By George Okoh in Makurdi
Suspected herdsmen on Saturday killed 16 people and inflicted life-threatening injuries on several others in an attack on Agagbe community in Gwer Local Government Area of Benue State.
This latest attack is coming exactly 10 days after suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Ebete, Usha ward in Agatu Local Government Area of the state and killed no fewer than 17 persons.
However, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, (OPWS), Maj. Gen Adeyemi Yekini, has said that only seven corpses have been recovered by his men in what he described as a supposedly reprisal and unfortunate attack.
Sub-sector commander of OPWS in Gwer West Local Government Area, Flying Officer Mohammed Abubakar, who spoke to journalists, said that at about 4.30p.m on Saturday, some of his reliable sources from the affected community informed him that some men dressed in military uniform were sighted in Agagbe forest rustling cows.
He stated that when he received the information, he quickly mobilised his men to attack the cattle rustlers where they found three dead bodies, which were later taken to a hospital in the area.
Abubakar added that they embarked on a search and also carried out an investigation, which revealed 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 belong to him even with the coming of OPWS to the area.
“Thereafter, we made contact with the DPO (Divisional Police Officer) who equally identified the rustlers as members of the Livestock Guard who disguised in military uniform to rustle cattle and butchered them for sale at the Naka market. As I speak with you, they are selling the meat at the market. The DPO also gave names of seven persons who are members of the Livestock Guard involved.
“Just this afternoon, our men went on mop up patrol and discovered four additional dead bodies at the scene of the incident,” Abubakar explained.
Commenting on the incident, the Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Yekini, alleged that some unforeseen forces were deliberately trying to cause a state of chaos in the state.
He noted 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.
Yekini promised that his men will continue to chase the armed herdsmen away from the state, but advised those who are 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 assured 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,” Yekini said.
Also confirming the incident, 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 of the operation will kill cows belonging to herdsmen and chase them away only for them to come in a reprisal attack on my subjects. This happened in January 21 and a similar incident happened on Saturday.”
He alleged that four out of seven districts in his domain have been taken over by the herdsmen and appealed to the federal government to deploy or station a military post at Agagbe to avert further attacks.
The Chairman of Gwer West Local Government Area, Francis Ayaga, confirmed that 16 persons were killed by suspected herdsmen, adding that three communities were also attacked.