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Governor weeps as herdsmen invade Benue, kill 50

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Governor weeps as herdsmen invade Benue, kill 50

Farmlands destroyed, residents flee

Ortom condemns attacks, calls for FG’s assistance

Fulani herdsmen on New Year day launched fierce attacks on Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State, homes of Governor Samuel Ortom and his predecessor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam. The attackers killed more than 50 people in five communities. Ortom, who wept profusely on sighting the victims’ bodies at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, said over 20 people were killed. The assailants burnt down many houses in the affected local governments, displaced scores of residents, destroyed farm crops, food barns and property.

Hundreds of those who sustained varying degrees of injuries are receiving treatment in hospitals across the state. It was learnt that in Logo Local Government Area, which was worse hit, the attackers made the incursion about 10a.m. on Monday with sophisticated weapons and started shooting sporadically when the inhabitants were in the church for the New Year service. The attack, which took the people unawares, continued till the early hours of yesterday where, in Saghev and Branch Umenger villages all in Guma Local Government Area as well as at Jootar in Gaambe-Tiev in Logo Local Government Area, the invaders slaughtered many people, among them women and children.

Dozens of inhabitants have evacuated their household items, including clothing, foodstuff, electronics, furniture and vehicles among others and are taking refuge in areas considered to be safe as no refuges’ camp has been created by the state government.

It was learnt that among those killed in Guma included nine members of Livestock Security Guards deployed in the area to help protect the lives and property of the people, while a security Hilux van belonging to them was also burnt. Some of the Livestock Guards men reportedly killed were Mr. Shiaondo of Turan council ward and Mr. Iorpuu Ger of Mbashav, Mbagber council ward, all of Gaambe- Tiev Logo Local Government Area.

It was learnt at press time that more bodies which littered the bush were still being picked and deposited in the morgue at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital as well as the General Hospital in Ugba, headquarters of Logo Local Government Area where some of the injured victims were also receiving treatment. A fleeing victim, Anande Ikyumen, regretted that as the attacks continued, security operatives were alerted but did not respond.

He said: “The worst part of it is that with all the pressure and calls, the security operatives kept telling the affected communities that they were very close to the scenes of the attack while the militias intensified the attack and killing.”

The Chief Medical Director of the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Terlumun Swende, told journalists that 11 victims were so far received in the hospital while six died. He also said efforts were on to revive the remaining five.

Swende described the injuries inflicted on the victims as “heinous and gruesome”. This is one of the deadly attacks on communities in the state which is coming barely two months after the Anti- Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 which was signed into law by Ortom became fully operational.

The objectives of the law are, among other things, to prevent clashes between nomadic livestock herders and crop farmers; prevent the destruction of crop farms, community ponds, settlements and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock. It provides further that any person(s) found moving livestock on foot within or across urban centres, rural settlements or any part of the state commits an offence and is liable to N500,000 fine for first offender or N1 million fine or three years imprisonment or both.

The law also lucidly spells out that any person or group of persons who contravenes its sub-section (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment or N1 million fine or both. In a swift reaction, Governor Ortom condemned the gruesome murder of the innocent people, describing it as unacceptable. The governor, who said more than 20 people were killed, called on the Federal Government to urgently step into the matter by deploying more security personnel to stop the carnage.

He said: “I think this is where the Federal Government must come in immediately to stop this because these people are known. We heard that they met in one state and mobilised to come and attack our people and they have sophisticated weapons. “This is not acceptable; we are not going to accept it.

There is no going back on the implementation of the Anti- Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law. This is our land and the law was duly passed by our people. Those who have been killed, their blood will cry to the Federal Government and if the Federal Government does not do something, their blood will cry to God and I am sure God will deal with the situation Himself.” Ortom said he had made official report to the Federal Government about the intension of the armed Fulani herdsmen to invade the state over claims that they were against the Anti- Open Grazing Law.

The governor, however, maintained that the law was enacted as a deliberate way of ending years of conflict between herdsmen and farmers. He said: “I have never seen where people will come out with this level of impunity.

The law was legitimately passed, nobody has faulted it, it is our right to make laws for the good governance of our state and as a government, it is the constitutional responsibility of our government to provide security for lives and property.”

Also, one person was reportedly killed at Gbudu Talaka village along Benue-Nasarawa states’ borders when suspected AK47-wielding Fulani herdsmen invaded the area. Several houses were reportedly set on fire while hundreds of people were rendered homeless.

Witnesses said residents of communities at Baking Korta along Nasarawa State border had fled their homes and were now taking refuge at Keana, headquarters of Keana Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, for fear of being attacked.

Former Chairman of Tiv Consultative Forum, Chief Augustine Kuza, told journalists on the telephone that thousands of people, including women and children, along Bakin Korta and environs had deserted their homes and were now taking refuge at Keana town. He explained that a large number of suspected herdsmen armed with weapons were sighted moving towards Benue State.

The former Tiv Consultative Forum chairman appealed to the Nasarawa State government to as a matter of urgency deploy security personnel in the border area to prevent escalation of the crisis. Kuza therefore called on Nasarawa State government to create camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) moving along border areas between Benue and Nasarawa states to take refuge, just as he called on governments of the two states and the Federal Government to restore peace in the affected communities.

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