The recent attacks on some communities in Kogi State by suspected herdsmen left over 35 people dead and property worth millions of naira destroyed, writes Yekini Jimoh
When the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello held meetings with traditional rulers and the Fulani on his intention to allow Fulani herdsmen to come to the state and grace their cows, most people kicked against his action.
All the three Senatorial districts said the invitation of the Fulani herdsmen will only bring anarchy to the people.
Before now, the Fulani have been on a logger-head with the people of Kogi East and Kogi West.
According to the Special Adviser to Omala Local Government Area chairman, Mr. Stephen Shaibu, “the killing is regrettable because of the chairman’s commitment to peace between herdsmen and farmers.”
Herdsmen appeared to have gone on a killing binge in the Middle Belt of the country erasing hundreds of lives in Taraba, Adamawa, Benue, and Plateau States.
In Kogi Central little crisis have been recorded due to the topography of the area.
The recent invasion of Kogi East by the Fulani herdsmen, is a warning signal to the governor that his intention should be revised if he wants peace to reign in the state.
The recent Fulani herdsmen attack on the people of Oganenigu community in Dekina and Abejukolo in Omala local government councils of Kogi State left about 35 people dead will be difficult for the people to forget so quickly.
The attack in Kogi East was coming two years after a similar onslaught when sectarian violence led to the death of four Fulani men and unspecified number of their animals. The herdsmen were said to be fleeing from Benue State where they were being overwhelmed.
An indigene said the latest attack may be to avenge the events of 2016.
It was gathered that the herdsmen came in boats with firearms, such as AK 47, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons shooting, killing, and razing houses in that community.
An eye witness disclosed to THISDAY that the suspected Fulani herdsmen in army uniform were heavily armed with AK47 invaded Oganenigu community unexpected on that faithful day.
It was gathered that the herdsmen numbering hundreds burned down over 50 houses in the community as they allegedly slaughtered people and shot those who tried to escape into the nearby bush.
It was also gathered that four family of a serving police officer were also slaughtered by the herdsmen.
Another community, in Dekina Local Government Area, Iyale community was also attacked by the herdsmen.
It was also gathered that two persons were killed during the invasion by the Fulani herdsmen in Iyale.
In Omala local government council, the Fulani herdsmen invaded Abejukolo community killing three persons.
According to a source, in Abejukolo, one Joshua Angulu was slaughtered by the suspected Fulani herdsmen during the attack.
Meanwhile, there are reports that a new set of Fulani herdsmen/terrorists have also crossed into Omala Local Government Area through the River Benue from Nasarawa State.
They are said to be camped in the Obakume Forest, preparing for attacks on Abejukolo, the local government headquarters and adjoining villages.
According to Oganenigwu Community Development Association, over 200 people have been displayed.
The association added that over 50 houses were burnt down by the suspected Fulani herdsmen while people living in villages surrounding Oganenigwu have deserted the community as they moved in droves to places like Anyigba, Ologba, Etulutekpe, Iyale and others.
“As at present nobody can say the excite number of dead people at both sides, because many families are yet to locate their relatives,” the source said.
The source also disclosed that the presence of the security agents drafted to the trouble areas was yet to checkmate the situation.
Another eye witness, Mr. Ojodale Philip, who is the Principal of Community Secondary School, Oganenigwu, Kogi State, said “my school was under attack by Fulani terrorists at about 8:30a.m. but to God be the glory no life was lost in my school, but many people were massacred in the village.
“I personally was shot at several times but nothing happened to me. In my hands are some of the bullets that were meant to kill me.”
Mallam Smaila Maji who spoke with THISDAY at Oganenigwu during the visit of the governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello on a Saturday, said the attack took them by surprise around 8a.m. on a Wednesday.
“As they entered the city they started shooting at the natives sporadically. Our people tried to repel the attackers but were overwhelmed as they were over 500 in number.”
He said the people had no option but to run for their lives as the herders continued to fire gun shots at them with sophisticated weapons like AK47.
“They killed about 25 of our people. Apart from that they also killed about six of our people at Ogbakaka some are still in the hospital.”
He added that the Fulani herdsmen overwhelmed them as they made away with food stuffs and all valuables, physical cash and about 45 motorcycles belonging to the natives.
“There is virtually no young man who is not having a motorcycle. Our people have moved out in droves to neighbouring villages. However, the village has no police station and no health facility,” he said.
Another victim, Mallam Usman Hassan who also spoke with THISDAY appealed to government to come to the aid of the people as they have lost almost everything, adding that about 30 people died from the attack.
Hassan said the matter was beyond their contemplation adding that they were not happy with the Fulani herdsmen even as he pleaded that they should leave their domain for them so that they can go to farm and produce what they will eat.
According another victim, Mr. Aaron Baba, the Fulani herdsmen killed his father. He said they were more than 500 and that they killed 12 people whom they buried while many other bodies have not been recovered.
“They came in and took us by surprise. They came in wearing military camouflage with AK47, you can see the empty bullet shells scattered all over. I am appealing to government for assistance.
“We have been friendly with Fulanis to the extent of engaging in trade by batter until recently when they started acting like Boko Haram.”
However barely five days after the killings in Dekina and Omala local government councils by some suspected herdsmen, a traditional ruler, his wife and 10 persons have been killed while several houses were burnt down by suspected herdsmen in separate attacks on Agbenema, Aj’Ichekpa, Opada and Iyade villages, in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Those killed include a traditional ruler, the Onu Okenwu Agbenema of Ife, Chief Musa Edigbo and his wife and 10 others by the suspected herdsmen.
THISDAY reliably gathered on Monday that the attack started on Sunday night which lasted till the following day and the residence of the former vice chairman of Omala local government council and that of his father were razed down by the suspected herdsmen.
It was gathered that the attackers who were allegedly armed with sophisticated weapons hid in the bushes around these villages from where they launched deadly attacks on their targets.
According to the natives, the herdsmen set the houses ablaze and opened fire on the fleeing inhabitants, slit their throats, and matchet and cut off vital parts of their victims.
The natives who would not want their names in print told journalists that the Administrator of Omala Local Government Area, Hon. Ibrahim Aboh escaped the attackers guns by the whiskers.
The natives said that the soldiers who were drafted to curtail the herdsmen killings allegedly refused to assist the locals to repel the Fulani herdsmen.
“We were surprised when we approached the soldiers who were stationed at the Guest House at Abejukolo for assistance, they refused to act professionally as they used their vehicle to block us from advancing to the troubled spot to help our people.
“It is clear that the aim of the Fulani herdsmen is to kill us and take over our ancestral homes.
“They have razed down Ojuwo Ajomayeigbi, Iyade, Agbenema and Opada villages so that they could use our land for their cattle colonies.
“We want the world to come to our assistance before these Fulanis exterminate and inherit our land. We have lost confidence in the security agencies posted to us, from their action, we believe they have been instructed to adopt sit down look while we are being massacred.
“Our people are being killed and houses burnt down, even as our women are being raped while many children who ran from the theatre of war were still missing.
“Since the attacks begun, we cannot go to the farms even markets have closed. Hunger has come to stay on our soil.
“If drastic measures are not taken to quell this mad killings by these herdsmen, food insecurity will take over our land,” they lamented.
Meanwhile, one of the royal fathers, the Eje Dekina, Alhaji Usman Obaje has applauded the Kogi State governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello for taking a proactive measure to end the Fulani herdsmen killings at Ogane-Enigu and Ojuwo-Ajomaigbi in Dekina and Bassa local government areas of Kogi State.
Obaje who gave the commendation at Aloko-Oganeigu said since the creation of the state in 1991 no governor have ever deemed it fit to visit the village whenever there were crises between farmers and the herdsmen.
He said the visit of governor to the troubled villages has shown his level of humility towards the people of the state, noting that many people who fled from the villages to other neighbouring towns for safety have returned home as a result of the presence of heavy security agents drafted to the areas.
According to him, “In the recent past there has been crises between our farmers and the herdsmen where lives and property running into millions of naira were lost, but no governor has ever come here for first hand information instead the governors delegated their subordinates to visit the villages.
“Honestly, when the news of Governor Bello reached me that he is visiting the village ravaged by the armed bandits I was surprised and started moving to Oganeigu ahead of him, despite the fact that the villages in this part of the local government does not have good roads, the governor bear the stress to reach these places. This is a commitment expected of every leader to enable him address issues without fear or favour.”
The royal father who expressed appreciation to the governor, reported the dearth of basic social amenities such as water, electricity and roads in Adumu, Aloko, Oganeinugu, Ojuole and Omayege communities, appealing to the governor for assistance in that direction.
Bello who visited the affected community was shocked from what he saw during the visit.
Addressing troops of 913 Battalion of the Nigeria Army stationed at Aloko-Oganenigu, Dekina Local Government Area, he said his on-the-spot assessment visit was aimed at ending the hostilities and restore peace to the affected communities.
The governor promised to set up a judicial commission of enquiry to unravel the circumstances that led to the attacks on Oganaenugu, in Dekina Local Government Area of the state.
He said that the armed bandits were poised to sack the communities but were contained by security agencies that included the Army, Police and the Department of State Security Services, promising to institute judicial panel of inquiry to unravel the causes of the crises.
According to him, “The primary responsibility of any government is to secure lives and property. We shall not play politics with the lives of our people.
“We shall unravel everything that is behind these attacks. By the grace of God, this attack is going to be the first and the last in this place. As a government, we will, as much as possible, comfort the families affected and ensure that those injured received prompt medical attention,” he said.
The governor who lamented the dearth of basic social amenities in the area, said the previous administrations neglected the people, assuring that government in no distance time will provide potable water, electricity and roads for the communities.
He urged the community to cooperate with the security agents by providing useful information to enable them tackle the cause of the crises.
Also, the Kogi State Government has confirmed the killing of Chief Musa Edibo, the Onu of Agbenema and three others by suspected Fulani herdsmen during an attack at Agbenema in Omala Local Government Area of the state.
The Kogi State Police Command in a press statement had earlier denied any death of a traditional ruler at Agbenema community during an attack by some suspected Fulani herdsmen.
However, Kogi State Government also confirmed the killing of the traditional ruler and promised to offer N5 million as reward to anybody who can volunteer information leading to the arrest of those who terrorised and killed people in Ojuwo Ajamàgbe and Agbenema in Dekina and Omala local government areas of the state.
In a statement issued by the Director General, Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said the government was saddened by the attack on Agbenema, a peaceful community in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State by mercenaries reportedly working for herdsmen in the area.
The statement confirmed that a total of three persons were killed including Chief Musa Edibo, the Onu of Agbenema.
Fanwo further stated that other persons were also injured and are currently hospitalised and are responding to treatment.
He said intelligence reports showed that the attackers at Agbenema on the afternoon on the 19th March, 2018 appear to be the same group which attacked Ojuwo Ajamàgbe, near Oganenigu in Dekina Local Government Area five days earlier.
“Kogi State Government and the security services are sparing neither expense nor effort to track down these murderers and ensure justice is served.
“We once again reiterate our total commitment as a government to the security of lives and property in the state protection extends to all peaceful and law-abiding citizens and residents, irrespective of religion or tribe,” he said.
The state government also offered a reward of N2 million for information which it said would help preempt and prevent future attacks on any of the communities.
He noted that the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello was committed for quick and full recovery to persons injured in these attacks as he also sends heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.
“His Excellency assures them that government shares in their pain and will stand by them through this difficult time. Furthermore, the administration will continue working to find sustainable and lasting solutions to the long-standing clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Kogi State,” he said.