- Govt offices, banks, markets, schools closed
Our sons and daughters, pregnant wives, children, fathers and mothers were slaughtered like animals. If the herdsmen think that the killing of our people would make us stop the enforcement of the law, they have failed – Gov Ortom
Social and economic activities in Benue State were yesterday grounded as the 73 people killed by Fulani herdsmen in Guma and Logo local government areas were buried amidst tears and wailings by relatives and sympathisers. Government offices, commercial banks, markets and schools were closed in Makurdi, the state capital, in observance of the workfree day earlier declared by the state government in honour of the victims. This came as the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, yesterday restated that the killings in Benue State were caused by communal crisis and not herdsmen’s attack.
The bodies were driven round Makurdi metropolis in a motorcade in five trailers and six ambulances to the Ibrahim Babangida Square for a funeral mass which started about noon and ended at 3:30p.m., while interment took place about 4:15p.m. The 73 persons excluded the two policemen who were slaughtered.
The victims were killed between Monday January 1 and Saturday January 6 by the herdsmen who had invaded the two local government areas. At the event yesterday, Governor Samuel Ortom said the state had looked forward to start the New Year with renewed hopes when it was invaded by the mindless Fulani herdsmen.
The governor took the first reading from Psalm 55:1-23 while his deputy, Benson Abounu, took the second reading from Revelation 4:1-11. Ortom said more than 73 people were murdered with several others missing while many who sustained injuries were still being treated in different hospitals across the state.
The governor said the attacks had pushed people of the state to the wall and would no longer tolerate the killing any longer. He said: “We have been killed, we can no longer tolerate this, the Federal Government and security must protect us or the blood of those killed will cry and God will listen and fight for them.
“We took the decision to collectively mourn for those killed in the current attack and also accord them mass state funeral to underscore the fact that their blood was spilled after a formal declaration of war on Benue State. “Our sons and daughters, pregnant wives, children, fathers and mothers were slaughtered like animals.
“What is happening in Benue State should be a lesson to all. The problem is surely not in our law, it is with the green grass and water wherever found in Nigeria.” The governor disclosed that 20 persons caught contravening the law had been arraigned.
He added: “If the herdsmen think that the killing of our people would make us stop the enforcement of the law, they have failed. We will not be deterred by their thinking because am ready to pay supreme price for the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing law.
I will continue and insist on the calls for the arrest of the factional leader of Miyietti Allah Kautal Houre.” In his funeral speech, the Second Republic Minister of Steel, Chief Paul Unongo, said the state had suffered too many attacks by the herdsmen but President Muhammadu Buhari, who they voted believing that he would protect them, had left them to be killed by his kinsmen. He said apart from the Fulani/ Hausa, the Tiv people where he belongs; were the second largest ethnic group in the North and if the two tribes were allowed to fight, the economy and political dominance of the North would suffer.
Unongo noted that as a Tiv man, he would never fold him arms and allow his people to be killed. According to him, if the killing is not stopped, he will personally raise an army of two million people to protect territorial integrity of his people.
He said: “Benue people sacrifice enough blood for the unity of this country and would not allow a section of Fulani terrorists to come and kill our people in cold blood. “I am begging Nigerians that my people cannot continue to be cannon fodder of this country. If government can’t protect us, we will mobilise and train our people into army to defend us. We are 100 per cent in support of what Governor Ortom has done. I am the spiritual leader and ancestral of Tiv nation, enough, is enough.”
The convener and chairman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) stressed that the entire people of the state were watching President Buhari and had joined in the persistence calls by Governor Ortom that the Federal Government should take drastic steps to urgently address the killings and also arrest the leader of Miyetti Allah Kautal Houre for inflicting pains on the people of the state.
Corroborating Unongo’s position, onetime Military Administrator of Katsina State, Gen. Lawrence Onoja, who described the killing in the state as “genocidal conspiracy against Benue people”, said the killings must not continue.
He said: “Some of us in 1966 fought the Nigerian Civil War. Benue has contributed to the unity of this country, therefore if the Federal Government refused to address the killings in Benue and if we decide to raise our army as advocated by our elders to defend ourselves, I will not mind to command that army despite my age.”
Onoja appealed to the Federal Government to replicate operation python dance or Fulani dance in Benue as being done in other states of the federation. Former member of the National Assembly, Senator Joseph Waku, maintained that Benue people were known for creating peace, loving peace and honouring peace.
He said: “It is unfortunate that someone would oppose a law that is legally enacted and began to kill and the Federal Government would refuse to make arrest in a quest to end the carnage. This is enough provocation; nobody has the monopoly of killing.
Therefore, enough is enough.” Speaking on behalf of Benue State House of Assembly, the Majority Leader, Hon. Benjamin Adanyi, expressed sadness that President Buhari came to Benue during electioneering but after he was voted into power, he watched while Benue people are being killed. Former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, said the primary aim of government was to protect lives of citizenry. He urged the Federal Government to proscribe the faction of the Miyietti Allah as terrorists because their actions were treasonable.
Representative of the United Nations, Dr. Mathins Ejibike, consoled the government and people of the state for the loss of their loved ones. According to him, what is happening Benue State demands international attention. He said: “We want an enlightened approached to this matter.
We should continue to pray that these kinds of killings should be the last in the Benue State.” Ejibike noted that they have received a report that over 20,000 refugees were already in camp and promised that the UN shall look into their plight.
The Tor Tiv, Professor James Aytse, in his oration, said what was happening was not just in Benue, but Nasarawa and Taraba states too. Aytse added that the killing was ethnic cleansing and urged the Federal Government to rise up and end the killing.
He said: “There is ethnic cleansing agenda going on in Benue State. We must put an end to these killings. This is the 47th time that Fulani would attack the Benue people and kill them mercilessly” Also, the state chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Akpen Leva, commended Ortom for enacting the Anti-Open Grazing Law.
One of the survivors, Akaater Azera, said he was in his house sleeping with his wife when the attackers came and knocked at the door. According to him, his wife went to the door, only for her to be captured and slaughtered by the terrorists. Meanwhile, Idris, who apologised to his critics in Benue State over a his ‘communal clash’ comment, yesterday insisted that the issues were communal in nature.
The IG spoke in Lafia at a peace meeting with leaders of Fulani and Tiv and other stakeholders in Nasarawa State. Idris called on all victims of the crisis to sheathe their swords and live together in peace as they have always done. Also, the interim Chairman of Awe Local Government Area, Tafida Hudu, blamed the crisis on the implementation of Anti-Open Grazing law in Benue State. He said the conflict had rendered over 18,000 Tiv people homeless who were now taking refuge in Awe town and Tunga.
A spokesperson for the Fulani, Habe Haruna, who also blamed the conflict on the Anti-Open Grazing law in Benue State, accused livestock guards of intercepting their cows. He called on the Federal Government to abolish the Anti-Open Grazing law in Benue State to allow peace to reign.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Air Force, Hon. Samson Okwu (PDP, Benue), has asked the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, to apologise to Nigerians for saying more people were killed during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Okwu, representing Oju/Obi federal constituency of the state, who spoke in Abuja, said the unending killings were as a result of failure of the Buhari administration.
He said: “During Jonathan’s administration these killings were not spread in the country as witnessed now. The insecurity was only in some parts of the North- East and North-Central but now there’s Enugu massacre, Edo massacre, Rivers massacre and then Benue. “I think Mr. Femi Adesina should apologise to the people of Benue and Nigerians instead of blaming their failure on President Goodluck Jonathan.”
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