George Okoh in Makurdi
The attacks on communities in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen continued unabated 12 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari directed a full investigation into last week’s massacre in Agatu Local Government Area that left scores dead.
The fresh attack occurred yesterday at Odughehor and Ikopi communities in Apa Local Government Area of the state.
According to John Ngbede, a former Commissioner for Works in Benue, who hails from Agatu, the attackers invaded the villages between 2 pm and 3 pm yesterday from the Nasarawa State and Gwer West borders of the state, taking residents of the communities unawares.
“Most residents who had fled to Otukpo returned when they heard that the president had intervened in the crises, only for the herdsmen to attack them just as they were settling down,” said Ngbede.
He disclosed that the number of victims in the latest attack was yet to be ascertained, but said it was high.
Meanwhile, the Benue State Police Commissioner, Mr. Paul Yakadi, also disclosed that over 5,000 cows accompanied by armed Fulani herdsmen had, in the wake of the raging crisis between Benue farmers and the herders, taken over part of Agatu Local Government Area.
Yakadi, who led police officers and men to assess the invasion of the affected communities, confirmed that seven villages, namely: Okokolo, Aila, Adagbo, Akwu, Omikuidi, Ocholonya and Odugbeho had been completely deserted.
He told reporters at the command’s headquarters in Makurdi, the state capital, that the invaders stormed Agatu from Naka in Gwer West Local Government Area of Benue State, and Loco and Doma in Nasarawa State.
He said: “The worrisome renewed attacks on the Agatu communities were as a result of the alarming influx of the herdsmen into the area through the neighbouring towns of Naka in Gwer West Local Government Area and Loco and Doma in Nasarawa State where cattle are made to swim across the river to Agatu.
“The command on an assessment tour of the area a few days ago to identify areas that security needed to be beefed up, discovered Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons with their cows numbering over 5,000.
“We saw a number of houses that were either burnt or destroyed and foodstuff from these areas were looted and some were burnt.
“The team also discovered that the following villages: Okokolo, Aila, Adagbo, Akwu, Omikuidi, Ocholonya and Odugbeho were deserted with no trace of persons living there, while three corpses were seen in Aila and Adagbo.”
The police commissioner, who assured reporters that the crisis had been brought under control, said the police in conjunction with the state government and other security agencies had made a conscious effort to monitor and forestall further destruction of lives and property in the area.