BY Laleye Dipo in Minna
The Imam of Etogi village in Gbara ward of Mokwa Local Government Area in Niger State was among the 21 persons reportedly killed by suspected herdsmen on Saturday morning.
The imam was said to be leading 20 other faithful in an early morning prayer, when the herdsmen attacked them with dangerous weapons and embarked on a killing spree.
Eight other members of the community who were not inside the mosque were equally attacked and wounded.
An eyewitness said those injured had been taken to the Mokwa General Hospital for treatment.
He told THISDAY that the attack by the herdsmen was a reprisal for killing of a herdsman by the villagers during a disagreement.
He said the disagreement occurred between some Fulani youths and members of the community.
The herdsmen were said to have maintained a settlement near the community on the understanding that a percentage of the proceeds from their harvest would go to the village head.
However a disagreement was said to have ensued when the herdsmen failed to remit the agreed fee to the village head at the end of the last cropping season.
The herdsmen, it was learnt, later claimed that the parcel of land belonged to them.
But the community was said to have demanded for the agreed amount, a development that led to a free for all fight, resulting in the death of one of the herdsmen.
This was said to have infuriated the herdsmen who reportedly mobilised support and unleashed mayhem on the villagers on Saturday morning, leading to the death of the 21 persons.
â€œThe attackers killed everybody in the mosque, including the Imam,â€ one of the eyewitnesses said.
The disturbance, it was learnt, caused commotion in the village, forcing women and children who were woken by the disturbance to flee.
Police public relations officer in the state, DSP Bala Elkana, when contacted, confirmed the incident, but said â€œ20 people were killed during the early morning attackâ€.
Elkana described the attack as â€œa reprisalâ€™ for an earlier killing of a herdsman by the villagers.
â€œThe killing of a herdsman was managed but it appears they were not satisfied and decided to retaliate,â€ Elkana stated, adding that eight people sustained various degrees of injuries during the attack.
The police spokesman said mobile policemen, operatives of the Department of the State Services (DSS), and other security agencies had been deployed to the troubled community to restore law and order.