The Benue Valley becomes a paradise for armed men, 92 inhabitants killed in three months

Suspected armed herders continue to sow terror in Benue State, turning the agrarian state into a killing field, writes JOHN CHARLES

Over the past three and a half months, from March to June 12, 2022, Benue State has been turned into a free killing field with no less than ten cases of attacks confirmed by state authorities that have resulted in the death of 92 people.

The relentless attacks and killings of innocent citizens, especially during this rainy season in the state by ranchers, has defeated previous beliefs that ranchers are moving south (due to the fallout of climate change) to the coastal land to feed their livestock, then north.

The survey shows that most of the attacks and killings by the armed herdsmen were unprovoked, but this has undoubtedly justified the perception of people in the state that the main reason for the constant invasion of shepherds in the Benue Valley is to occupy and take control of the state. .

Benue State, the nation’s food basket, is steadily losing its status due to relentless attacks and killings of innocent people and mass destruction of property by suspected marauding herders.

Among the 92 people who were allegedly murdered by suspected herders were a traditional leader from Logo; two personnel from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps who were enforcing the state’s anti-grazing law in Adaka, Makurdi; a Deeper Life pastor in Guma; while property worth millions of naira was also destroyed.

In March this year, four deadly attacks were reported in the state with 20 casualties. Guma, the local government of state governor Samuel Ortom, recorded 17 deaths while Gwer West had three.

April recorded the worst incident as 50 people were confirmed dead in three different attacks that rocked Tarka, the local government of the former state governor and now minister of special affairs and affairs. intergovernmental, Senator George Akume, where 15 people were killed.

Additionally, the local government of former state governor, Senator Gabriel Suswam, Logo was not spared as four people were killed during the month. Ortom’s counsel Guma also had nine casualties; Gwer West lost twelve people and Makurdi, the state capital, had its bitter pill from marauders with the deaths of two members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps.

There was some relief in May as only five people were killed in the single attack in Guma, while a couple were also killed in Ikyangwa Tombard near Ayilamo on June 7, followed by the latest attack which occurred on Democracy Day (June 12) in the communities of Igama and Effeche in the Edumoga area of ​​the state’s Okpokwu local government area.

Incidentally, the northern part of the state, that is, the Northeast and Northwest Senatorial Districts, had been most affected by the killing of the suspected marauding shepherds. The southern part known as Area C, the Idoma Kingdom, has come under a bit of attack at times, especially the Agatu local government area of ​​the state being the hardest hit.

This is the second time that herders have launched deadly attacks on Okpokwu Local Government Area of ​​Benue South Senatorial District. In 2018, 26 people were killed in the village of Omusu in the Ojigo Edumoga area of ​​the council.

The Okpokwu Council parades prominent figures from politics and the entertainment industry, including a former Senate Speaker, Ameh Ebute; the former interior minister, now a senator, comrade Abba Moro; Tuface Idibia and a host of others.

The attack on Democracy Day in the communities of Igama and Effeche in Okpokwu, according to eyewitnesses, happened around 7 a.m., the time villagers were preparing for morning mass , being a Sunday.

“They came in droves around 7am, many of us getting ready for Sunday service. What heralded their arrival were the sporadic gunshots that rented the air. It was like a movie, everyone was confused, but what amazed me was that they did not focus on certain categories of people such as children, women and the elderly,” said Mrs. Ogwuche, an indigene of the Igama community, to our correspondent.

Corroborating this, Okpokwu Local Government Chairperson Ms Amina Audu said the attackers from Igama and Effeche communities numbered over 200.

She said: “We had nine corpses on Sunday while we received six more on Monday. The killers destroyed all the buildings in the Igama community. No structure is standing there as I speak to you. They also moved to the village of Effeche but no lives were lost there.

The chairman of LG said on Friday that four suspects who were herdsmen were arrested by security officers in a nearby Ogbadibo local government area of ​​the state.

“Four suspects were arrested by security officers around Ogbadibo local government on Tuesday. They were arrested with weapons,” Audu said.

Police Public Relations Officer SP Catherine Anene also confirmed the arrest of four suspects, adding that one of the suspects died from an injury sustained during a duel with security officers .

She said: “Police teams deployed to the area together with other security officers carried out cordon and search operations in the forest.

“On June 15, 2022, at approximately 05:00, the attackers who were trapped in the bush engaged the police in a gun duel which led to the arrest of the following suspects in their hiding place; Umar Nuhu, Dauda Alhaji, Musa Dako and Umaru Alhaji Sale.

“One of the suspects, Musa Dako, was injured and was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Okpoga for treatment where he eventually passed away and the body was deposited at the same hospital.

“Three other suspects are in custody for further investigation.”

In reaction, the leader of the three socio-cultural groups in Benue State, Iorbee Ihagh, a retired prison overseer, said the marauding herders had a different agenda from the traditional movement of feeding their cattle but taking the control of the state and the country, adding that the breeders were only using Benue to experiment with their program.

Ihagh, noted that with the murders and other social vices that had plagued the country, Nigeria, he believed, was pregnant and expressed deep concern over what it would bring.

He said: “The Fulani plan is to take over Benue State and the whole country. Initially, people thought it was just Benue, but they only used Benue for experimentation. This is why our Governor, Samuel Ortom, insisted and briefed the President, Major General Muhammad Buhari (Retired) on his program.

“Recall that the current administration has drawn up a series of plans such as the Water Resources Bill, RUGA, the National Livestock Plan and the Bovine Colony. All are set to grab land across the country.

“Usually herders come in the dry season to get grass to feed their cows and come back in the rainy season, but now they don’t come back. In Benue today, herders have taken over land from around 13 local governments.

“For example, Moon ward in Kwade where I come from, the Fulani took possession of the place six years ago. It was Buhari who brought them. Their intention is to stay and take over our lands and I’ve been saying for a long time that the president was elected to protect lives and property but if he can’t do that then let him throw in the towel or Nigerians are expected to respond by protesting across the country.

Ihagh also lamented that Nigerians were too patient, saying, “There was a time in a country when people came together to protest against the rising cost of living and the government had to do something about it. But here in Nigeria we are too patient especially Christians, look how Deborah was killed in Sokoto, can someone do this to another religion and get away with it?

“Every day we pray for several hours without action; it will not work. Look at the outcome of the party primaries, in particular, PDP, we wanted the presidency to be zoned south but they brought in another Fulani.

“The Fulani say they own Nigeria; they even made the Hausa their slaves. There are so many questions we should ask ourselves. Why are all department heads Fulani? Why did they kill Ibrahim Attahiru, former army chief of staff, who died in a plane crash?

The leader of the three socio-cultural groups in Benue State, Mdzough U Tiv Worldwide, Ochetoha K’ Idoma and Omi Ny’ Igede, said that one of the effects of the relentless attacks on innocent people in the state was an invitation to famine because the farmers had been driven from their ancestral homes and the lands were taken over by the herdsmen while in other areas the fear of the herdsmen had caused many of them not to go to the closed.

In his own reaction, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who condemned last Sunday’s killing in Igama community, Okpokwu local government area, described it as ‘barbaric’ and the murderers as “cowards and criminals who must be picked up and prosecuted immediately.”

He added: “When I started shouting about the threat of killer shepherds in my state, a lot of people thought I was playing gallery. Gradually it spread to all other parts of the country because the federal government refused to act appropriately and decisively against them.

“That’s why they continued with impunity. He clearly showed that the killing of these innocent farmers in Edumoga, Okpokwu local government is another barbaric act of Fulani herdsmen. They must not go unpunished. »

The Governor said the peaceful attitude of Benue residents who welcome others should not be taken for granted and added that the law must take its course to apprehend the criminal elements no matter how long it takes. He urged the people to remain law abiding.

Denise W. Whigham