Tuesday, July 30, 2013 -- Yesterday, the parents of the ten State Security Service (SSS) operatives killed May 7, 2013 by the Ombatse cult in Alakyo, Nasarawa State, staged a protest up in front of the Federal High Court building in Lafia where Vice President Namadi Sambo was due to commission. The protesters demanded justice and claimed they would never forgive the 'killer-cult'.
It would be recalled that two months after the security service operatives were killed, the director general of the State Security Service (SSS) Ita Ekpenyong declared the SSS had 'forgiven' the culprits.
Yesterday, the parents of the slain men were seen crowding as early as 9am, carrying placards and chanting slogans, claiming there would be 'no forgiveness for the Ombatse cult.' They lined up along the road where Vice President Sambo's convoy would pass on its way to the court premises.
Sambo, who was accompanied by Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura and Information Minister Labaran Maku, an indigene of the state, was greeted by the protesters' shouts: "We want justice, we want justice for our children!"
However, security agents prevented the protesters from coming anywhere near the complex during the event.
Sambo left the venue at about 12:21 pm to be once again greeted by the protesters.
The inscriptions on the signs read, 'Pls Help, Help, Mr. President, We Need our Children Dead/Alive,' 'We Are In Deep Pain, Mr. President, Pls Intervene,' and 'All We Are Saying, It's Been 12 Weeks Since Then'.
The protesters, mostly elderly people, lamented the Federal Governments' apathetic stance towards their children's murder by the Ombatse. They expressed shock as the Government had not said anything or acted to demonstrate compassion for the relatives' of the slain SSS operatives.
The leader of the protesters, Dr. Nandul Durfa, 64, father to a late operative called Timman Durfa, said the gathering mobilised by making telephone contacts with each other and then met in Lafia on Sunday evening to agree on the inscriptions for their placards.
"We mobilised ourselves by phone. We have been in touch with each other since the incident. I called Madaki and Nimsel. They then placed calls to contact others like Gobir who came from Awe in Nasarawa, and Madam Mrs. Godiya Makama who came from Nasarawa-Toto, also from Nasarawa State," he narrated.
"There were others who are not parents, but representatives of parents of deceased. They too showed up. Altogether, we are about 17," the man accounted.
Durfa said they decided to organise the protest because government had not done anything to the Ombatse killers.
"We are saying it is now three months since that incident and government has not done anything to give us confidence in them.
"Our children were sent on an operation to save other Nigerians, and they were not given any protection. We can't see them alive; we can't see their corpses," he lamented.
Durfa said the SSS authorities "only sent us death certificates of our children. There were no corpses sent to us. We want the corpses of our children. They should go to that village and retrieve those corpses and hand them to us, so we can bury our children."
Saidu Isah Gobir, another elderly protester who also lost his son, said he travelled to Lafia to tell the President or his representative that he disappointed them over the murder.
"They have kept quiet as if nothing happened. We lost children in that operation; that they must know. We are angry. All we are told is that the SSS has announced forgiveness. We don't want to hear that," he decried.
Another protester, Nimsel Nanyal, 57, who held a placard with the inscription "Pls Mr. President, I's Now We Want Fresh Air," told the reporters that he received a death certificate for his son and has waited three months to hear about government's steps towards giving his son justice but has been disappointed so far.
"I am disappointed that security men were killed and government cannot give them justice," he said.
"In Britain, one soldier was killed on the street, not in the line of duty as our children, and the British Prime Minister was everywhere making statements. He even attended the burial. Here, we were sent certificates, and that is all," Nanyal added.
It would be recalled that the so-called Ombatse killings happened when the militia members waylaid a detachment of police and SSS operatives sent to Alakyo, near Lafia, to arrest the cult leader following incidents on violence blamed on the group.
Dozens of policemen and ten SSS men were killed, and most of the corpses burnt by the cultists.
Yesterday's protest comes three weeks after wives and other family members of the slain operatives created a scene at the Government House in Lafia disrupting the singing of the Nation Anthem during a visit by some governors.
Governors Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Muazu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (Kaduna) and Sule Lamido (Jigawa), as well as Senator Abdullahi Adamu, were on a sympathy visit when the incident happened.
The Nasarawa State Government has set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the killings, with Justice Joseph Fola Gbadeyan as chairman. The panel suspended its sitting yesterday because of the visit by Sambo. It is due to continue taking submissions today.