George Okoh writes that the women of Benue are heart-broken following the killing of their husbands and children in the most gruesome manner by suspected Fulani militias
It was like a tornado when on the eve of New Year, thousands of Fulani militias invaded the farming communities of Guma and Logo local government councils of Benue State killing scores of women, children and yet unborn babies in the most gruesome manner.
The aftermath of the killings by the headsmen has brought so much sorrow, tears and blood to the state and in particular to the women of the state whose children and husbands were hacked down and butchered to death.
According to Madam Elizabeth Hangem, who lost her husband and a young son, there is nothing to cherish in this life again.
“They have made us widows over night and our children and the unborn are being killed in our own ancestral homes. What have we done to merit this? I curse the day God brought us in contact with the Fulanis,” she added while crying profusely.
She said several women and children have been displaced while many have not been seen since the killings started.
Another victim Mrs. Mbalumum Aondotsugh said she made a panicked dash for the bush, where she hid in a thick jungle and watched her family’s last moments.
She said teenagers and adults were shot with rifles, while babies and toddlers, including his youngest daughter, Dooter Aondotsugh were slaughtered.
She cried as she described seeing her relative and children die, meticulously naming and counting them on both hands until she ran out of fingers.
More than 80,000 of the people of Guma and Logo have fled to Makurdi bringing with them stories that they say describe ethnic cleansing.
Most affected are women from Ayilamo, Turan and Gaambe-tiev in Logo Local Government and Akor, Umenger and Tomatar in Guma Local Government Area.
As a result, women across Benue State while mourning called on the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, to rise up as the mother of Nigeria to challenge her husband to reshape the nation’s security architecture that would guarantee the safety of mothers and children in their homes.
The women led by a former Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in the state, Mrs. Elizabeth Apedzan, said that they have decided to troop out in their numbers to government to commiserate with the wife of the governor of Benue State, Mrs. Eunice Ortom over the killing of unarmed mothers and children as well as other people in Guma and Logo LGA.
Apedzan stated that Benue women would not stop to cry until Buhari decided to do the needful by deploying relevant adequate security to the state to avert further killings.
She condemned the killings, describing them as ethnic cleansing and called on President Buhari to rise to the occasion by bringing the killings to an end. ”We have asked him to denounce being patron of the Miyetti Allah,” she stated.
Also speaking, wife of the Tor Sankara, Chief (Mrs.) Elizebath Shuluwa, called on Mrs. Ortom to lead a delegation of Benue women to the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari to speak to her husband to come to the aid of Benue.
Mrs. Ortom who couldn’t control her emotion, promised to meet the wife of the president to express their anger and grief to her.
Also speaking for the women, Mrs. Josephine Habba, coordinator of civil organisation in the state called on the president to deploy security to the state. She said the killer herdsmen should be classified as a terrorist group.
The persistent crises between the 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 herders brought a sorrowful end to over 50 unarmed locals who were still celebrating the New Year cross over night.
According to a survivor of the gruesome attack, Terna Acka, the invaders came into Logo Local Government at about 10a.m. on New Year’s day shooting sporadically as worshippers were coming out of churches 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 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 hundreds 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 20 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 bans 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 the herders and their cattle 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.”
House of Representatives 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 was 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 the state have been doing everything possible to bring an enabling environment devoid of these heinous attacks to the state, adding that they have sponsored bills on ranching as the only solution to the menace of the herders.
Tarkighir called on the Fulani herdsmen to respect the laws of the land adding that the Anti-open Grazing Law was not targeting anybody 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 famine as people in our farming community are leaving en mass out of fear of further attacks.