Herdsmen Menace: Two Policemen, Several Others Killed in Benue, Plateau

  • Lalong imposes dusk-to-dawn curfew on Bassa LGA

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and George Okoh in Makurdi

Two riot policemen attached to the military Special Task Force (STF) on security in Plateau State and scores of civilians were killed in a sporadic gun duel between suspected Fulani herdsmen and security agents wednesday morning at Rafiki, Dong and Maifarin-mota villages in Bassa Local Government Area of the state.

Over 20 houses, including a church building belonging to Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) were also burnt in the mayhem, while about eight villagers were declared missing as at the time of filing this report.

Students, including those from foreign countries, of International Evangelism Institute located in the area had to immediately be evacuated by the security agents to safety when the battle became heated.

There were conflicting reports on the cause of the violence, and the casualty figure.

A resident of Maifarin-mota, a neighbourhood of Rafiki, Mr. Moses Bot, alleged that the fresh violence was triggered by the arrest of four Fulani with AK-47 rifles on Tuesday night.

He narrated: “Last night the police arrested four Fulani men with AK-47 and took them to the police headquarters in Jos. The arrest probably angered the other Fulani men who came over to the community this morning (Wednesday) at about 6:30a.m. and began to shoot sporadically causing panic. Residents are currently fleeing away now as I talk with you on the phone.”

But the state Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Mohammad Nuru Abdullah, said the natives mobilised and came to attack Fulani settlement at Rafiki at about 6:30a.m. yesterday, killing five Fulani and destroying their property.

He expressed worry that the security agents did not come to their rescue from 6:30a.m. to about 10a.m. when the havoc was wreaked.

When contacted, the spokesman of the STF, Major Umar Adam, confirmed that two policemen attached to the STF were killed, and another two critically wounded, and are now receiving treatment at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Jos.

He added that eight persons from both the natives and Fulani had been arrested in connection with the violence, and much ammunition recovered.

Adam added that more troops and a fighter jet had been deployed to the area to keep surveillance. “Leaders of the natives and the Fulani have been summoned to the state Government House, Rayfield for dialogue.”

The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Tyopev Terna, did not pick his phone when calls were put across to him,.
He did not also respond to text messages sent to him.

However, the state Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Bassa Local Government Area, citing wanton destruction of lives and property at Rafiki, Dong, and some other areas of the local government area as reason.

In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Rufus Bature, Lalong urged the communities to sheathe their swords and allow the law to take its course.

The curfew which took immediate effect from yesterday, would remain in place as efforts are being made by the government to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the problem.

It added: “Consequently, security agencies in the affected local government area have been mandated to enforce the curfew, while law-abiding citizens are being advised to go about their lawful businesses.”

In a related development, three residents of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State were again wednesday reportedly hacked to death by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

One of the victims, a catechist, Christopher Unenger, and two other traders, were killed in separate attacks by suspected herdsmen in Tse-Oragbo Nyiev council ward and Yelwata, all in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
According to an eyewitness who spoke with journalists, the catechist who oversees the administrative functions at RCM Church in the area, was in the company of his in-law Ayem Mbakuughur when the herdsmen laid siege and killed him.

He added that both were going for the early morning mass when they were attacked but the in-law managed to escape.
The Media Director, Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Rev. Fr. Moses Iorpuu, confirmed the incident to journalists but declined to give details on how it happened.

In the same vein, two brothers, Aondowase Uma and Ahanbee Uma, were on the same day, ambushed and killed by suspected herdsmen.

The victims were said to be returning from Yelewata market on a motorbike around 8p.m. when they were ambushed and killed and their motorcycle burnt by the herdsmen.

A survivor, Orihyev Nyaga, who was shot in the left hand, said he was returning from the market on a motorbike when he ran into a road block mounted by the herdsmen.

He said they had attempted to matchete him but he narrowly escaped. He was however shot in the hand.
He said he abandoned his bike and ran into the bush to hide and managed to run back to the market where he raised the alarm.

Locals said the two dead bodies were recovered by youths and handed over to the Police at Yelwata where they were taken to an undisclosed morgue.

They said the alarm raised by the survivor helped as more deaths could have been recorded.
Attempts to get a confirmation from the state police command proved unsuccessful, as calls put to the police spokesman were not answered.