The Nasarawa State Commission of Inquiry investigating the Ombatse killings of May 7, 2013 has recommended the immediate prosecution of Solomon Ewuga, a serving senator, as well as Joseph Kigbu and Nathaniel Agyo Mesa, members of the House of Representatives, for being financiers, sponsors, promoters and supporters of the outlawed Ombatse Cult group.
Also to be prosecuted are Zakariya Zamani Alumaga, the legal adviser of the group who incidentally represented it at the commission’s sittings; Mohammed L. Agu, patron; Zabura Musa akwashiki; Felicia E. Samuel; Joseph Gabi; Saleh Angulu, Village Head of Angwan, Yakubu Agyaragu and Yohanna Labaran Envoh (Manager).
Ewuga and the others were indicted in the report of the commission which was submitted last week and the Nasarawa State government accepted the recommendation for their prosecution.
“Some of them are either direct participants or aiders or abettors in one way or the other. Some may have had just simple knowledge of the circumstances leading to the killings and no more. And some may have had full knowledge of the circumstances and might have contributed in one way or the other. The investigating authorities must discover the relevant details and direct same to the relevant prosecuting authorities for immediate prosecution,” the commission said.
In a separate indictment, Ewuga and others were also recommended for prosecution for misrepresenting facts and attempting to mislead the commission.
Ewuga, Kigbu and Mesa were said to have intentionally given false evidence on oath when they appeared before the commission whether as summoned witnesses or memoranda and would be prosecuted in accordance with Section 158(1) of the Penal Code Law (as applicable in Nasarawa State).
The commission said their false testimonies were calculated to misdirect it and prevent it from making proper findings, adding that the law qualifies such false evidence as an act to pervert the cause of justice.
Apart from individuals, the commission also indicted the Nasarawa State government, the federal government, security agencies, particularly the Police and the law courts for the continuing threat posed by the cult inspire of its proscription.
“Lack of enforcement of Nasarawa State Legal Notice No. 4 of 2012, Vol. 15 and other relevant laws enabled the continuation of its activities. The failure of the component agencies of the law-enforcement and criminal justice process of the State to enforce the Proscription Order in this regard is responsible for the apparent ineffectual nature of the Proscription Order,” it stated.
It noted further: “Due to lax enforcement of the law by the relevant component units of the State’s criminal justice system, namely, the law enforcement agencies (especially the police), the Ministry of Justice and the Courts, obvious perpetrators of violence have been left unencumbered and emboldened to remain what they are.”
Significantly, the panel also observed that the non-implementation of recommendations of the reports of similar panels of Inquiry has “contributed to the patent disregard of Government authority with respect to the ban.”
It recommended the formal admonition and reprimand of the Council of elders of Eggon in the interim, for their moral failure to call the Ombatse and such affiliated groups to order when they exceeded the bounds of reason.
According to its findings, the Ombatse group has been in existence for over 100 years, but became well known in 2012 as a militia, having been hijacked by political forces and interests, a state of affairs that has transformed it into a cult and ethnic militia portraying insurgency and genocidal tendencies.
Their recruitment process is both persuasive and coercive and it is directed only at Eggon male youth of 18 years and above, the panel found out. Forced initiation is allegedly known as part of its coercive strategies.
It said further that the group appears to have the backing of all Eggon elders and political leaders, although some are more active than others in their support.
Other findings of the committee were that meeting days for members made up of Christians, Muslims and traditional worshipers who must be males of Eggon extraction from the ages of 18 years and above, is every Saturday. Members communicate with each other using mobile telephone calls and text messages for mobilization as occasion demands.
The commission also found that the group engages in the use of sophisticated weapons such as AK-47 and AK-49 rifles, sub-machine guns alongside traditional lethal weapons such as dane guns, cadtridges, poisoned cutlasses, knives, clubs etc; and is believed to acquire its finances through levies on members within and outside the country and through support from the suspected financiers mentioned above.
Seventy-four law enforcement and security personnel, comprising 64 members of the Nigeria Police Force,NPF, and10 men of the Department of the State Services, DSS, were killed by the Ombatse militia group at Alakyo Village last May.
Ombatse members converged on Alakyo from different Eggon communities across the state such as Sabon Gida Iggah, N/Eggon, Bakin Kogi and Angwan Abusa, to engage in the fatal ambush that led to the death of the officers who were on lawful duty.
Evidence before the Commission proves that fire-arms, cudgel, cutlasses and other lethal weapons were used by the Ombatse members in killing and injuring the affected personnel.
Meanwhile, the federal government has accepted the various recommendations and directed the State ministry for local government and chieftaincy affairs and the office of Secretary to the State Government to take appropriate action.