• Calls on Buhari to save his people

• President, Umahi, APC condemn Omoku, Kaduna killings, Wike offers N200m bounty

Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, George Okoh in Makurdi and Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki

The killings perpetuated by bloodthirsty criminal gangs in parts of Nigeria since the start of the New Year, continued yesterday when marauding Fulani herdsmen attacked two local government areas in Benue State – Guma, Governor Samuel Ortom’s local government, and the Logo Local Government Area – killing over 50 persons.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Terver Akase, confirmed the attacks while speaking with THISDAY yesterday, saying those dead included nine members of the Benue State Livestock Guards, while dozens were critically injured.

Ortom who was distraught over the incidents was said to have wept profusely at the scene of the attacks and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to protect his people from the hands of the bloodthirsty herdsmen.

The governor was also at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital to commiserate with the injured and said that the development was unacceptable.

The deadly incidents forced him to call an emergency meeting of the State Security Council on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

The attacks were said to have been carried out between New Year Day and yesterday in both local government areas.

A source disclosed that the invaders came into Logo at about 10 a.m. on New Year day, shooting sporadically as worshippers were coning out of church.

According to him, communities attacked included Ayilamo, Turan and Gaambe-Tiev in Logo.

He added that several persons were still missing while several houses and property worth millions of naira had been destroyed.

The source added that members of the newly constituted Livestock Guards, set up by Ortom for the enforcement of the Anti-open Grazing Law were also murdered, even as he frowned at the attitude of the government for deliberately refusing to send patrol vehicles to the area.

Also, another attack took place in Akor, Umenger and Tomatar in Guma Local Government Area at about 3 a.m. on Tuesday.

Speaking with newsmen at the end of the emergency security meeting held in Government House, Ortom said over 20 persons had been killed.

But later at the Benue State Teaching Hospital mortuary where the corpses of the deceased were deposited, he expressed shock at the number of persons murdered.

“What I have seen here is far beyond the report we received. Several innocent people have been killed. Women and children murdered with their throats slit open.

“Many people are still missing while several houses have been destroyed. The whole of Guma and Logo have been turned into desolate lands.

“You would recall that I made official reports to the federal government about the intended invasion of Benue State by these herdsmen who claimed that they would resist the (Anti-Grazing) law. I have never seen where people would come out with this level of impunity.

“This is unfortunate; we are living in a country that is presumed to be our own. Security agencies in this country had been aware of the impending attacks and what you are seeing here is just a tip of the iceberg.”

Continuing, he added: “From the report I have gotten so far, what has happened is beyond what we are seeing here in Makurdi where some of the dead and injured are being brought for medical attention.

“So many people have been killed, houses razed and some of those killed had their throats slit, eyes and private organs removed and killed like animals.

“You can imagine that innocent women and children and unarmed people were slaughtered in cold blood just for no reason at all because they want to be law abiding.

“I feel sad about all this. Is this how we are going to continue? The federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari must rise and give us protection to show that we are truly citizens of this country.

“Though we will continue to urge our people to be law abiding, there is a limit to what we can bear. This is not fair, it is not right and certainly unacceptable.”

When contacted, the public relations officer of the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja, Jimoh Moshood, said the force headquarters was yet to get the details of the Benue attacks.

Ortom had in November last year signed the Anti-Open Grazing and Anti-Kidnapping, Abduction, Cultism and Terrorism Bills into law.

Ortom said that the anti-grazing law would bring to an end the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Benue.

He lamented the destruction of lives and property in clashes involving farmers and herdsmen over the years, and promised to promote ranching since it had proved to be the best way of rearing livestock globally.

Rivers, Kaduna Killings Condemned

News on the Benue killings came just as President Buhari, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the New Year day killings in Omoku, Rivers State and Sango Local Government Area in Kaduna State.

At least 17 persons were killed after the New Year day crossover service by unknown assailants in Omoku, the headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State, while a traditional ruler, Etum Numana, Dr. Gambo Makama, and his pregnant wife, were slaughtered in Sango, Kaduna State on the same day.

In a statement issued yesterday by his media aide, Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari said his administration would investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of violence in various parts of the country, stating that no religion or civilised culture condones violence, especially the destruction of innocent souls.

The president, who also condemned the killings of citizens in Rivers and Kaduna States on New Year day, described the incidents as “reprehensible and unacceptable” and directed the law enforcement agencies in both states to intensify efforts and ensure that the assailants face the music.

Shehu said in the statement that the president frowned at killings in the name of religion at separate meetings he had with the Qadiriyya Muslim Movement in Africa and Izalatul-Bid’a-Wa-Iqamatus-Sunnah at the State House, Abuja.

According to him, the president said anyone, or group of persons, who unleashes violence on the innocent in the name of a movement, cause or religion, lacks an understanding of the ordinances of God.

“You can’t kill to please God, and I know no religion tolerates the taking of another person’s life in the name of a religious movement. There is no justification for killing any member of the society.

“We have been tackling the Boko Haram menace and we have made significant impact, and we will extend the measures to stop all wanton killings,” he was quoted as saying.

The statement added that the president said the country’s security apparatus would be consistently reviewed to check threats to the peaceful co-existence of all Nigerians with a view to ensuring the safety of lives and property.

It also said the president told the delegation that his political party, the APC, predicated its campaigns on three issues – adequate security, the fight against corruption, and economic development to aid job creation, adding that his government had been consistent in pursuing them.

“Our priority is to also ensure that everyone in the country has something to eat. We are really concerned about the underprivileged. Graciously, God has been hearing our prayers.

“In the past two years, we have had bountiful harvests due to favourable conditions. All over the country, we have reports of farmers posting good harvests…

“Justice will be done to all in the war against corruption. As religious leaders, I urge you to reach out to your followers to respect the rights of others.

“Those that stole from the public can no longer sleep well in the country today. When they run abroad, they cannot take their landed assets with them. We will, in all cases, have them return what they looted,” he added.

According to the statement, the leader of Qadiriyya Muslim Movement in Africa, Dr. Keribullah Nasir Kabara, said the movement would continue to uphold the president in prayers for good health and longer life to enable him build a stronger nation that caters for all citizens.

Kabara, the statement added, said reports of improved security in the North-east and better harvest for farmers across the nation were clear signs of God’s favour and urged the president to continually look unto God.

It also said the sheikh observed that the improved security situation in the country had made it possible for ten million members of Qadiriyya from many parts of Africa to gather in Kano for some days to commemorate the birthday of the founder of the movement without a single attack.

The statement added that the leader of the second group of Ulamas, Shiekh Bala Lau, commended the government’s ongoing drive for infrastructure development in the country and urged Buhari to continue to remember the masses who look up to him for improved wellbeing.

In another statement by Shehu, Buhari expressed shock and outrage over the reports of the massacre of innocent persons in Omoku in Rivers State and the killings of a traditional ruler and his wife in Sango, Kaduna State on New Year day.

While appealing to the affected communities not to embark on reprisal attacks, he asked them to allow the security agencies to thoroughly investigate the incidents and make the perpetrators face the music.

The president was quoted as saying: “I have always maintained that nothing justifies the taking of the life of an innocent person,” adding: “People in our communities must learn to live peacefully.”

The statement also said the president commiserated with families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Also condemning the Omoku attack, the senator representing Rivers South-East, Sen. Magnus Abe, described the killings in the early hours of the New Year day as barbaric and senseless.

A statement yesterday by his media aide, Mr. Parry Benson, said Abe expressed concern over the re-emergence of violence and crime in the area.

He said it was needless for humans to take the lives of others.

“The incident should be condemned by every right thinking Rivers man and woman.

“Rivers communities should not be allowed to become havens for blood thirsty hoodlums,” he said.

The senator urged the Nyesom-Wike-led government to assist the security agencies with the needed tools to tackle the security challenges bedevilling the state.

“The killing in Omoku is an indication that all is not well, the state government should assist the security agencies with the needed tools to tackle the rising state of insecurity.

“The state government must drastically re-engineer the security architecture of the state, and provide funding to fight crime to stop this endless waste of human lives,” he said.

Similarly, the ruling APC condemned the gruesome attacks on worshipers ushering in the New Year in Taiwo Isale area of Ilorin, Kwara State, and Omoku community in Rivers State.

In a statement issued yesterday by the APC spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi, the party also condemned the killings of the Kaduna traditional ruler and his wife by unknown gunmen on New Year day.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and with their friends, families and loved ones. We also condole with the government and people of the affected states.

“It is unfortunate that when people were looking forward to the New Year, they were killed and maimed in such a gruesome, barbaric and needless manner. There can be no justification for these evil, wicked and callous attacks.

“While preliminary reports link the attacks in Kwara and Rivers State respectively to hoodlums and cultists in the reported areas, we call on the relevant security agencies to embark on a full investigation to unravel the perpetrators and make sure they face the full wrath of the law,” the party said.

Also reacting to the Rivers attack, the Ebonyi State governor condemned the New Year killings in Omoku, describing it as the height of insanity and barbarism.

Umahi in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, said the killing of innocent worshippers who went for the crossover night service was a national tragedy and condoled with the families of those who lost their loved ones.

The governor further commiserated with the government and people of Rivers State over the calamity and described the act as the height of insanity and degeneration of humanity to evil.

Umahi said: “We are here again faced with one of the greatest carnages and man’s inhumanity to man. To think that a man with blood running in his veins should open fire on innocent fellow citizens is so horrible and devastating. It is with great shock that I received the news and on behalf of my family and the patriotic citizens of Ebonyi State, I commiserate with my brother and friend, Governor Nyesom Wike, the people of Rivers State and the families of the deceased.

“Such an inhuman act further puts question to our existence as sane and salubrious conscious beings”

He called on the security agencies to intensify investigations into the massacre with a view to arresting the masterminds of the killing, while praying to God to grant the souls of the deceased eternal rest.

Wike Places N200m Bounty

Meanwhile, the Rivers State governor, Nyessom Wike has placed a N200 million bounty for information that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of the New Year day Omoku massacre.

He also said the perpetrators would forfeit their houses, just as he directed the security agencies to go on a full-scale war against criminals in the area.

Wike spoke yesterday after he led the Rivers State Security Council on a fact finding/sympathy visit to the families of the deceased. He also visited those injured during the attack.

The governor also visited the scene of the crime where he got briefings from the Nigerian Police Area Commander, Mr. Mike Nwafor and the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (ONELGA) Local Government Council Caretaker Chairman, Mr. Olisa Osi.

He said: “We have placed a N200 million bounty for relevant information that will lead to the arrest of all those involved in this unfortunate act of violence.

“Anybody who is connected to this crime in any way will have his/her houses forfeited to the government. This place had been peaceful before this unfortunate mayhem.

“We will not allow another case of violence. We have mobilised the security agencies to take the battle to the perpetrators.”

Wike said all those linked to the Omoku violence would face the full wrath of the law.

“You cannot shed innocent blood and go free. We are working with all the security agencies to do everything possible to arrest the perpetrators. They must pay for this,” he said.

The governor commiserated with the families of the deceased, saying that the state government would support them in burying their loved ones and also settle the medical bills of those receiving treatment at different hospitals.

He said: “I am pained by this unfortunate mayhem. Enough is enough.”

The governor and the service commanders also visited the residence of wanted cultist, Don Wanny, where the governor commended the security agencies for working hard to improve security in the state.

The Chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, Mr. Osi Olisa, informed the governor that 17 persons lost their lives as a result of the attack.

Also recounting what transpired, Mrs. Comfort Ordu, who lost her husband and three of her children, said they were dragged out of their home and killed by the perpetrators.

Some of those murdered in cold blood included Favour Odili, Saviour Amirinze, Augustine Ordu, Precious Ordu, Wisdom Ordu, Jennifer Ohia and Innocent Ohia.

Others were Reuben Idogu, Baby Idogu, Ngozi Ogbuanukwu, Oyi Ogadinma, Nwakaego Ogadinma and Uche Onige.

Wike was accompanied to Omoku by the Brigade Commander of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General A.A Bande; Commander of Joint Task Force, Colonel M.N Madi; Rivers State Deputy Police Commissioner, Ahmed Magaji; and Rivers State Director of the Department of State Services, Mr. Tosin Ajayi.

Amaechi Wants Wike Impeached

But even as Wike placed a N200 million bounty on the killers in his state, his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi yesterday called for his impeachment over the killings, contending that the governor has no excuse for not protecting the live of citizens in Rivers State.

Amaechi, who is the Minister of Transportation in the Buhari administration and a virulent opponent of Wike, said whilst the governor has been busy building roads, he has failed to protect lives and guarantee the development of human capital.

“The first responsibility of a governor which is what the oath of office requires is that you swear to protect lives and property. When you don’t protect lives and property, what do you do? It is impeachment. Unfortunately, there is no House of Assembly in Rivers State.

“There is too much noise coming from Rivers State. The governor just wakes up and starts shouting, abusing people. That’s all he does, Mr. Projects painting roads.

“The first thing you do is human capacity development and keeping human beings and we are losing lives everyday.

“I just don’t know, because the things are there for him to work with. He is not like me, when during my second term President Goodluck Jonathan took away the police and the State Security Services (SSS).

“The Army brigade commander couldn’t visit me, but in his case, everyone is at his disposal.

“He can see the Commissioner of Police, Director, SSS, unlike my time, yet, we fought insecurity. But because he needs these people (criminals) for election purposes, that is why they are still there. That is why they are killing. We need much more than that.

“Unfortunately, I swore not to be talking about Rivers anymore but you don’t keep quiet in the face of 21 lives lost. You can’t just keep quiet. I have said it that nobody should criticise his successor.

“Let him do his bit, but a successor that watches the lives of people go like that and does not care. God will bless him,” he said.