Ombatse, in Eggon language means ‘time has come’.
Al-Makura, said he was in the State House to seek the assistance of the Federal Government to curtail the excesses of the group.
He said the state government had a year ago dislodged the group, but the members re-surfaced about a fortnight ago, unleashing terror and mayhem.
Al-Makura assured that his administration was set to uproot the group by whatever means available to it, adding that after his visit to the vice president, he would be holding an emergency meeting of the state security council to deliberate on the matter and decide on what action to take.
According to al-Makura, the state government thought it had subdued the group about a year ago only for it to resume hostility by attacking and forcibly initiating people from the tribe into its fold by making them to drink a prepared potion which hallucinate their victims and make them do their biddings.
He said in the latest wave of violence, the cultists attacked people in churches and mosques. They also ambushed and killed policemen deployed to flush them out.
He admitted that the situation was grave as the militia members carried arms and attacked any area having conflict with their members, stressing that the situation was unacceptable and must be contained.
“I am here to meet with His Excellency, the Vice President to brief him about the security situation in my state. Just yesterday, we have a very bitter security problem that has caused the death of some security officers in the state.”
“Two weeks ago, we discovered a certain militia group holding arms and carrying out cultist activities in the state. Since January, this thing has not abated and in the past two weeks, it took a total different dimension.
“They have been going from one place to another including churches and taking people from that particular ethnic group to come and take portions that are meant to empower them to do what they want to do.
“This escalated and is causing serious concern for the state. We decided to hold security meeting to find a way of solving the problem. The solution was to go to the shrine and pick on the cult leader so that the problem will be solved once and for all.
“As security operatives were approaching the shrine, unknown to them that ambush has been laid for them, these people attacked them and resulted in the death of more than 20 policemen.
“Already, the group that is from Eggon extraction and called Ombatse has been proscribed since the beginning of this year because of the activities of the members. They go from one place to another, harbouring arms, attacking any area that has any conflict with any of their members. The group is banned and its members are those causing this problem in the state and we feel it is necessary to bring this to the notice of the Federal Government.”
Gov Suswam said the recent killings now absolved security agencies that had displayed excessiveness in the cause of doing their jobs, adding that such action was not acceptable, insisting government must be very decisive.