Nasarawa: Wua, A Tiv Community With Unhealthy Drinking Water

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Less than a month old Living Faith Church in Wua, a Tiv community in Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State is currently making a frantic effort to provide the community with a good source of drinking water.

The church which is also known as Winner’s Chapel, is appealing to Sam Empowerment Foundation to partner with it for a ‘’special intervention’’ in the community.

Sam Empowerment Foundation (SEF) is a registered non – governmental, non-religious, non-political organisation whose sole objective is to provide service to humanity.

SEF came into being in 2013; it was duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2014 as an NGO operating in Nigeria, and has consistently made effort at empowering the lives of orphans and vulnerable children, women, and youths through its thematic area of focus such as Health, Vulnerable Children Interventions, Empowerment, and Civic Engagement.

‘’We are a structured organisation that has within our employ a team of seasoned professionals and experienced staff whose technical expertise include Community Mobilisation, HIV and AIDS, Testing and Counselling, HIV programming amongst others. We also have an outstanding Board of Trustees (BOT) who are committed to contributing to the successful deployment of our aims and objectives as well as provide oversight functions to ensure that the strategic management and direction of the Foundation are effective.

‘’We are also affiliated to Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN), Association of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Network in Nigeria (AONN) as well as registered with the Social Development Secretariat, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA)’’, the Foundation says.

SEF is committed to improving the quality of life of the less-privileged and vulnerable children and women in Nigeria; through initiatives that will enhance their access to economic empowerment, good health care and quality education.

Spurred by this mission, the Resident Pastor of the concerned church, Akanimo E. Sampson, says he is hoping that the Foundation will support the church in transforming lives in the community, pointing out that people living in the community are in condition of extreme poverty and cannot afford the costs of basic needs, such as water, education, health care, among others.

‘’The only source of water is a shallow stream which is a thorough fare to both man and animals. The majority of the families have an average number of six children per household and they struggle to survive by subsistence farming.

‘’Virtually, all the family incomes are oriented to meeting feeding need, and in most cases they cannot afford the cost of school fees for their children. Sadly, the only school in the community is a dilapidated block of two classes’’, the church said.

While Awe Local Government Area has a population of 116,080 (2005 estimates) and its total land mass is 2800 km2, Nasarawa is in the North Central zone of Nigeria, with Lafia as its capital. Nasarawa was created on October 1, 1996 by the Sani Abacha military administration from Plateau State.

Nasarawa is bounded in the north by Kaduna State, in the west by the Federal Capital Territory, in the south by Kogi and Benue State and in the east by Taraba and Plateau. There is a network of roads within the state, linking all rural areas and major towns. The Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) operates train services from Kuru, Gombe and Maiduguri.

As a Tiv community, the Tiv are a Tivoid ethnic group. They constitute approximately 3.5% of Nigeria’s total population, and number about 6.5 million individuals throughout Nigeria and Cameroon. The Tiv language is spoken by about seven million people in Nigeria with a few speakers in Cameroon.

Most of the language’s speakers are found in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Plateau States. The language is a branch of Benue-Congo and ultimately of the Niger-Congo phylum. In pre-colonial times, the Fulani ethnic group referred to the Tiv as “Munchi” (also sometimes written Munshi e.g. Duggan 1932), a term not accepted by Tiv people. They depend on agricultural produce for commerce and life.

For the Minority Rights Group International, a group that campaigns worldwide with around 150 partners in over 50 countries to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples, often the poorest of the poor, can make their voices heard, the Tiv make up 2.5 per cent of the national population, and live in the central-eastern state of Taraba in the valley of the Benue River, and neighbouring states.

Tiv, according to the group, are prosperous subsistence farmers and traders growing yams, millet and sorghum and raising small livestock and cattle. Their villages comprise compounds of sleeping huts, reception huts and granaries with a central marketplace. They speak Nyanza or Benue-Congo, part of the Niger-Congot language family.

‘’Traditionally Tiv formed a classic segmentary society in which strongly organised patrilineages linked large portions of the ethnic group into named non-local segments. Local organisation, land tenure, inheritance, religious beliefs, law and allegiances were all related to this segmentary lineage. Tiv political organisation and the possibility of conflict or alliance among territorial groups are traditionally based on the relative closeness of patrilineal descent members to a male ancestor. Nonetheless all Tiv have united against neighbouring enemies because of their common ancestors. Many Tiv continue to practice their traditional religion, while others have converted to Christianity and Islam’’, the group said.

Historical context

Continuing, the minority rights group says Tiv were never conquered by the Muslim jihad. Traditional lineage elders settled political disputes. Tiv had no paramount chiefs although the British established one in 1948. Under indirect rule, the British granted authority to members of the Jokun minority in order to control the Tiv majority, and tensions have continued ever since.

‘’Wider administrative units were introduced under British rule, and mission-led education and conversion to Christianity helped create a sense of separateness from the Muslim north, based on educational disparity and religion. Tiv rioted in 1952 against the Hausa – Fulani rulers of northern Nigeria, who took harsh punitive action against them.

‘’Violence between Tiv and Jokun broke out on the eve of independence in 1959, as Tiv again expressed anger with the Native Authority System. Tiv were among members of the United Middle Belt Congress that opposed the rule of the Native Authority, which supported the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the ruling party of the north.

‘’Many people were killed during uprisings in 1960 and 1964. The Tiv attempt to create a separate region was blocked by northern Muslim-based political parties. Tiv agitation led eventually to the creation of the Benue-Plateau State in 1967, and in 1976, the splitting off of Benue State gave the Tiv a homeland, where they form a convincing majority.

‘’Nevertheless, tensions continued. In 1991-1992 there was renewed fighting over control of Wukari, which after the drawing of new state borders lies in the majority-Jokub state of Taraba, and over the boundaries between Benue and Taraba states. The Jokub minority in Benue and the Tiv minority in Taraba both complain of marginalisation.

‘’The conflict has been heightened by the concept of ‘indigeneity’ enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution, and the majorities claim that the minorities are ‘settlers’ deserving of fewer rights and privileges. Violence peaked in 2001, when hundreds died. Many of those were killed by the army in reprisal attacks against the Tiv community after Tiv militants killed 19 soldiers who had been deployed in the area to quell the fighting.

‘’In November 2007, in a highly unusual move, the Nigerian army issued a formal apology to the Tiv community for killings carried out by the military in 2001. Condemned by some, as inadequate because it was not tied to compensation for the victims’ families, it was nevertheless welcomed by others as a sign that the Nigerian army was at last taking human rights issues   seriously. 2007 saw a resurgence of fighting between the Tiv and Kuteb communities in Benue and Taraba states in Central Nigeria. Hundreds were reported displaced, and dozens killed.

‘’Between January and June 2011, 100 people were killed in clashes between Tiv farmers and Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, and over 20,000 persons displaced and scores of communities destroyed. Towards the end of the year, another 5,000 people were displaced in Benue and Nasarawa States as Fulani herdsmen clashed with farmers. Up to 10 people were killed in the attacks.

Current issues

‘’Retaliatory inter-communal violence fuelled by competition for land has continued. In one incident in Benue State, for instance, Tiv farmers were charged in 2014 with the murder of two Fulani herders. Ongoing clashes between Fulani pastoralists and farmers, some of them Tiv, continued to contribute to internal displacement of nearly 50,000 people in the north central states by mid-2015.

‘’In some cases, however, acts of violence at first attributed to inter-communal violence between Tiv and Fulani were upon investigation found to be the work of Boko Haram, which in 2014 and 2015 expanded operations southward into the Middle Belt’’, the group says.

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