Again, bloodbath in Benue as armed herdsmen massacre 26

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*Displaced persons of Omusu community (Photo credit: Igbere TV)

Ortom calls for arrest of Miyetti Allah leadership

Murderous herdsmen went loose on Tuesday, March 6, stormed Omusu community in Okpokwu Local Government Area Benue State and killed 26 people, mostly women, children and the aged.

Also killed was an 11-year-old girl in her school uniform.

According to a statement by the Benue State Police Command spokesman, ASP, Moses Yamu, the attack was a reprisal after some youths in the community went berserk, attacked Fulani herdsmen and ‘maimed’ some cows.

“We received information from the security adviser of Okpokwu local government that some irate youths from Omutu engaged some herdsmen in a fight, maiming some cows while two herdsmen were missing.

“A peace meeting was immediately convened by the Council Chairman and the head of Fulani community in the area while a police search party went in search of the two missing herdsmen, one of whom was found dead.”

“Unfortunately, as the search and peace meeting were on going, some herdsmen went on a rampage,” he said.

According to a source, the heavily-armed herdsmen arrived in the rustic village around 4pm shooting sporadically at anything they sighted and burning down houses in the community.

“The herdsmen came from Ado Local Government Area, through River Ogege. We were holding a meeting when suddenly we began to hear gunshots behind the LGEA Primary School in Idumoga. I ran towards my father’s place but I could not save him because the herdsmen had entered the house. Villagers were running in all directions,” said a survivor, Peter Ojobo, a survivor.

“The herdsmen were over 50. They came and started shooting and killing people. They did not even spare women and children. I ran into my house and hid myself when I saw them coming. They went about killing. It was only God that saved me,” said another survivor, Paul Abba.

It was gathered that one farmer, Godwin Igoche, lost his two wives and three children in the attack, one Eric Attah, who with his wife who went the stream to fetch water, was also killed while three women and five children who had locked themselves up in a room were hacked to death.

Meanwhile, the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who visited the community, described the killings as “unacceptable” and “regrettable” coming barely hours after the chairman of Okpokwu Local Government Area had held a meeting with the residents and herdsmen following an altercation.

“This is the highest level of injustice to our people. How can anyone just wake up and kill 26 persons in one day? What have seven and eleven-year-old children done to warrant this treatment? How can a seventy-year-old man rustle cattle? Rustling of cattle is done by professional herders who, in this case, are still herdsmen.

“This law (anti-grazing) was meant to protect both herdsmen and farmers and is the only solution to the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis. When Zamfara enacted Sharia law, those who could not obey it left the place without causing any problems. Why is the Benue case different?

“If we go by what the minister of defence, Dan Ali Mansur, said that these are foreign herdsmen, why should we leave our borders open to allow herdsmen come into the country and kill our people.

“This is not right. The law must be respected. In Benue, we believe in the rule of law and that is why, instead of taking laws into our hands, we enacted the law prohibiting open grazing, which also provides for the establishment of ranches,” he said.

Thereafter, the governor repeated his call for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore that had threatened peace in the state since June 2017.

“I still call on security agencies to arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who had threatened to do what they are doing today since last June. They have gone scot-free and live and move about freely in Abuja and are directing their mercenaries that they brought from other countries to come and kill our people. This is not acceptable.

“All that we seek is justice and justice must be given to our people; that is why we were elected to lead. Anything outside that is not acceptable. We will ensure that security personnel do the needful and ensure that the herdsmen responsible for this are arrested.

“I am happy that we have gotten some of the equipment that we will use in tracking them. We will assist security agencies to do the needful to get the masterminds arrested.

“As a government, we will continue to do our best because we cannot surrender our state to criminals; that will not happen. It is not acceptable. Storming a community and killing 26 people in one fell swoop is certainly unacceptable. We must all rise up and stop this evil that is posing a great danger to all Nigerians.

“If we allow this people to continue to kill and go scot-free, tomorrow they will attack our security personnel and also attack us, the leaders of this country. We must do something and it has to be now, there is no better time.

“I believe that two wrongs can never make a right. If you were attacked by whosoever and your cattle and people are missing, the best thing to do is to report to law enforcement agencies. This was done and efforts are being made by the local government council chairman to arrest whoever was responsible.

“So what was the basis to attack and kill innocent people who know nothing about your problem? How can the herdsmen justify the killing of an 11-year old girl, other children and the elderly over allegation that cattle was rustled? “Our people do not rustle cattle; it is herdsmen that rustle cattle, not our people. I can assure you that we will get justice over this matter,” said Ortom.

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