US embassy cable - 02ABUJA881

NIGERIA: A TIV PERSPECTIVE ON THE BENUE/TARABA CONFLICT

Identifier: 02ABUJA881
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA881 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-03-19 10:47:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS PGOV PINR TBIO NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000881 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: 18/03/02 
TAGS: PINS, PGOV, PINR, TBIO, NI 
SUBJECT:  NIGERIA: A TIV PERSPECTIVE ON THE BENUE/TARABA 
CONFLICT 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR HOWARD F. JETER FOR REASONS 1.5 
(B) AND(D) 
 
 
1. (C)  SUMMARY:  A February 14 dinner hosted by Governor 
Akume gave the Ambassador an eye on the Tiv worldview. 
Parochial and biased, it is shared by Benue Tiv leaders 
ranging from Senator Gyado to ex-COAS Malu and posits that 
the Tiv are victims of systematic discrimination.  However, 
these Tiv elites offered no practical steps to resolve the 
growing conflict between Tivs and neighboring ethnic 
groups.  Aggressive Tiv ethno-centrism is but one issue 
Nigeria's leaders must manage.  END SUMMARY. 
 
 
2. (C)  Ambassador Jeter was in Benue State February 14/15 
to commission an USAID-funded Rice Mill operated by a Benue 
State NGO that focuses its assistance on children affected 
by HIV/AIDS.  Benue has Nigeria's highest sero-positivity 
rate. 
 
 
3. (C)  The Ambassador, accompanied by the USAID Director 
and Staff Assistant (note-taker), paid a visit to Governor 
George Akume in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.  The 
clashes between Tivs and neighboring ethnic groups in Benue 
and other states dominated the dinner discussion.  Most of 
the people at the dinner were Tiv luminaries whose constant 
theme was: as the Tivs fare, so fares Nigeria.  Right now, 
neither was doing particularly well.  Among those present 
were former Senate President Jacob (Jack) Tilley Gyado, 
dismissed Chief of Army Staff Victor Malu. 
 
 
4. (C)  These members of the Benue State elite stressed that 
many Tivs are former soldiers, still armed and ready to 
take action if they perceive that Tiv interests are 
threatened.  They also noted that Tiv farmers are 
responsible for a significant portion of the country's 
agricultural output.  Unrest in and around Tiv-dominated 
Benue means reduced food availability and increased risk of 
violent political unrest, they argued. 
 
 
5. (C)  Governor Akume reiterated claims that the recent 
Tiv-Jukun violence arose from Jukun efforts to drive Tivs 
from Taraba.  There was a clear consensus that the Tivs who 
allegedly killed 19 soldiers actually may have killed 
Jukuns dressed as soldiers or, at least, thought they were 
killing Jukuns dressed as soldiers.  The Governor also 
claimed that the killing of Tivs by the Army continues 
"unabated," citing a January 26 incident in which at least 
10 Tivs reportedly died when a Tiv village was burned. 
 
 
6. (C)  Noting that the Tivs are often viewed as strangers 
when they move into new areas, the dinner guests said Tivs 
have been excluded from the political process in Taraba and 
even prevented from practicing their traditional culture. 
The leaders claimed that in Tiv-majority areas, on the 
other hand, they respect the culture of minorities and 
include them in the political process. 
 
 
7. (C)  In response to a question from the Ambassador, the 
leaders claimed that Tiv agriculture was not expansionists, 
that farmers do move from plot to plot, but usually within 
a defined area.  The guests acknowledged that Tiv 
population growth requires bringing steadily more land 
under this system of rotating cultivation but claimed that 
this should not present a problem since only about 15 
percent of the arable land in Nigeria is currently being 
used. Therefore, the Tivs' "expansionary" agriculture does 
not threaten the viability of other groups. 
 
 
8. (C)  Discrimination against Tivs, the group said, extends 
to the federal government.  They contrasted the GON 
response to the victims of the recent Ikeja armory 
explosions with its failure to provide support to the 
victims of the Benue-Taraba conflict.  They noted that MoD 
Danjuma is a Jukun and commented that President Obasanjo's 
failure to visit or express condolences had damaged his 
image among Tivs. 
 
 
9. (C)  The Ambassador asked for ideas on finding a solution 
to the perennial conflicts between Tivs and other tribes. 
The group offered no realistic remedies, making only vague 
references to a need for "more political will" and 
recognition by other groups of the right of Tivs to "exist" 
and practice their culture. 
 
 
10. (C)  Comment:  No ethnic group bordering Tivland is 
currently at ease with the Tiv.  Their aggressive approach 
to bringing land under cultivation undermines the cultures 
of many of these groups (some of which are pastoral). 
While the Tiv may "permit" minority groups in Tivland to 
practice their cultures or participate in politics, there 
is never any danger of the Tivs losing control.  Moreover, 
say some non-Tivs, Tiv culture incorporates aspects of 
tradition that are no longer compatible with Nigerian law. 
After over a century of Tiv encroachment, the groups 
bordering Tivland will no longer stand idly by as they 
become minorities in their home areas.  Loss of control of 
a Local Government Area Council means loss of federal 
government revenue alloted to it.  Therein may lie the root 
cause of often-violent conflict among the Tiv and their 
neighbors. 
JETER 

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