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Black Thursday in Benue: The Fulani Herdsmen Genocide

Tears, Wailing as Herdsmen Invades Ortom, Suswam’s Home LGs

Tears and Wailing enveloped communities in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue state when herdsmen on New Year day killed about 50 persons. The herdsmen who wielded sophisticated weapons first invaded Ayilamo, Turan and Gambe-tiev all in Logo shooting and killing, and slaughtering the armless residents who were still in the mood of celebration on the new year day.

After the attack on the three communities in logo the headsmen headed straight to Tomatar, Ako and Umenger in Guma local government where they unleashed havoc on the helpless residents in the areas. Guma and Logo are home local government areas of Governor Samuel Ortom and immediate past governor of Benue state Gabriel Suswam respectively. The herdsmen who were said to be coordinated and well armed and in large number launched the attacks sacking the five communities even as they kill and burn houses. They left a trail of tears as they traversed the affected communities whose residents were majority famers. One of the residents in Ako in Guma local government area, Mr. Terver Verlumun who survived the attack lamented the inhuman treatment melted on victims by the herdsmen, describing them as beasts. “These people are beasts and inhuman, they treat people like worthless animals.  “They came and attacked our village,  they would enter a particular compound, kick the door open capture the people inside and slaughter them, they spared nobody, they kill even children and the elderly.

“I was luck to escape with my family because I was awake and when I started hearing screaming I quickly packed them on my Motorcycle and took them to a safe place. “But 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,. He alone they killed more than 20 persons” he noted.

A resident of Ayilamo,Tombo in Logo who identified himself as Terkaa Amindi said the herdsmen came around 10 am and started shooting and killing people burning houses. He said most of them had to escape through the  bush, but lamented the herdsmen had killed two of his sibling age 19 and 15 year who had gone to deliver food stuff to their maternal uncle.

“The situation was terrible I was preparing to go to the church when I started hearing gun shots. ‘My father was killed last year when the herdsmen invaded my community. ‘I am left with my mother and four other siblings, but now two of them have been killed again. “Fortunately, my mother traveled to spend Christmas and New Year with her younger brother in Gboko with the other two children that is how they escaped being killed by the herdsmen.

He said while he was still hiding in the bush, he watched from a safe distance how people were being killed. He said fifteen dead bodies were recovered as at Thursday in his village. “While I was still in the bush I watched in a safe distance how they were slaughtering and butchering them like animals,” he lamented. He said six others persons, who were critically injured in his village, were also brought to the hospital. It could be noted that the invasion of Logo and Guma communities have created a huge  internally displaced situation inflicting untold hardship especially on  residents of the attacked  communities.

Benue Killings by Fujlani Herdsmen2017-2018

The development has inflicted pains on the people  especially on women, children and the elderly, who  deserted their houses for fear of the unknown to trek long distances in search of a safe haven. Linus Faga, a father of 8 whose house was destroyed in the crisis lamented the hardship he is facing with his family members. He said all his belongings including foodstuff were destroyed by the herdsmen. “I was able to escape the attack with my family but everything I laboured for have been destroyed, I have no food to even feed my children, we have been turned into beggars. “I am pleading with government to come to our aide, I have no money, my children cannot even continue with their school,” he noted.

Another resident Memga Bernard said though his community was not attacked he had to desert his house with his family for fear of the unknown. “These people come without warning, our neighbouring community was attacked, and having passed through the experience myself I feel it safer to leave,” he said. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state following the crisis visited, the Benue State University Teaching  Hospital where many of injured victims of the herdsmen attacks were receiving treatment. The governor also visited the Tomatar identify with the people on the attack and do on-the-spot assessment.

Speaking to newsmen after the visit in the hospital, the governor Ortom described the incident as unfortunate. “This is unfortunate, we are living in a country we call our own and this is happening. “It is not that these warnings were not given out , the security agencies in this country are aware of what you are seeing today, and this is just a tip of the iceberg. “What has happened there from the report I have gotten is far beyond what you have seen here. “So many houses burnt so many people killed and some they are still looking for and some of the places cannot he accessed.

“You can imagine innocent children and women were killed and their private parts removed. People were slaughtered like animals “Federal government must arise to the challenge and give us protection to show that truly we are also citizens of this country. “This is not fair, this is not right and we cannot accept it. Speaking to newsmen Dr. Gajir Hembaor Tsoho from the Surgery Department BSUTH confirmed that more than 30 injured were were brought to hospital noting that three lost their lives. At the Benue state university Teaching Hospital where some of the dead victims were deposited and surviving ones were receiving treatment, relations were in tears and seen hanging around the morgue as if they were expecting them to come back to life.

A sister to one of the deceased Ngyiohile told Daily Asset that her brother had just return from NYSC and was home for just 3 days to spend the new year with the family when he was killed by the marauding herdsmen. ‘”My brother is lying there lifeless, butchered by the herdsmen as if he is an animal. “He just finished from service and returned home. ‘’He told us that he has  gotten a job where he did his primary assignment, and resume work after the festivities.  “He had high hope and was full of life only for his life to he cut short by the blood sucking killer herdsmen.

‘’What pain me most is they also removed his eyes after killing him,” she wailed. A survivor of the attack From Tomatar Terkura who was receiving treatment at the Teaching Hospital told Daily Asset  that it was by the grace of God that he survived the attack. According to him, relations carried him to the hospital after he was macheted and shot  severally by the herdsmen.

Scenes at the the mass burial of victims of Fulani Herdsmen killings in Benue State

He however, said his wife Monica and his four year old son Terngu lost their lives in the attack. “We were sleeping but was woken by sudden screaming and gunshot when I open my door the herdsmen were already in my compound they attack me I struggled with them and escaped they shot me severally ran until I fell in the bush. “I was later picked and brought to the hospital.

“But my wife and child could not survive it, I could not save them,” he said with tears in his eye. When contacted one of the mortuary attendants who refused to give his name said 19 corpses of the victims were deposited in the hospital. It could be noted that while receiving the Minister of Interior Thursday, governor Ortom, had told the Minister that the state government had to stop people from bring corpse of victims of the attack into Makurdi, the state capital to avoid a similar situation which had resulted to protest. “I have directed that they should stop people from bringing more corpses into Makurdi, so some of the victims have already been buried.

“Others are deposited in hospitals at the headquarters of the local governments affected by the crisis,” he noted.  Meanwhile, Benue State Police Command said it had arrested eight Fulani herdsmen in connection with the attack on the five communities. The command ’ s Public Relations Officer , Moses Yamu, stated this in a statement on Wednesday. According to the statement, six of the herdsmen were arrested in Guma while two were apprehended in the Logo Local Government areas of the state. The PPRO stated , “ The Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, called for calm as eight herdsmen, six in Guma and two in Logo , have been arrested in connection with the attack .” The statement added that 17 persons , including seven members of Benue State Livestock Guards , were killed and their vehicles burnt and an uncertain number of people injured in the attacks.

The killings in communities of  Benue State sparked off protest Wednesday. The youths in the wake of the attack had as early as 7am thronged in their hundreds in protest and mounted roadblocks at the popular Food Basket Roundabout in Wurukum, Makurdi, the state capital. The aggrieved youths who wield posters were calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to end the killings by herdsmen in Benue now or resign his position as president. The protest led to a heavy gridlock in the popular Food Basket roundabout which serves exit routes the North and southern parts of the country causing traffic obstruction for motorists travelling through the axis to the north and southern regions of the country. One of the protesting youths who identified himself simply as Alex, lamented the killings by the herdsmen and blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for not acting fast to put an end to the herdsmen and farmers crisis. “The Federal Government is not doing anything to address this situation. In fact, it is conspiring against the state to allow this carnage to continue. The President is adamant over the issue. He called for the international community, Civil Society Organisations, and well meaning individuals to come to the aid of the state, and alleviate hardship of the people.

Daily Asset observed that the youth defied the tear gas canisters fired by security operatives to disperse them while they kept stoning the security agents.

 

The demonstration later turned violent with the angry protesting youths attacking the state governor , Samuel Ortom, during his visit to calm the frayed nerves. Security operatives saved the day by whisking the governor into a waiting vehicle. To avert a breakdown of law and order, the military, police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and vigilantes were drafted to beef up security during the violent protest .

The protest which paralyses commercial activities in the state capital, particularly Wurukum and parts of Northbank also resulted to the death of three protesting youths who were allegedly shot by soldiers at the University of Agriculture junction North bank. But when contacted the Assistant Director of Information of Nigerian Army, 707 Special Force, Major Olabisi Ayeni, however, denied knowledge of any death during the protest. Also, the spokesman , Benue State Police Command, Moses Yamu, said, “The command is not in receipt of any such report please.”

But governor Samuel Ortom had later through his Chief Press Secretary Terver Akase issued a Press Statement demanding investigation into the killing of the protesters. The Governor condemned  the killing and called on security agencies to carry out thorough investigation into the attack on the protesting students which he said led to the loss of three lives. The statement reads; “Governor Ortom commiserates with families of the victims, describing the attack on the young protesters as insensitive to the current mood of the people who are in grief over the killing of many innocent persons by armed herdsmen in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state. “He condemns the attack on the protesters and gives assurance that the Benue State Government will ensure that those responsible for the death of the three youths are brought to justice. “The Governor appeals to the people of the state to remain calm and resist the temptation to take the law into their hands as the State Government is exploring every lawful means to restore peace in the communities affected by renewed herdsmen attacks.

Meanwhile after the protest the governor later spoke to newsmen at the Government House, and noted that he understood the pain of the youths, but called for calm and urged the people to go about their lawful business without fear.

He described the situation as rowdy, but said he was himself angry and understood why the youths were angry.

He lamented the havoc the herdsmen have caused in the state and call for the federal government to be proactive in protecting the people of the state.

“We have reported Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, asked security agencies to arrest them but nothing has been done about it.

“These people threatened to resist the Anti-open grazing law and they have made through their threats.

“Leadership of this group are in Abuja with the federal government, why cant the federal government stop them. “The right thing to do is for the federal government to rise up to their responsibility and arrest leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.

“If federal government doesn’t do this then, they are telling us that we are not part of this country.

“And it is unfortunate because, it is the responsibility of the federal government to protect us. “The security apparatus of this country belongs to the federal government and they have the capacity.

The herdsmen have thrown us into the state of anarchy, we have done everything to ensure that we maintain law and order.

Governor Ortom however assure all people living in Benue state to remain calm noting that government will continue to do everything legally possible to protect the people.

Reacting to the killing in the state Senator George Akume, representing Benue Northwest  accompanied by Senator Barnabas Gemade representing Benue Northeast called on the Federal Government to declare emergency on the activities of the Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.

Sen. Akume who spoke for national assembly members in the state expressed confidence in president Buhari to handle the situation and urged him not to allow the issue of herdsmen to dent his hard earned image.

He called for immediate arrest of leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who he said has earlier issue a threat to resist the anti open grazing law passed by the Ortom administration.

On his part, former governor of Benue state Gabriel Suswam expressed grief over the new year round of bloodletting affecting innocent peasant farmers, many of whom were women, children and the elderly.

‘’This is a most dastardly act, one which should be condemned in the strongest possible terms by the entire global human community.

“I call on the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari to respond to this crime with dispatch by deploying troops to the affected areas to avert further attacks.

‘’Government should also ensure a comprehensive security cover over the rest of the state to safeguard against an occurrence of attacks in any other part.

‘’May I state here clearly that this is a moment of tragedy in our dear beloved state, one which demands of all well intentioned citizens a closing of ranks,’ he noted.

Suswam called on Governor Samuel Ortom to reach out to all segments of the citizenry of the state to build a coalition of internal resources to enhance the security of citizens.

He said he will be available to participate in all efforts aimed at ensuring the safety of the people of Benue from any further attacks by the herdsmen.

“It is my prayers and those of my family that God Almighty repose the souls of those killed in peaceful eternity, and also touch our hearts with solace over those losses.

“It is with much heaviness of heart that I extend these words of condolence to the government and people of Benue State over the recent killings of innocent people in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state by suspected Fulani herdsmen,” he said.

However, Minister of Interior Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd) who was in Makurdi  Thursday  described herdsmen who attacked communities in Benue on the new year day as ‘criminals’ .

The Minister who said he was in Benue by the directive of President Buhari to assess damage done by the herdsmen on communities in the state frowned at the killings, noting that the President was personally pained by the heinous incident.

“We feel your pain especially our mothers who bore us in their wombs. Government will not sit down  and watch people to be killed and their property destroyed. Anyone found wanting deserves maximum punishment”, he vowed.

The minister warned Nigerians against  politicizing the incident, noting that many people were using the opportunity of the crisis  for their selfish political interest.

He urged people of the state to continue to exercise restraints noting that government was putting head together with the state government to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

“You must exercise restraint, government is putting heads together with the state government to find a lasting solution to the crisis. As I have said, the attack has nothing to do with religion but criminality. Benue State as food basket of the nation needs a lot of security”, he maintained.

While fielding questions from journalists as to why FG failed to act fast despite a letter written by Governor Samuel Ortom to the Inspector General of Police,  the interior Minister said he is yet to be briefed, restating that the attacks itself is unacceptable in a civilized society.

“This is a sad period in our nation history but I assure you that security agencies are doing a lot to contain the situation. We will stop at nothing in fishing out perpetrators of these act and deal with them” he vowed.

Dambazzau also, intimated that over 5,000 Agro Rangers are been trained by the Federal government to handle incessant herders, farmers clashes across the country.

It could be noted that two months ago, the Benue state government began implementation of the Law prohibiting open grazing of livestock.

The state government enacted the law to prevent the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers which had resulted to wanton destruction of lives and property in the state.

Cited as the Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017, the law specifically permits grazing of livestock only within ranches and prohibits the movement of animals from one destination to another in the State except by rail, trucks and other vehicles.

It spells out punishment for offenders ranging from imprisonment to payment of fines on conviction by a law court.

However, when the state government, passed the anti open grazing law, leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, held a press conferences in Abuja, and threatened to mobilize their  people to resist the law.

The Miyetti Allah also said the law was targeted at criminalising their source of livelihood, claiming that they were the original inhabitants of the Benue valley.

When the law came to effect on November 1, the  group also went on some national television stations claiming that the law breeched their fundamental human right to move and live in any part of  Nigeria. According to the herdsmen, the law was targeted at driving them away from Benue.

In the wake of the event, Governor Samuel Ortom had reported to the President, and petitioned the Inspector General of Police calling for arrest and investigation of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for issuing a threat that they will mobilise people and resist the Anti-open grazing law.

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