â€¢ Angry IDPs stone Al-Makura, death toll in Nasarawa rises to 78
â€¢ Village head killed as herders sack Benue community
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, Emmanuel Ukumba in Lafia and George Okoh in Makurdi
Incensed by the escalating spate of killings by so-called herders of cattle in several states in the country, especially in the Middle Belt, senators during plenary Tuesday called for the sack of the service chiefs over their failure to end the violent attacks on communities and the gruesome slaughter of villagers.
The senators argued that their dismissal would pave the way for the appointment of new security chiefs who can introduce new strategies to stem the killings.
The senators made the remarks during a debate on the renewed killings by suspected herdsmen in Nasarawa South Senatorial District at the weekend where scores were reportedly killed.
But it was not only the senators that were angry with the rising insecurity in the country, as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nasarawa, where the death toll from the weekend attacks has risen to 78, stoned the motorcade of the state governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura when he went to assess the damage caused by the onslaught on the communities.
Al-Makura, like his counterpart in Plateau State Simon Lalong, has been accused of downplaying the severity of the attacks by herdsmen in his state for political reasons. Al-Makura and Lalong both belong to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since the beginning of the year, Nigeria has recorded the highest number of deaths linked to clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Kogi States, with no end in sight to the atrocities.
Scores have also been killed in Zamfara State where unidentified gunmen continue to run amuck.
Speaking on the incessant killings in the country, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to enlist the help of foreign nations in tackling the rampaging killer herdsmen and other forms of insecurity in the country.
Ekweremadu cautioned that any campaign to woo foreign investors to Nigeria would fail if security cannot be guaranteed.
Presiding at plenary, the Deputy Senate President wondered: â€œI ask myself: Assuming this is happening in America, in the United Kingdom or France, will it take all this time to be resolved? As we know, not even in South Africa will this be allowed to fester.
â€œThe answer is simply no, but it appears that we are taking too many things for granted. The time has come for us to seek help from other countries.
â€œWe should not be ashamed to ask for help. The president met with the UK prime minister and she said that Britain would help us security wise. America is also offering to help.
â€œSo, we should not be reluctant to come out openly to say we need help, because what we have now is a global village.â€
Senator Adeola Solomon Olamilekan (Lagos APC), in his contribution, called for the dismissal of the heads of the security agencies, who he opined had proven that they cannot handle the challenge.
â€œWhat the president needs at this time are fresh ideas on how to tackle numerous security challenges confronting the nation. They (security chiefs) have exhausted their ideas.
â€œThey have appeared before us in this chamber and told us why there will always be security challenges.
â€œWe know the way the military organisations operate. Those with fresh ideas dare not speak up against their superiors or else they risk premature retirement from service.
â€œSo the current service chiefs should go, to allow officers with fresh ideas address our alarming security issues,â€ Olamilekan said.
Similarly, Senator Jeremiah Useni (Plateau APC) said the inter-agency rivalry among the heads of some of the security agencies had contributed to their failure to tackle insecurity.
He called for the sack of the heads of the agencies involved in the inter-agency wrangling.
â€œOn the day the president went to Plateau and the governor said the state was peaceful, 27 persons were killed,â€ Useni lamented.
Senator Sulaiman Adokwe (Nassarawa PDP), who moved the motion, said the attacks were carried out on people of Tiv ethnicity in Doma Local Government Area of his state.
â€œThe real tragedy is not just in the coordination of the attacks, but that they continued for four days running without being checked by any of the security agencies,â€ he said.
â€œIndeed, right under the noses of the armed forces and the police, this killing is sustained, unabated by sheer negligence or refusal to act by the security agencies.
â€œIt is very sad that in Nigeria, with all the security forces, a whole senatorial district will go on being punished by militia and no action comes from government. This is a sad commentary,â€ Adokwe addded.
He further claimed that there was an army base close to the communities, which were attacked yet there was no response.
â€œThis country is gradually dissolving into anarchy and we need to wake up,â€ Adokwe said.
His position was backed by Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue APC) who said Nigeria was experiencing anarchy and ethnic cleansing, and becoming a state without control.
â€œIt is a shame that a sitting government can watch criminality go to the level that we have seen today, but rather than rise up and take very decisive steps against it, we embark on denials and simply shield this evil with flimsy excuses that these are communal clashes in those communities,â€ he said.
Gemade said the attacks affected Tiv people in Nassarawa the same way they were being attacked in Benue and Taraba States.
He said the advice by some â€œnationalistsâ€ that Nigerians should find ways of protecting themselves, might not be out of order.
â€œThere can be no justice without peace,â€ he said, noting that Nigeria was being divided along tribal lines with â€œlordsâ€ and â€œslavesâ€.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa PDP) warned that the military might be forced to intervene due to the worsening insecurity and other tensions.
â€œThe tension in 1983 was nothing compared to what is happening today. Let it be on record that the way we have conducted ourselves, it is guaranteed that democracy will not survive. They (military) will strike and nothing will happen,â€ he cautioned.
Angry IDPs Stone Al-Makura
The senators expressed concern over rising insecurity in the country just as some internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Agwatashi, Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State stoned the motorcade of the governor Tuesday.
Al-Makura had visited the camp with security chiefs in the state to assess the situation arising from the killings carried out by suspected herdsmen at the weekend.
When the governor was about to address the IDPs, some youths in the camp became unruly and started chanting different slogans which forced the governor to leave the camp.
On his way out, the youths began to pelt the governorâ€™s motorcade with stones, compelling the police to disperse them with tear gas.
Al-Makura, who was in the company of other government functionaries including security chiefs in the state, could not proceed to the Keana IDP camp as planned due to the incident in Agwatashi.
The IDPs were protesting the slaughter of their relations by the killer herdsmen, crying out that they could no longer bear the incessant attacks on their communities.
They lamented that the bodies of their relatives killed by the attackers had not been recovered.
Reacting, Al-Makura attributed the situation to frustration as a result of the challenges the IDPs face.
â€œThe reaction from the people is understandable given their plight and we have to use diplomacy to address the issues,â€ he said.
â€œContinuing to address them at the moment would not yield any result so we have decided to avoid further altercation. However, this action appears to indicate that the problems in some of these communities are self-inflicted.
â€œIf people can conduct themselves in this way, then you know that there is more to it than what is happening.â€
The governor however advised the leaders of the communities to caution their subjects against mob action and disregard for law and order.
â€œIf you want to take the law into your own hands, you will be left to defend yourselves,â€ he said.
â€œHowever as a responsible government desirous of protecting lives and property, we shall explore all avenues to ensure the safety of the people.â€
He directed the chairmen of the affected local government areas to take stock of the people displaced with a view to providing relief materials for them.
But even as the governor spoke, reports indicated that the death toll from the recent attacks had risen to 78, with many persons still missing.
The coordinated attacks at the weekend led to the sack of all Tiv communities across Obi, Awe, Doma and Keana Local Government Areas of the state, with over 100,000 persons taking refuge in the headquarters of the council areas.
President of the Tiv Youth’s Organisation in Nasarawa State Peter Ahemba, who confirmed the new casualty figure in an interview with journalists in Lafia, the state capital Tuesday, said additional dead bodies were recovered from Uluji, Ayaakeke, Uvirkaa, Usula and other villages in the affected LGAs.
According to him, most of the victims were those trapped in villages along the Agwatashi-Jangwa road in Obi LGA.
â€œWe are still searching for many of our people who are still missing since the attacks occurred. Corpses of those killed, especially those at Kertyo and surrounding villages, have not been recovered up till now,â€ he said.
Village Head Killed in Benue
Meanwhile, suspected herdsmen for the umpteenth time attacked yet another community in neighbouring Benue State, killing the village head, Chief Iyongovihi Ninge, and sacked the entire community.
The attack took place Tuesday in the Chembe settlement of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
According to eyewitnesses, the area came under heavy attack from the marauding herders at about 9 a.m.
A source also disclosed on the phone that the traditional ruler was killed in his farm when the armed herdsmen stormed the area with a large number of cattle.
â€œThe armed herdsmen came with a large number of cattle plundering germinating yam seedlings of farmers and all that was in peopleâ€™s farms.
â€œThey encountered the village head at his farm where he had gone to inspect the clearing of his land in readiness for the cultivation of yam seedlings. They shot him in the back and he died on the spot.
â€œOn hearing the gunshots, everyone within the area ran for their lives, though we cannot at the moment ascertain if more persons were killed.
â€œHowever, several families were crying that they could not trace their relatives,â€ the source said.
The Chairman of the local government, Mr. Richard Nyajo, who confirmed Tuesdayâ€™s onslaught, said the herdsmen attacked Chembe and killed the village head.
â€œThat was the first information that reached me this afternoon. We learnt that after killing the village head the herdsmen ran after the people of the community who fled from their farms and homes on hearing the sound of gunshots.
â€œI have already sent security personnel to the community to repel the attackers from the area and also assess the situation.
â€œAs we speak, I cannot tell you that more persons were killed until we get feedback from the security personnel that went into the bush.â€
When contacted, the Benue State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) also confirmed the slaying of the village head.
He said the police received the report and immediately beefed up security in the community.