ON GUARD: Nigerian police keep a watchful eye
NIGERIAN POLICE have sustained heavy losses in what officials are describing as a cult ambush in the central Nasarawa state.
Authorities have said a minimum of 23 officers were killed in the attack, and have pinned the blame on armed militia who work for the outlawed Ombatse group, which is viewed by the state as a cult.
According to Nasarawa police chief Abayomi Akeremale, approximately 60 officers came under fire from gunmen. Police operating in the area were on a mission to arrest the group’s leader.
Akeremale told AFP that 17 officers are still unaccounted for.
“We decided to send our men to the area to arrest members of Ombatse, including their priest,” he said.
“[Group members] have been going to churches and mosques initiating people into their cult by forcefully administering an allegiance oath to unwilling people.”
Nasarawa state governor Gabriel Suswam, quoted by Nigerian newspaper, the Osun Defender, said: “Two weeks ago, we discovered a certain militia group holding arms and carrying out cultist activities in the state.
“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.
“The group is banned and its members are those causing this problem in the state”, added the state governor.
The attack took place on Tuesday (May 7) in the village of Alakyo, situated close to state capital Lafia.
Police were fired upon near a shrine to the deity of the Eggon people, who are said to be evenly divided between Christianity and Islam, but many still practise their own traditional faiths.
In the Eggon language Ombatse means “the time has come.”
Nigeria has a diverse society with more than 250 different ethnic groups that have their own langauges and belief paradigms.