No fewer than 50 persons in Benue state were killed after suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked five communities in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state on New Year’s Day.
A resident of the area, James Gbudu, who confirmed the incident, said he barely escaped with his life, adding that the development forced many to flee their homes.
The suspected Fulani herdsmen/gunmen invaded the communities at the wee hours of Tuesday and reportedly, started killing anybody in sight.
The affected communities are Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan all in Logo LGA as well as Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District of Guma LGA.
The invading herdsmen were said to have attacked Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan villages in Logo LGA on New Year’s Day at the time the people were returning from the New Year’s service.
The assailants were said to have descended on the communities around 9pm on Monday and continued the attack till around 4am on Tuesday, shooting indiscriminately and burning down houses and huts
The attacks came on the heels of the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in Benue state, which the Fulani herdsmen considered detrimental to their means of livelihood.
A source told Punch newspaper:
“There were coordinated attacks on five communities by the well-armed herdsmen who stormed our villages in large number, around 10pm to 4am.
They would enter any particular compound, and knock at the door. Once you open your door, they will capture you and slaughter you.
“As I speak with you, the affected villages have been deserted and the invaders have taken over and are razing the ancestral homes of the people who have fled from the areas to other towns in their thousands, for fear of being killed.
“It’s a pathetic situation. The development has inflicted untold hardship on women, children and the elderly, who are trekking long distances in search of a safe haven and awaiting the intervention of security operatives.”
Victims, both the dead and survivors of the attack were rushed to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.
Dr. Gajir Tsoho of the Department of Surgery, BSUTH, who spoke with newsmen, disclosed that over 30 victims of the attack were receiving treatment at the teaching Hospital with many corpses already deposited at the morgue of the hospital.
Among the dead brought to the hospital during the visit of The PUNCH newspaper on Tuesday were a father and his two-year-old son as well as a young man said to have just returned home after completing his National Youth Service Corps.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who did not give the number of casualties while speaking with newsmen, blamed security agents for not taking decisive action to curb the attacks on the people.
According to the governor, security agents were informed ahead of time before the Fulani herdsmen attacked the people.
Ortom also said that no matter the level of intimidation and killings by the herdsmen, the anti-open grazing law would not be reversed or repealed. He said:
‘’This is unfortunate. The security agencies of this country are aware of what is happening in Benue. So many people are being killed, many houses destroyed, some innocent children were slaughtered, other sliced in the throat just because they want to be law abiding.
“Even amongst the livestock guards, who were there to ensure that there are no clashes, nine of them were killed and innocent women and children were killed. This is not fair.”
“We must rise up; Nigerians must rise up; the Federal Government must rise up to protect us because this is not right. They (FG) own the security apparatus. The ones that are here are doing their best but there should be more and that is what we are calling for,” the governor said.
The Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, Moses Yamu, confirmed the herdsmen attack in Benue state, saying 17 people were killed.
Yamu explained that the attacks started on the New Year Eve and continued on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, hundreds of Benue youth protested the killings, blocking the major entry points into the state. They called for presidential intervention to forestall future attacks.
You recall,Benue people suffered about 20 violents attacks such as this in 2017 leading to scores of deaths. The latest attack is the first in 2018.
Reacting to the Benue people killings by suspected herdsmen, President Muhammadu Buhari commiserated with Governor Samuel Ortom.
Mr. Buhari, while expressing sadness at the “wicked and callous” attacks, assured the governor and people of the state that relevant security agencies have been directed to do everything possible to arrest those behind the regrettable incidents and avert further attacks.
“This is one attack too many, and everything must be done to provide security for the people in our rural communities,” he said.
Mr. Buhari also commiserated with families of the victims and wished the injured speedy healing.