From George Okoh in Makurdi
An attack on Agagbe community in Gwer Local Government Area of Benue State on Saturday has left 16 people dead while many others sustained injuries.
Chairman of Gwer West local. Government area Francis Ayaga confirmed that 16 persons were killed by suspected herdsmen, adding that three communities were attacked.
However, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, Maj. Gen Adeyemi Yekini, said that only seven corpses had been recovered by his men in what he described as a reprisal and an unfortunate attack.
Sub-sector commander of OPWS in Gwer West local government area, Flying Officer Mohammed Abubakar, who spoke to Journalists, said that at 4:30 pm on Saturday, some of his reliable sources from Agagbe came to inform him that some men dressed in military uniform were sighted in Agagbe forest rustling cows and he quickly mobilised his men to the area, adding they found three dead bodies that were later taken to a hospital in the area.
He also said that they “embarked on a search as well as carried out the investigation and discovered that those behind the rustling of cows were members of the livestock guards.
“We later traced them to Ter Nagi’s Palace and discovered 22 cattle there but he claimed that the cattle belonged to him even before the coming of OPWS to the area.
“Thereafter, we made contact with the DPO who equally identified the rustlers as members of the Livestock Guards who disguised in military uniform to rustle cattle and butchered them for sale at the Naka market. As I speak with you, they are the selling the meat at the market. The DPO also, gave names of seven (7) persons who are members if the Livestock Guard involved…
“Just this afternoon, our men went on mop up patrol and discovered four (4) additional dead bodies at the scene of the incident,” he said.
Commenting on the incident, the commander, operation whirl stroke, Maj. Gen. Yekini, expressed regrets, noting that some unforeseen forces are deliberately trying to cause a state of chaos in the state.
He observed that the sad incident was happening one week to the governorship election just as it was the case in Agatu, a week before the presidential and national assembly elections.
He assured that his men will continue to chase the armed herdsmen away from the State, but advised those who were fomenting trouble to desist from such act as the law will catch up with them.
“It is unfortunate that some people identified to be Benue State Livestock Guards would wear military uniform to go and rustle cows and butcher same cows and sell the meat to people at NAKA Market. This must stop so as to give peace a chance in the state.”
“I assure that as for the armed herders, we will continue to chase them and their cattle outside of Benue. And for those who instigate violence, we will go after them and the law would catch up with them”, Gen. Yekini said.
The Ter Nagi Chief Daniel Abomtse said there was heavy attack in some communities in his domain.
According to him, OPWS have been helpful to them, “but sometimes troops kill cows belonging to herdsmen and chase them away only for them to come on reprisals on my subjects. This happened on January 21st and a similar incident happened on Saturday.”
He alleged that four out of seven districts in his domain had been taken over by the herdsmen and appealed to Federal Government to deploy or station a military post in Agagbe to avert further attacks.