Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State has inaugurated a commission of inquiry to investigate the root cause of the Billiri violence which erupted between February 17 and 20 following the appointment of Mai Tangale.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how violence erupted in Billiri over the appointment of a new traditional ruler for the town, the Mai Tangale.
Protesters from Billiri and neighbouring villages blocked the Gombe-Yola highway for three days, over the delay in the appointment by the governor.
The obstruction of traffic left people travelling between Adamawa, Taraba, Benue and other parts of the country stranded on the highway.
The protesters alleged that Mr Yahaya intended to appoint someone other than the man who got the highest votes from the kingmakers in the selection process.
A new Mai Tangale was, however, announced when normalcy returned to the area.
In his address at the inauguration ceremony, Mr Yahaya said the commission of inquiry was constituted following the violent protests that resulted in deaths of innocent persons, damage and destruction of valuable property including residential houses, business premises and Mosques thereby causing the displacement of families and commercial activities.
He said, “You may recall that following the death of his Royal highness the Mai Tangale, Abdu Buba Maisheru, the state government directed the kingmakers of the Tangale Traditional Council to commence the selection process of the successor, however before the government could finalise and make pronouncement on the new Mai Tangale, some unpatriotic elements began an EndSARS-type protest (codenamed #LockdownBilliri) by blocking the Gombe-Yola federal highway and other entry points into Billiri local government and thereafter some unscrupulous elements hijacked the protest and turned it to a violent one with the support of unpatriotic purveyors of fake news via social media”
He said the protests erupted even before government took decision on who to appoint but stressed that one undeniable fact is that the spread of fake news contributed immensely in the escalation of the violence.
“Some people may be tempted to conclude that the crisis emanated from the choice of a new Mai Tangale even though the protests erupted even before the government took a decision on who to appoint. Some may be tempted to give the crisis a religious or political coloration or both, ” the governor said.
He said it was in light of this that the Gombe State Government strongly believes that determining the causes of the crisis is needed in order to sanction those involved and take necessary measures to prevent future occurrence.
He said, “Therefore, the Governor, in exercise of the powers conferred on him as Governor by section 2 of the Commission of inquiry law, constituted the Commission of inquiry into Billiri violent protests with the following terms of reference:
“To find out the remote and immediate causes of the violent protests; identify person or group of persons who sponsored, procured, instigated or encouraged the violent protests and to recommend sanctions or remedial measures against such person or group of persons; receive and investigate complaints from victims or the families of victims.
“Make appropriate recommendations to government on measures and means of preventing the future occurrence of violent protests and how to make perpetrators account for their acts, among others.”
Mr Yahaya urged members of the commission to be thorough and fair in discharging their assigned responsibilities while calling on the people to assist the commission with honest, useful and genuine information.
He noted that in order to cushion the effects of the violent protests, the state government recently distributed a “considerable quantity of palliatives to the people directly and indirectly affected by the crisis.”
He added that the commission of inquiry is comprised people of impeccable character drawn from diverse professional backgrounds with Mahmud Gurama, a retired judge, as chairman.
Members are: Zubairu Mu’azu, Mahmud Bappa-Aliyu, Sharon Cham and Bitrus Thaba.
Others are; Abdulhamid Bello, Victoria Usman, Robert Wabida, Abdullahi Jalo, Ya’u Kashere while Musa Sa’idu and H.N Nwoye will serve as Secretary and Counsel to the Commission respectively.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Secretary to the State Government, Ibrahim Njodi, recounted some of the measures earlier taken by the government, including imposition of curfew, stakeholders’ engagements and other steps in stabilising the situation in Billiri.
While congratulating the members, the SSG called on them to justify the confidence reposed in them by the governor.
The commission has 60 days to submit its report.
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