The Ombatse pagan movement, a cult organization in central Nigeria, ambushed and killed 30 policemen. They then proceeded to set fire to their bodies.
The Ombatse say they are dedicated to “purging social vices”. The have existed in the state of Nasarawa for some years, but have become more aggressive in recent months. They have been forcing conversions on Muslims and Christians alike.
“A detachment of 60 police… came under attack from members of Ombatse cult in an ambush,” Nasarawa state police chief Abayomi Akeremale said of the attack on Tuesday in the village of Elakyo, some 10 kilometres (six miles) outside the state capital Lafia.
“The Ombatse gunmen opened fire on our men,” and set fire to those they killed, he told AFP, giving an initial toll of 23 dead and 17 missing. He later confirmed that of the missing, 7 more were found killed, bringing the total to 30.
Nasarawa lies roughly in the middle of the country. The northern part is mostly Muslim, and the southern part is predominately Christian. One of the state’s major ethnic groups are the Eggon which is divided between the two religions, but has a pagan influence as well. The state of Nasarawa is made up of mostly Eggon, and the cult is a part of the ethnic group.
The policemen had been sent into the area to arrest some of the Ombatse, including their priest. The police were attacked near the shrine to the traditional deity of the Eggon people, in the village of Alakyo, near the state capital, Lafia.
There appears to be more to the Ombatse increase in aggression than their battle against alcohol and adultery. They are apparently politically motivated.
The Eggon, according to Nasarawa’s Commissioner for Information, Hamza Elayo, have been pushing for a member of their ethnic group to succeed the current state governor, Tanko Al-Makura, and certain Eggon leaders have reached out to the Ombatse to fight for their cause.
“It is obvious they are being sponsored by some ambitious politicians…The security agencies have been closing in on such politicians but I don’t want to mention names,” he said.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and includes approximately 250 different ethnic groups.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has cut short his visit to South Africa and cancelled a state visit to Namibia to oversee the response to the latest violence.
Columnist-The Guardian Express