There was tension on Monday in Akure, the Ondo State capital, following a clash between some members of the Hausa community and traditional masquerades.
The clash occurred on Sunday evening during the Egungun Usopo festival at Sabo-Odojoka area, where most people from the northern part of Nigeria reside.
A woman simply identified as Mama Lekan was said to have collapsed and died while desperately searching for one of her children in the commotion.
No fewer than two houses, four vehicles and ten motorcycles were reportedly set on fire during the clash.
Sources said the crisis was caused by an attempt by a cart-pushing Hausa man to pass through the midst of the traditional worshippers.
“The fight was avoidable. We have been living with the Hausa people for years. They are conversant with our culture and traditions.
“The Egungun Usopo festival requires that people should keep off the street for the short period it lasts.
“But this Hausa man defied the traditional worshippers and wanted to pass through their midst, prompting the masquerade to flog him.
“But some of his people came out and fought the masquerade. They removed his mask. That was the cause of the problem,” a source said.
It was gathered that the community had earlier gone on air to announce that the festival would hold and directed residents living along the area to keep off the streets during the period.
The state government, however, has condemned the incident, warning that it would not tolerate a repeat of it.
A statement by Yemi Olowolabi, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, said the government had met with representatives of both parties involved in the fracas and taken positive steps to resolve it.
Olowolabi said, “The state government wishes to inform the good people of Ondo State that peace and normalcy have been returned to the area, while the police and other security agencies are working to ensure peace in all parts of the state.
“Government also wishes to advise the people, irrespective of tribe or religion, to go about their businesses without any fear of attack or molestation.
“Government, therefore, wishes to state that this administration is seriously working to prevent a recurrence of the incident, while urging that all must resist attempts by disgruntled elements to foment trouble in any part of the state.
“The administration of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) wishes to advise the people of the state to always report their grievances to their community leaders, the police and other relevant authorities for a peaceful resolution, rather than taking the law into their own hands.”
Confirming the tribal war, the Ondo state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Femi Joseph, disclosed that the command has started investigating the matter. He said: “We learnt that some people who were following a masquerader had issues with some members of the Hausa community. But immediately we drafted our men there, normalcy was returned. We are still looking for the people that caused the crisis. If we arrest them, we will charge them to court.”