Despite unheeded, chilling warnings, human blood flowed freely when fully armed Fulani herdsmen invaded Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State, murdering over 50 villagers as they packaged their dreams in prayers and welcomed the New Year. George Okoh reports from Makurdi
The persistent crisis between the Hausa Fulani herdsmen and their host native Tiv community took a heinous dimension on new year day when a group of Fulani herdsmen stormed communities in Guma and Logo local government area of Benue State killing scores of people in a Gestapo manner.
The killer headers brought a sorrowful end to over fifty on armed locals who were still celebrating the new year cross over night.
According to a survival of the grousome attack Terna Acka the invaders came into Logo local government at about 10 amon new year’s day shooting sporadically as worshippers were coming out of church in Ayilamo, Turan and Gaambe-tiev areas of the council
He disclosed that several persons were killed while many are still missing and several houses and property worth millions of naira had were also destroyed.
While holding back tears,he also narrated how three members of the newly constituted Livestock Guards set up by Governor Samuel Ortom for the implementation of Anti-open Grazing Law were murdered.
In the same day while the attack was going on in Logo,another group of herders in their hundred invaded Akor, Umenger and Tomatar in Guma Local government area, home country of Governor Samuel Ortom.killing and maiming any living object in sight.
They left in their wake over twenty dead persons in a very gory state.
The renewed crisis which is coming few weeks after similar skirmish in Ado and Otukpo local government area of the state which left over six persons dead and several people homeless with no source of livelihood as houses, huts and food storage berns were also destroyed by the invaders.
Worst hit by the carnage were women and children most of whom have taken shelter at nearby forests and bushes.
The invaders who were suspected to be Fulani mercenaries matched from Nasarawa and Taraba border villages to take on their victims without any resistance from the native Tiv inhabitants.
And at the end of the invasion, lives, houses, huts, economic trees, farm seedlings and harvests were devastated, burnt and destroyed.
Another victim Francis Akile who claimed that he lost his younger brother in the attack said tension was building up before the attack as they herders in numbers and their cattles in thousands were seen moving around and afraid to enter their communities due to the Benue state anti open grazing bill that was recently signed into law by the Benue state government. “They have been lurking around while threatening us that they will come in and graze whether we like it or not but surprising to us without provocation they came in on Sunday night macheting and killing my people”
It was also gathered that in the aftermath of the onslaught, many are still missing while some are unaccounted for till date.
When contacted on the situation,the member representing Makurdi,Guma in the House of Representative Mr Dickson Tarkighir regretted that youths, women and children were hacked down with machetes by the rampaging herdsmen who also destroyed farm yields and seedlings of the farming populace.
“The situation is really pathetic because most of the affected people, apart from being displaced can hardly feed themselves”, he added.
He said he is still in shock over the attack which he described as barbaric, inhuman and sad.
“Why this,we were in the new year mood and celebrating a bumper harvest of last year when this marauding evil mercenaries came in and killed us en mass even as we have been relatively safe due to enforcement of the anti open grazing law”
He said as a lawmaker in the National Assembly,he and other members from yhe state have been doing everything possible to bring an enabling environment devoid of these heinous attack to the state.
He said they have sponsored bills on ranching as the only solution to the menace of the herders.
He called on the Fulani herdsmen to respect the laws of the land adding that the anti open grazing law was not targeting any body but was done to protect both the herders and farmers in the state.
He called on the federal government to immediately bring succour to the communities affected.
“As you can see this year farming season will be greatly affected and may even lead to farming as people in our farming community are leaving enmass out of fear of further attack.”
Meanwhile, surviving victims of the invasion are still to overcome the shock of the nightmare that greeted them on new year day in Logo
For Uja james of Ayilamo village who lost his cousins in the crisis, life would amount to nothing if the perpetrators of the atrocious crime on his family were not brought to justice.
He recounted that the aggressors matched into the village from neigbouring Nasarawa state, armed with guns and machetes with which they slaughtered all those that were killed”.
According to him, “It was around 3 am when we were woken from sleep by heavy foot match and shouting in the neighborhood and when most of us came out of our houses we discovered that the Fulani herdsmen have taken over our entire community burning and killing anything in sight”.
“Our houses, hurts, farm seedling, food and economic trees were all destroyed in one fell swoop.” “In the mist of that confusion, one was left with no other option but to run for safety, it was in this confusion that they killed my cousins”.
He disclosed that the slained members of his family were butchered and dismembered by the mercenaries who also ensured that all his farm produce and household items were not speared in the malignant attack.
“What they have done to our community is highly condemnable, because we could not imagine what prompted the provocation and resort to violent attack and killing of women and children in such a manner”,
However,the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom while taking an on the spot assessment on the level of casualty on the attack at the Benue State Teaching hospital Mortuary where the corpses of the deceased were deposited 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 throat 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.
“The Security agencies in this country are aware of this because warnings were given out and this seem to be a tip of the iceberg”,the governor fumed.
He frowned at the lukewarm manner the security agencies as well as the Federal Government is handing the issue and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up and give his people protection by showing that they are also, citizens of this country.
“We have told our people to be law abiding but there is a limit the people can go. This is not fair and right and we cannot accept it”,Ortom decried.
Some victims of the attack have been brought to the Benue state teaching hospital for treatment
Anger As.Makurdi Resident Protest
Meanwhile anger enveloped resident of Makurdi town as the staged a violent protest against government insentivity of government to stop the perennial attack.
The protester carried placards calling on President Mohammadu Buhari to resign from office over his failure to provide adequate security for the state.
In the cause of the protest,the entire Makurdi metropolis and other towns in Benue state were locked down in protest against the killings by suspected Fulani herders.
The inaction of the federal authority and its security agencies to take proactive action to stem this needless killings of Benue people was also questioned.
The protesters who block entrance point to the state around the North bank bridge,yagba village,wurukun and Apir had confrontation with security operative for hours.
The protesters mostly youths were pelting stones on security men.
Some cars were burnt down in the cause of the crises
The state governor who went to the scene of the protest had to be turned back by his security when the irate youth refuse to listen to his appeal for calm insisting that president Buhari most come and address them.
Governor Samuel Ortom while briefing reporters called for calm over the situation.
He called on residents of the state not to take laws into their hands but most abide by the law.
He disclosed that more casualties of the attack are still been brought to Makurdi.
He confirmed that the carnage has been reported to the president
“I have reported the matter to the president and we are expecting action.
Some of the people we have evidence against are the leaders of Miyati Allah who.have been threatening the state.We are calling on the president to arrest them immediately.
He said the federal government should rise to it’s responsibility ‘if not the are saying Benue is not part of Nigeria
The police in Benue state have however arrested six Fulani herdsmen who were arrested in connection with the invasion of the two local government areas and another one who was arrested for grazing in Governor Samuel Ortom’s farm and have been arraigned before a Makurdi Chief Magistrate Court presided over by Isaac Ajim.
The six accused persons who were arraigned for criminal conspiracy, mischief by fire, anti open grazing, causing hurt with dangerous weapons and culpable homicide include Ibrahim Saleh, Jibrin Adamu, Magaji Yau, Ibrahim Abubakar, Useni Bala, Sabin Yau while Ibrahim Mallam was also arraigned for grazing on Givernor Ortom’s farm along Naka Road in Makurdi.According to the First Information Report (FIR), on December 31, 2017 at about 11:50pm, he Menga Mgande of Akor village in Guma local government area reported to the police at Gbajmba that on the same date at Aboh 3:pm, a group of Fulani herdsmen attacked heir village , shooting sporadically and in the process, killed 19 persons by severally injuring them with deep cuts all over their bodies.
It added that during police investigation, six accused including Ibrahim Saleh, Jibrin Adamu, Magaji Yau, Ibrahim Abubakar, Useni Bala, Sabin Yau were arrested and further investigation into the matter revealed that the suspects had destroyed houses, crops and burnt down many buildings.
The accused were also arraigned for openly rearing their cows within farmlands at Akor village in Guma Local Government Area thus contravening section 97, 329, 333 and 222 of the penal code law of Benue State and section 19(2)(3) of the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law of Benue State 2017.
When the case came up, no plea was taken for want of jurisdiction but prosecution counsel Edward Imoh asked for another date.
The presiding Chief Magistrate, Isaac Ajim who noted that the court could not grant the accused persons bail because the charges against them were very grave adjourned the case tillMarch 5, 2018 for further mention and ordered that they be remanded at the Federal Prison in Makurdi.
Reacting shortly after the court proceeding, counsel to the accused, Barr. Almustapha Elegu said he did not raise any objection to the proceeding because there was no basis for it at the moment because at the appropriate time, the case would be moved to the High Court.