By Martin Iyonguvihi & Nicholas Kyeleve
Not fewer than 17 farmers have been confirmed killed and many wounded by suspected herdsmen attacks in the last one week, between border communities of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State and Ajimaku in Doma Local Government of Nasarawa State.
The attacks, according to reports have continued unabated since last week in Tse-Gborgyo Cheku, Tse-Uhembe, Tse-Hagher village of late Ter Guma, HRH Ivokor Unongo, Tse-Oragbo and other communities of Guma Local Government of Benue, and Ajimaku community of Nasarawa State, where thousands of farmers have fled their homes for fear of being killed.
Confirming the attacks in a chat with The Voice, the Chairman of Guma Local Government Council and Benue Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) Chairman, Caleb Aba said, the attacks which have become a daily occurrence in the past one week has recorded a number of casualties while many other persons have been injured.
He said, “for the past one week, there has been attacks in Mbayer/Yandev council ward and Mbawa even as there are attacks in other councils wards as well but not as severe as this two council wards.
“So the attacks have been intensified, with a number of casualties. Nine persons were killed at Ajimaka, four persons at Tse-Gborgyo, two at Unongo village and also two at Oragbo. There are several persons who had sustained several degrees of injuries, who are being treated at different hospitals. And that’s the situation now.”
According to the chairman, there has been no provocation by the communities to have prompted such unwarranted and gruesome killings but the desire for land grabbing by the herders.
He said; “There has never been any recent provocation by my people, but what we understand is that the herders are bent on occupying the land. They want to take over the land and occupy it; it is not last for the purpose of grazing. That is what we understand. But they want to take over the land.
Aba, who attributed the prolonged killing of the farmers to lack of political will to arrest the situation on the part of the federal government, lamented that even though the security personnel posted to the areas may have been doing a lot to mitigate the crisis, they are however, overwhelmed by the sophisticated weapons being brandished by the herders.
“The security apparatus are trying their best, they have always responded whenever news gets to them but the Fulani militia has overwhelmed them. To be candid, they have more sophisticated weapons than even the army. They come with more sophisticated weapons than army. They come in large numbers and even though the Operation Whirl Stroke team confronts them, they overwhelm them. It’s a very serious matter.
“It’s a matter of political will. If the federal government wants this nonsense to stop, it will. But from every indication, the President is playing to please his people, the Fulani ethnic group in Nigeria. He is behind the scene and is aware of what is happening, he has the authority to direct that this nonsense be stopped and it will stop out rightly but he is not ready to do it.
“He should direct the Armed Forces to clear these herdsmen who are moving in our community with heavy arms. Any other ordinary person who is seen with arms is arrested, but this people carry arms freely and nobody arrests them. Even those who claim responsibility of attacks are not arrested,” he said.
According to him, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has directed the state emergency service “to see that something was done to cushion the effect on those displaced persons while also calling on the state government for the establishment of an IDP camp in Ortese and Udei, where the displaced are currently taking refuge.
Relatedly, Permanent Secretary, in the Office of Interior and Commissioner, Local Government Service Commission, Benue State, Matthew Uyina, and the Commissioner (3), Local Government Service Commission, Godwin Nyigba Ahulezem, who hail from the attacked communities described the situation confronting their communities in Guma Local Government as a “hopeless situation” with no sincerity on the part of federal government to safeguard the lives of the people from marauders.
Uyina said, “It is almost a situation of hopelessness that our people have been left in, in the sense that while the Government of Benue State appears to be doing so much, there doesn’t seem to be a commiserate, honest approach to the problem from the federal government. Honest in the sense that, the entire border corridors of Nasarawa, around Doma, Keana up to Lafia have been left completely open.
“And so even as the herdsmen are aware that we do have a law in Benue State that prohibits open grazing, they move across the border and in most cases they don’t even come with cattle which is to show that their aim is not even to graze but something more sinister than that because they just move and most of the time, they come in the night strictly with their AK 47. They come and shoot, and once people panic, they used their machete to cut them to sizes.
“There seems to be total dishonesty on the part of the federal government such that even the efforts that are being made to support the security agencies don’t seem to be yielding the kind of result that they should have yielded.
“The federal government is not committed to this project. For security to be successful, it has to be proactive and not reactive. Reactive security has never helped anyone. When you have herdsmen striking day in, day out, and then security forces are chasing every day. They only come long after the people have been killed to take stock of the number of casualties.” he said.
Also condemning the attacks, a former Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Dave Iorhemba, advocated for the creation of Internally Displaced Persons camp at Udei and Ortese, (IDPs) where the displaced persons have fled to as a result of the attacks.
He said the unprovoked attacks have become persistent in the last one week with the abduction of one Teryima Ifyam, who is still yet to be released even when the demanded ransom of 4 million has been paid.
“There has been series of unprovoked attacks on our community, Mbayer/Yandev council ward of Guma Local Government of Benue State. The attacks have been so persistent in recent times that so many lives have been lost and properties worth millions of naira have been destroyed by herdsmen marauders.
“They have abducted my relation, Teryima Ifyam, who has been kidnapped and taken away by the herdsmen. They were coming back from a nearby village on a motorcycle when they were suddenly attack by the herdsmen. He couldn’t run, so they abducted him and took him away while the herders have been using his phone to communicate with us.
“We raised the money, to meet up their demands. Initially they were saying that their cows have been rustled and taken over by livestock guards where they were told to pay 4 million naira to retrieve their cows, so we must also pay 4 million before the young man will come back. Even though that amount of money have been given to them, that young man has not been released as I’m talking to you.
“In the time being, even though I’m not an advocate of IDP’s, I think there should be a camp at Ortese now for those who are coming out of their communities, including those who are from neighbouring communities in Nasarawa State.
“So there is need for government to create a camp in order to see to the welfare of the people and ensure that they go back to their ancestral homes because this is raining season, and they should be preparing to go into their farming activities, once the security agencies are able to chase the herdsmen away, otherwise there would be food crisis in no distant time,” he said.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Benue Command, DSP Catherine Sewuese Anene said the police do not have records of the incident at the time of filing this report.