No fewer than 50 persons have been killed in fresh attacks on Benue communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen after they invaded parts of the Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state on New Year’s Day.
The attacks, which spilled over to Tuesday, came on the heels of the implementation of the anti-open grazing law, which the Fulani herdsmen considered detrimental to their means of livelihood.
Our correspondent gathered that in the Monday’s attacks, the herders invaded two communities in Guma and three communities in the Logo LGAs.
The affected communities are Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan all in Logo LGA as well as Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District of Guma LGA.
The invading herdsmen were said to have attacked Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan villages in Logo LGA on New Year’s Day at the time the people were returning from the New Year’s service.
The assailants were said to have descended on the communities around 9pm on Monday and continued the attack till around 4am on Tuesday, shooting indiscriminately and burning down houses and huts.
A source, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “There were coordinated attacks on five communities by the well-armed herdsmen who stormed our villages in large number, around 10pm to 4am.
They would enter any particular compound, and knock at the door. Once you open your door, they will capture you and slaughter you.
“As I speak with you, the affected villages have been deserted and the invaders have taken over and are razing the ancestral homes of the people who have fled from the areas to other towns in their thousands, for fear of being killed.
“It’s a pathetic situation. The development has inflicted untold hardship on women, children and the elderly, who are trekking long distances in search of a safe haven and awaiting the intervention of security operatives.”
At the time one of our correspondents visited the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, on Tuesday, two fresh corpses were brought into the hospital while many others were said to have been deposited in the morgue.
Dr. Gajir Tsoho of the Department of Surgery, BSUTH, who spoke with newsmen, disclosed that over 30 victims of the attack were receiving treatment at the teaching Hospital with many corpses already deposited at the morgue of the hospital.
Among the dead brought to the hospital on Tuesday were a father and his two-year-old son as well as a young man said to have just returned home after completing his National Youth Service Corps.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who did not give the number of casualties while speaking with newsmen, blamed security agents for not taking decisive action to curb the attacks on the people.
Speaking after the State Security Meeting in Makurdi, Ortom said that no matter the level of intimidation and killings by the herdsmen, the anti-open grazing law would not be reversed or repealed.
The governor stated that security agents were informed ahead of time before the Fulani herders came to attack the people.
He added, ‘’This is unfortunate. The security agencies of this country are aware of what is happening in Benue. So many people are being killed, many houses destroyed, some innocent children were slaughtered, other sliced in the throat just because they want to be law abiding.
“Even amongst the livestock guards, who were there to ensure that there are no clashes, nine of them were killed and innocent women and children were killed. This is not fair.”
Ortom, who addressed journalists after visiting some of the victims receiving treatment at the BSUTH, Makurdi, called on the Federal Government to provide protection for the people of Benue to show that they were also Nigerian citizens.
“We must rise up; Nigerians must rise up; the Federal Government must rise up to protect us because this is not right. They (FG) own the security apparatus. The ones that are here are doing their best but there should be more and that is what we are calling for,” the governor said.
But the Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, Moses Yamu, confirmed the incident, saying 17 people were killed.
Yamu explained that the attacks started on the New Year Eve and continued on Tuesday.
He stated, “The Benue State Police Command has recorded attacks on Tomater village in Sengev council ward; Akor village in Nzorov council ward; and Bakin Kwata village in Umanger council ward of the Guma Local Government Area by suspected herdsmen.
“A total of 17 persons, including seven members of the Benue State Livestock Guards, were killed; their vehicle burnt and an uncertain number of persons injured in separate attacks between December 31, 2017 and January 2, 2018.
“Again, Agba-Uko, near Azege village, and Tse-Aga village of Logo LGA experienced the same fate where one person was killed, one motorcycle burnt, and four persons injured.”
Yamu said the command, on receiving information on the attacks, deployed five combined teams of mobile and conventional policemen in Guma. – Punch.