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.”
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 during the visit of The PUNCH 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.
Ortom fumes, calls for FG’s intervention
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.
17 persons were killed in attacks, say police
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.
My uncle, who was home for New Year, was killed –Survivor
Meanwhile, a survivor of the Benue attacks, James Igbudu, said he saw nine dead bodies in one of the communities attacked by the gunmen.
He explained that his uncle, Julius Ntwangwa, who worked with the Benue State Agriculture and Rural Development Agency, was among those killed by the herdsmen, who dropped his corpse at the back of the house.
He said, “The herdsmen were moving out of Benue State through the road connecting Benue State and Nasarawa State when they decided to block the road. The road is between Umuange and Barkin Kota. They attacked the people who came for the New Year celebration. They butchered a lot of them that night.
“We managed to sleep till this morning (Tuesday). We thought they would not return. However, this morning, I was sleeping when I heard sudden screaming.
“Immediately I woke up, I heard a gunshot. I quickly held my mother and two children as there was confusion in the village. There were a lot of old people around. We jumped into the bush, from where we burst out to the main road. As we burst out, there were gunshots at out back.”
Igbudu said he called the state Police Public Relations Officer, Joseph Yamu, to alert him to the attacks, adding that Yamu informed him that the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area was already heading for the community.
The survivor explained that after dropping off his mother and children in Makurdi, the state capital, he returned to the community without seeing any policeman.
He stated that he later learnt that the DPO and some officers had gone to another village which had been attacked by the herdsmen.
“I went to that village, which is close to the governor’s town, and saw nine corpses. They brought them to Gbadima Hospital. My uncle, Julius Ntwangwa, who had come to celebrate the New Year, was also killed.
“Six others, who were critically injured in my village, were also brought to the hospital,” he added.
Tension as Nasarawa farmers flee homes
In a related development, about 3,000 Tiv farmers in Nasarawa State have deserted their homes following attacks on some neighbouring communities in Benue State by Fulani herdsmen.
It was learnt that the farmers fled their homes in Boutsa, Demekaa and Ayoosu among others in the Keana Local Government Area of the state for fear of being attacked by the rampaging herdsmen who are currently taking refuge at Keana South Primary School.
Speaking with The PUNCH in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, the President of the Tiv Youth Organisation in the state, Peter Ahemba, expressed worries over the untold hardship being experienced by his kinsmen as a result of the unfortunate development.
Briefing the displaced Tiv people in Keana, Ahemba said the harassment of Tiv people in Nasarawa State by the herders as a result of the implementation of the anti-open grazing law by the Benue State Government must not be allowed to continue.
Ahemba stated, “Since the implementation of the anti-open grazing law by the Benue State governor, the Fulani herders have continued to harass our people here in Nasarawa State as if we are a party to the decision of the Benue State Government.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Idirisu Kennedy, said there was no clash between the herdsmen and Tiv farmers in the state.
“The command only heard that there are movement of Fulani herders from the neighbouring Benue State into the Awe LGA of the state following the anti-open grazing law enacted by the Benue State Government,” he stated.