In Nigeria, being a policeman has become a very dangerous job, especially in the north of the country. In just two days, about 45 policemen were killed in two major onslaughts by religious militants in two northern states.
While Boko Haram Islamic militants killed 22 policemen in Bama, Borno State, on Monday, another group of religious militants Tuesday evening killed 23 policemen and operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) in an ambush near Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital. Nine others were reported critically injured when they were waylaid on by worshippers of a local deity called Ombatse.
The incident happened as a detachment of riot police and SSS men were on their way to the shrine of Ombatse, a deity of the Eggon people, at Alakyo, 10 kilometres from the Nasarawa State capital, according to the state Police Commissioner Abayomi Akeremale.
Akeremale told newsmen: “We decided at the state security council meeting, because of the frequent attacks on churches and mosques by this particular group, who are forcing people to swear an oath at the shrine, that we carry out an operation and arrest the perpetrators for prosecution lest it turns into a religious crisis. The people, some call them Ombatse, but they call themselves cultural people, ambushed our men and opened fire.”
The police commissioner disclosed that nine people were hospitalised with gunshot wounds, a number of officers still missing in the bush, while others earlier abducted were later released from the shrine.
Also speaking, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Michael Ada, said: “The casualty we confirmed is 23. They killed and burned 23 policemen and SSS. They also burned eight patrol vehicles. But our rescue team is still in the bush, and has not returned to give update.”
This is not the first time Ombatse adherents would be attacking security agents. According to a report in the Abuja-based Daily Trust, “In an incident late last year at Nasarawa-Eggon, the group members shot and injured some soldiers and SSS personnel who stormed one of the shrines at Alogani Hills.
“Also last year, the Ombatse group attacked Agyaragu near Lafia, killing 10 people, soon after which Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura outlawed Ombatse.”
Ombatse is an Eggon word meaning “time has come.” The group was founded by six people, according to Eggon News, a local newspaper. It gave their names as Sgt. Alaku Ehe, Zabura Musa Akwanshiki, Shuaibu Alkali, Hasuna Musa Zico Kigbu, Iliyasu Hassan Gyabo and Abdullahi Usman. The paper said that Zico, a former Jerusalem pilgrim, is chairman while and Akwashiki is secretary.
Eggon News quoted Zico, who claimed that the group has over 50 branches scattered all over Nigeria particularly in Eggon land, as saying that Ombatse was born from a revelation through a dream where the ancestors directed the male natives to rise up and cleanse the land of societal ills including adultery fornication, drunkenness, theft, killing and others condemned by both the Bible and the Quran.
Thus Ombatse, thus a traditional religious group, in a way shares something with Boko Haram, whose aim is to purify the Nigerian society by Islamising the country. Whether Ombatse ends up making the North-Central ungovernable just as Boko Haram has done in the North-West and North-East remains to be seen.
Source: News Express