- Police intercept 2 arms, ammunition-laden Taraba bound buses in Ebonyi
George Okoh in Makurdi and Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki
The orgy of violence continued in Benue State as suspected herdsmen Saturday attacked Tse-Abi, Tse-Ginde, Tse-Peviv, Tse Ikyo, Agenke, and Gbenke in Guma Local Government Area, killing 10 residents. Many people were also missing, according to residents of the troubled areas.
This was as the police in Ebonyi State yesterday intercepted two buses bound for Taraba State carrying persons with several arms and ammunition.
But while the State Police Command Public Relations Officer, ASP Loveth Odah, claimed that the suspects were Nollywood actors, eye witnesses said they were herdsmen.
The attack on the Benue communities occurred in the evening when residents had retired home after a hard dayâ€™s work. They suddenly began to hear gunshots and there was chaos, as many people ran into the bush, witnesses said.
According to a resident, who did not want his mentioned for fear of being attacked, the assailants came from a nearby bush and opened fire on anyone on sight, shooting and hacking people down with machetes. â€œSeveral of our people had to run into the forest for safety, as there was no security protection for us,â€ he said. He added that many of the residents were missing while more than 15 bodies were recovered.
Confirming the killings, the press secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Mr. Terver Akase, said 10 corpses had so far been recovered and many people were injured. Akase said the armed herdsmen also burnt several houses, shops and other belongings of the natives.
â€œThis mindless attack was unprovoked, and we urge security agencies to arrest the herdsmen behind the killings for prosecution,â€ Akase said.
All attempts to confirm the killings from the police proved abortive, as calls made to the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, were not answered.
Meanwhile, in Ebonyi State yesterday, there was confusion, as the state police command alleged that the persons intercepted in two buses load with arms and ammunition, which was travelling towards Taraba State, were Nollywood actors. But eye witnesses said the arrested persons were herdsmen.
â€œYes, we intercepted buses carrying some persons with arms and ammunition going to Taraba, but they are not herdsmen, they are Nollywood actors. They were wearing army uniforms and we are investigating the matter. I will give details of the matter as soon as we get every detail,â€ the Benue State police PRO said.
The Toyota buses, THISDAY gathered, were intercepted after Onu-Ebonyi Bridge, along Abakaliki-Ogoja Federal Highway, by policemen on duty.
An eyewitness claimed seven herdsmen were in one of the seized buses.
He said: â€œIt was the policemen on Safer Highway Operations that stopped the buses. In their normal stop and search operation, they found firearms and Army uniforms stocked in three big sacks.
â€œAlso found were uncountable ammunition, rifles, which are above 16 in number, including explosives, local charms, and fresh blood in 2 litres gallon.â€
Senior Special Adviser to Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi on Internal Security, Dr. Kenneth Ugballa, said he heard of the interception of the two buses and was coming to town to know details of the incident.
â€œl heard the story while l was away from the state, but right now I am entering the state and in a few minutes l will be at the command to find out the truth about the incident,â€ Ugballa said.
The two buses are currently at the State Police Headquarters, Abakaliki.
Benue and Taraba states have had the worst experience of the killer herdsmen menace currently ravaging communities across the country. Hundreds of natives have been killed in the two states in the last few months. Their governments enacted laws banning opening grazing of cattle in an effort to limit contact between the mainly crop-farming communities and the herders, to try to stop the attacks. But the violent assaults have continued, with the security agencies drafted to the state to safeguard the communities constantly being accused of complicity in the attacks.