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Herdsmen killings: Benue stands still as 73 victims are buried

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  • 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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Metro and Crime

I married my sister to obey God, avoid divorce –Brother

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Twenty-five-years old Mr. Cornelius Chiadi Ezeibekwe, from Ekwulobia town in Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State has become the buzz of the moment following his wedding to his younger sister, aged 17 years.

The youth of the community who couldn’t comprehend the taboo burnt down the Sabbath Church where the two were joined as husband and wife. Chiadi who is the sixth of the 10 children of Mr. Louis Ezeibekwe, is a Mathematics teacher at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, also in Aguata local government area.

When Saturday Telegraph visited the home of the newly wedded couple at Agba village, Ekwulobia, Chiadi was seen busy marking examination scripts in a tension free environment while his wife remained indoor throughout our correspondent’s visit to the couple. According to Chiadi, his sister and wife was a student of Federal Government Technical College, GTC, Awka, but had to leave school sometime ago to enable her observe Sabbath rites known as ‘Shimta’. “It was during the observation, which lasts for one year that the marriage took place.

In that period of ‘Shimta’, she must remain in the compound for one year. It was further learnt that Chiadi’s sister had already left school because of the controversy generated by her marriage to her elder brother.

On the reasons why he married his sister, Chiadi said: “I am a Sabbath and when I searched through the scriptures, I discovered that Bible permits marriage between a brother and a sister. So, I went ahead with the arrangement to marry my younger sister.

“The marriage ceremony was observed in our family compound, which also serves as a place of worship for us. My immediate elder brother, Paul Ezeibekwe, the pastor, was present during the ceremony.

“What happened was that when we decided to get married, we told our parents our intention and my father asked us if we knew what we were about to do. I told him that we searched through the scriptures and that God sanctioned it. It was after this that our parents consented.

“However, our other relations objected to the idea when they learnt of the plan and when we ignored them and went ahead with the marriage, they and other villagers burnt the Sabbath Church where we used to worship because they thought it was in that place that we worship, not knowing that we had since abandoned the place and are worshipping in our compound.

The burning of the church does not mean anything to us. “God told me to marry my sister and she also saw the same vision I saw earlier. There are places in the Bible that support such marriage. Those in doubt should read Songs of Solomon Chapters 4 and 5 and 1st Corinthians Chapter 7. “Since we took this decision, I have not felt anything unusual, or felt that I did anything wrong. In the school where I teach, many people asked me about it and I boldly refered them to the Bible.

“One of the reasons for marrying my sister is to avoid divorce which is rampant these days because even if we divorce each other, we will remain in the same family. Besides, by marrying one’s sibling, there will not be the possibility of introducing ugly situations, like diseases or social vices into the family. “

However, their 78 years frail looking father, appeared not to be in total control of the behaviour of his children, His eldest son, Emeka, who is a member of the Winners’ Church and resides in Port Harcourt, condemned the marriage, saying it was a taboo. He said: “I cannot support evil no matter how it is painted.”

Though the family was originally Catholics, they later changed to Seventh Day Adventist Church before switching to their own brand of Sabbath worship, with one of the children of Louis Ezeibekwe, Paul, as the pastor.

The issue drew the attention of some elders of the community a they immediately went to the traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Chief Gabriel Ezeukwu to lodge a complaint following the absence of the traditional ruler of the area, Igwe Emmanuel Onyeneke, who is currently out of the country. Following consultations with other elders in the community, Ezeukwu ordered that the marriage be dissolved and a cleansing of the community of the bad omen be done to avert any calamity.

The Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ekwulobia is had begun the cleansing. On whether he would submit himself for cleansing by the Catholic Church, Chiadi said; “Inasmuch as I would not like to break the law of the land, I would leave everything to God to decide because it was God that gave me the vision to marry my sister.

“Except my eldest brother, Emeka, every other member of the family supported this marriage. Our father only changed his mind following the chaos our marriage generated. “It is not the beauty of my sister that made me to marry her. The attraction is that when God wants you to do something, you should do it.”

The traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Chief Gabriel Ezeukwu, a Mass Communication lecturer at Madonna University, Okija, said the people of that village reported the matter to him.

He said: “Before coming to me, they were considering various options, including whether to involve the police, adopt a jungle justice or to parade those involved round the town before subjecting them to other rituals. “But I advised that the first thing was to investigate the matter thoroughly. I personally went to their compound and met their parents. I did not see the young man involved and when I was told that he was teaching at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, I went there, but still did not find him. “I saw a burnt structure that looked like a church beside their house and I urged those who gathered at the scene to disappear in their own interest.’

‘Twenty-five-years old Mr. Cornelius Chiadi Ezeibekwe, from Ekwulobia town in Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State has become the buzz of the moment following his wedding to his younger sister, aged 17 years.

The youth of the community who couldn’t comprehend the taboo burnt down the Sabbath Church where the two were joined as husband and wife. Chiadi who is the sixth of the 10 children of Mr. Louis Ezeibekwe, is a Mathematics teacher at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, also in Aguata local government area.

When Saturday Telegraph visited the home of the newly wedded couple at Agba village, Ekwulobia, Chiadi was seen busy marking examination scripts in a tension free environment while his wife remained indoor throughout our correspondent’s visit to the couple.

According to Chiadi, his sister and wife was a student of Federal Government Technical College, GTC, Awka, but had to leave school sometime ago to enable her observe Sabbath rites known as ‘Shimta’. “It was during the observation, which lasts for one year that the marriage took place. In that period of ‘Shimta’, she must remain in the compound for one year. It was further learnt that Chiadi’s sister had already left school because of the controversy generated by her marriage to her elder brother. On the reasons why he married his sister, Chiadi said: “I am a Sabbath and when I searched through the scriptures, I discovered that Bible permits marriage between a brother and a sister.

So, I went ahead with the arrangement to marry my younger sister. “The marriage ceremony was observed in our family compound, which also serves as a place of worship for us. My immediate elder brother, Paul Ezeibekwe, the pastor, was present during the ceremony. “What happened was that when we decided to get married, we told our parents our intention and my father asked us if we knew what we were about to do. I told him that we searched through the scriptures and that God sanctioned it. It was after this that our parents consented.

“However, our other relations objected to the idea when they learnt of the plan and when we ignored them and went ahead with the marriage, they and other villagers burnt the Sabbath Church where we used to worship because they thought it was in that place that we worship, not knowing that we had since abandoned the place and are worshipping in our compound. The burning of the church does not mean anything to us.

“God told me to marry my sister and she also saw the same vision I saw earlier. There are places in the Bible that support such marriage. Those in doubt should read Songs of Solomon Chapters 4 and 5 and 1st Corinthians Chapter 7.

“Since we took this decision, I have not felt anything unusual, or felt that I did anything wrong. In the school where I teach, many people asked me about it and I boldly refered them to the Bible. “One of the reasons for marrying my sister is to avoid divorce which is rampant these days because even if we divorce each other, we will remain in the same family. Besides, by marrying one’s sibling, there will not be the possibility of introducing ugly situations, like diseases or social vices into the family. “

However, their 78 years frail looking father, appeared not to be in total control of the behaviour of his children, His eldest son, Emeka, who is a member of the Winners’ Church and resides in Port Harcourt, condemned the marriage, saying it was a taboo. He said: “I cannot support evil no matter how it is painted.” Though the family was originally Catholics, they later changed to Seventh Day Adventist Church before switching to their own brand of Sabbath worship, with one of the children of Louis Ezeibekwe, Paul, as the pastor.

The issue drew the attention of some elders of the community a they immediately went to the traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Chief Gabriel Ezeukwu to lodge a complaint following the absence of the traditional ruler of the area, Igwe Emmanuel Onyeneke, who is currently out of the country. Following consultations with other elders in the community, Ezeukwu ordered that the marriage be dissolved and a cleansing of the community of the bad omen be done to avert any calamity.

The Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ekwulobia is had begun the cleansing. On whether he would submit himself for cleansing by the Catholic Church, Chiadi said; “Inasmuch as I would not like to break the law of the land, I would leave everything to God to decide because it was God that gave me the vision to marry my sister. “Except my eldest brother, Emeka, every other member of the family supported this marriage.

Our father only changed his mind following the chaos our marriage generated. “It is not the beauty of my sister that made me to marry her. The attraction is that when God wants you to do something, you should do it.”

The traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Chief Gabriel Ezeukwu, a Mass Communication lecturer at Madonna University, Okija, said the people of that village reported the matter to him. He said: “Before coming to me, they were considering various options, including whether to involve the police, adopt a jungle justice or to parade those involved round the town before subjecting them to other rituals.

“But I advised that the first thing was to investigate the matter thoroughly. I personally went to their compound and met their parents. I did not see the young man involved and when I was told that he was teaching at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, I went there, but still did not find him. “I saw a burnt structure that looked like a church beside their house and I urged those who gathered at the scene to disappear in their own interest.”

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Truck crushes man, 2 siblings to death

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There was pandemonium yesterday in Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State when a truck laden with granite crushed a middle-aged man with three children. The incident happened at Oru- Ago-Iwoye junction, along the Ijebu- Ode/Ibadan Road when the victims were riding a motorcycle on their way to school at about 7:30am. Saturday Telegraph gathered that the tragic crash claimed the lives of the man and two of the kids on the spot.

The incident sparked riot in the area as aggrieved youths and residents set the truck ablaze in protest against the killing of the victims. Another unsuspecting truck, which drove into the scene, was also intercepted and set on fire by the protesters. Police as well as operatives of Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps (TRACE) had hectic time to control the situation.

The FRSC Sector Commander, Clement Oladele, who confirmed the incident, said the fourth victim, a female child, was injured in the crash. Oladele, who spoke through the FRSC Public Education Officer, Ogun State Command, Florence Okpe, attributed the crash to overspeeding and dangerous driving on the part of the truck driver.

The FRSC boss gave the vehicles involved in the crash as an unmarked Shacman truck and a Chigjeng AX100 motorcycle marked OG7613BA. He explained that the injured female child was taken to a private hospital in Oru, Ijebu while the dead were taken to the mortuary of State Hospital, Ijebu-Igbo.

He said: “The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Ago-Iwoye rescue team reported promptly and succeeded in rescuing one of the victims, a young female child, to Blessed Hospital Oru Ijebu for immediate treatment. “Upon returning to the scene, youths and students who were already on the rampage started destroying the truck involved and one other truck that drove into the scene. “The bodies of the dead were evacuated in the heat of the chaos to State Hospital Ijebu-Igbo mortuary.”

The state’s Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, could not be reached for comments on whether the truck driver had been arrested or not.

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Metro and Crime

Osinbajo extols late Adebiyi

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Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday, led other dignitaries to Otun- Ekiti, in Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State, for the final burial ceremony of a foremost educationist and selfless community leader, Pa Daniel Olajide Adebiyi (JP). Pa Adebiyi, a product of the prestigious Christ School, Ado- Ekiti, and London School of Economics, died on October 23, 2017, at the age of 95. He was survived by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, who gave him a befitting burial deserving of his royal status.

Extolling the deceased at the farewell service held at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Otun-Ekiti, the VP said that the late Adebiyi’s life and times were exemplary and worthy of commendation, hence his decision to dignify the event with his presence.

Osinbajo said, “This is a celebration of the life of a distinguished educationist. Our nation needs men and women like Adebiyi. He devoted his time and existence to serving other people and he did so with integrity and honesty.

“When we write and think about him, we think of only greatness and his contributions to the life of others. And we know that here is a man who set an example of good character, hard work and service to man and God. This is why we are celebrating his life.”

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