Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue state were thrown into mourning after about 20 persons especially women and children were killed by some gunmen on Tuesday, January 2nd.
The reported New Year killings also left several persons injured with the wanton destruction of property in the communities.
While addressing journalists in Makurdi after the State Council Security Meeting, Governor Samuel Ortom disclosed that armed herdsmen killed over 20 and injured over 30 in Benue between Monday and Tuesday in Guma and Logo LGAs.
According to the Governor, nine out of the number were Livestock Guards who were to ensure the full implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law which was signed on November 1, 2017.
During an on-the-spot assessment visit to some of the affected communities, Governor Ortom said an additional 13 deaths were discovered, taking the number of those killed to 33.
Governor Ortom called on the Federal Government to wade into the matter so as to avert further destruction of lives and property.
President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with Governor Ortom and the people of Benue, expressing sadness at the “wicked and callous” attacks.
Buhari 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.
The President also commiserated with families of the victims and wished the injured speedy healing.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, has also expressed concern over the wanton killing of innocent people in Logo and Guma communities.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, Dogara expressed sadness over the incidence, noting that no reason whatsoever, can be enough justification for such dastardly act.
According to Dogara, the incident was a clear indication that it was high time all the security apparatuses of the country are mobilised to put a stop to the mindless killings.
“It is very worrisome that at a time government is taking every step to tame the security challenges in the country, there seems to be a steady deterioration of security of lives and properties all over the country. This is totally unacceptable and the legislature is determined to hold all authorities vested with the protection of lives and properties accountable,” Dogara said.
While commiserating with the people and government of Benue, Kaduna and Rivers states, Dogara assured Nigerians that the legislature will not allow the lives of the victims go in vain.
The Speaker, therefore, called on the President to immediately deploy adequate security personnel to the hotspots in order to halt further killings.
Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the Benue attack, calling on the presidency to arrest and bring the culprits to book.
A statement on Wednesday, Jan. 3, in Makurdi, by the PDP Publicity Secretary in Benue, Mr Bemgba Iortyom said:
“The Benue Chapter of the PDP totally condemns this barbaric act which qualifies by every standard as terrorism employed in the pursuit of an agenda which is genocide in character.”
The party said it was in alignment with the position of Gov. Samuel Ortom that the Federal Government must move quickly to provide security to the people of the state as well as bring the perpetrators of the acts of criminality to book.
According to the PDP, gunmen violence against farmers should be graded on the same level with the menace of Boko Haram insurgency and treated with an equally commensurate degree of security attention.
“Evidence abound that the gunmen killing of Benue farmers, burning down their homes and destroying their farms, crops, farm produce and properties, do not differ from Boko Haram insurgents in mode and method of operation, as well as the extent of impact and devastation on their victims.
“We also use this opportunity to reaffirm our support for the law prohibiting open grazing of livestock in Benue State as the surest antidote, both in the short and long terms, to the menace of gunmen attack in the state.
“We urge Gov. Ortom to explore broad-based and bi-partisan approaches involving all segments of the Benue community towards bolstering internal cooperation measures for the effectiveness and sustainability of the law,” the statement added.
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Meanwhile, hundreds of Benue youths stormed the popular Food Basket Roundabout in Makurdi on Wednesday, Jan. 3, to protest the alleged killing of innocent people by herdsmen in the state.
Reports reveal that the protest led to a gridlock in the area, causing traffic obstruction for motorists travelling through the state capital to the north and southern regions of the country.
The aggrieved youths called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in what they described as “terrorist killings” in their state.
The killing of another resident following Tuesday’s reported attack sparked the protest by the youths who are demanding an immediate stop to herdsmen attacks.
The youth, who carried placards, blocked the Lafia-Makurdi highway, the Otukpo road and the Old Bridge Road and converged on the popular Wurukum roundabout.
The protesters trooped to major roads, mounting barricades in strategic areas, blocking both entry and exit routes, which also prevented vehicular movement in and out of Makurdi.
The President, National Association of Ihiarev Youths, Bem Terna, said the protest would continue for seven days.
“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. We will continue to stage this protest for seven days. We want the entire world and the international community to come to our aid,” Terna stated.
The youths defied the tear gas canisters fired by security operatives to disperse them while they kept stoning the security agents.
The demonstrators turned violent when Ortom visited them at Wurukum, insisting that the only person who they were ready to listen to was Buhari.
Security operatives had to whisk away the governor in a waiting vehicle when the situation became tense.
In the meantime, the police in Benue said they have arrested eight herdsmen over Tuesday’s killings in Guma and Logo Local Governments of the state.
In a statement on Wednesday in Makurdi, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Moses Yamu said:
“Eight herdsmen, six in Guma and two in Logo, had been arrested in connection with the attacks.”
He added that the command had made additional deployments to the troubled area to forestall further occurrence and restore the confidence of the people.
The police spokesman stressed the situation in the two local government areas had been brought under control while the investigation was ongoing.
“They attacked Tomater village in Sengev Council Ward, Akor village in Nzorov Council Ward and Bakin Kwata village in Umanger Council Ward of Guma LGA.”
“Among those killed were seven (7) members of Benue State Livestock Guards, their vehicle burnt and an uncertain number of persons injured in separate attacks between 31/12/2017 and 02/01/2018.”
“Again, Agba-Uko near Azege village and Tse-Aga village of Logo LGA experienced the same fate, where one person was killed, one motorcycle burnt and four persons injured.”
“All the injured from both LGAs are currently undergoing treatment in various hospitals in the state.”
According to him, five combined teams of mobile and conventional policemen led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Operations, Emmanuel Adesina, have engaged the armed herdsmen in a gun duel in Guma.
Benue state has suffered about 20 such attacks in 2017 leading to scores of deaths. The latest attack is the first in 2018.
Attacks and counter-attacks by migrant herdsmen on farming Benue communities led the state government to put the anti-open grazing law in place. The law bans open grazing in all Benue communities.
The Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law came into effect on November 1, 2017, to forestall attacks on Benue communities by suspected herders. The law stipulates five-year jail term or an option of N1 million fine for violators.
The attack is the first by suspected herdsmen since the law came into effect.