The Sun News

Again, blood flows in Benue

•24 killed as herdsmen wreak havoc in Omusu-Edumoga community

Rose Ejembi, Makurdi

His tears continued to flow ceaselessly. As he cried, he couldn’t but wonder how marauding herdsmen murdered his beloved aunt and 23 others in broad daylight.

The herdsmen had invaded Omusu-Edumoga Community in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State, killing and maiming and destroying everything in their path.

Joseph Attah, a man in his mid-20s, could not hold back his tears. For several minutes, he remained silent, unable to utter a word.

“My aunty is dead,” he finally muttered. “They killed my aunty. She was a good woman. She was my uncle’s wife and I lived with them.”

Although the young man had relocated from the village a few years back to seek greener pastures in a nearby village, he had gone on his motorcycle to Omusu-Edumoga after learning that rampaging Fulani herdsmen had wreaked havoc in the community the previous day.

“While coming, I kept praying that all members of my family would be spared, but I was shocked when I got here and discovered that my aunty, Mrs. Catherine Attah, was among those that were killed,” Joseph said and broke into sobs again.

A middle-aged man, Peter Ojobo, also told the correspondent that his father, Pa Innocent Ojobo, a septuagenarian, was killed by the attackers.

Peter said when he heard the first gunshot close to the primary school in the village, he and other villagers started running into hiding. He lamented that he could not save his father because he, Peter, had just undergone surgery about three weeks ago and was recuperating.

“If I was strong enough, I would have run inside to carry my father before they got to our house. My father even tried to run, but the Fulani got him and shot him.”

It was indeed a day of blood in the sleepy village.  Many people, mostly women, children and the elderly were killed in their homes by the herdsmen who had reported that two of their fellow herdsmen as well as some cows went missing in that village.

The reporter gathered that, in one house, eight people were killed. A middle-aged man, Godwin Igoche, lost two of his wives, while another man lost his wife and two children.

Another middle aged man, Aboh Paul, said he ran to his room when the herdsmen came. He explained that he had recently fractured his leg in an accident and so could not run. According to him, from where he hid in his room, he could see the herdsmen, armed with sophisticated weapons, moving about and shooting randomly, killing and maiming as they went.

“At a point, I thought the end had come for me also. Based on the location of my house, I thought it was just a matter of time that I would be killed either by gunshot shots or by fire as they were also burning houses too. But, miraculously, they didn’t enter my house or set it ablaze,” Aboh said.

If Aboh was lucky, Alice, the 65-year-old mother of Pius Okwori, was not that lucky. The herdsmen pursued the woman as she was trying to run into hiding. She was killed at the back of the village close to the stream.

The bloated remains of an eleven-year-old girl were also later found on a farmland as Governor Samuel Ortom embarked on an on-the-spot assessment of the mayhem.

Many houses, barns, motorcycles and other valuables were also set ablaze by the herdsmen who allegedly invaded the village from Ado Local Government.

Those injured in the attacks, including a seven-year-old boy, Ilom Idoko, who lost his mother, were taken for treatment at St. Mary’s Hospital, Ugwu-Okpoga, and General Hospital, Okpoga. The remains of the deceased victims were also deposited at the morgue of the hospitals.

Commissioner of police in Benue State, Fatai Owoseni, while addressing newsmen on the development on Wednesday, confirmed that 24 persons were killed while four houses were burnt.

Chairman of Okpokwu Local Government Area, Olofu Ogwuche, said immediately he received a report from the police that some herdsmen lodged a complaint that some people had rustled their cattle in Omusu village, he swung into action and called all the parties together for an amicable resolution of the matter.

Ogwuche said while the meeting was on-going, he got another report that the herdsmen were already attacking the village. He said he rushed there with security operatives only to find that the entire village had been sacked.

“We were able to recover 17 corpses on Monday evening. The following day, we recovered six other corpses. And just while we are here, the corpse of an 11-year-old girl has just been recovered. But some persons are still missing,” he said.

While addressing the villagers, Ortom described the killing as unacceptable. He said the perpetrators must be apprehended and brought to book.

The governor said, “We related very well until these killer herdsmen came in to invade and kill our people. We will no longer fold our hands and watch. Twenty-four people killed in one day? This is not right. This is not acceptable. All we seek is justice and justice must be given to our people. Anything outside that is unacceptable.

“Heads of security agencies said people doing this are from other countries. These killings are not acceptable. We will not fold our arms and wait for people to come from other countries and invade our land, kill, maim, rape our women and children and go free. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“I know that the security men are doing their best, but they are overstretched. From the police, Civil Defence and the Army. The fact is that they are not also spared. Even the security agencies have become victims of these mercenaries. I think that something has to be done and very fast too.”

According to Ortom, the anti-open grazing law in place in the state did not discriminate against anyone, adding that anyone who wants to stay in the state must learn to obey that law.

“The law is meant to protect the lives of the people of the state and herdsmen alike. No one is discriminated against and everyone must obey the law. I am aware that when Sharia law was introduced in Zamfara State and several other states in the country, nobody rose up to challenge that law. Why are these people challenging us?

“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.

“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 the local government council chairman is making efforts to arrest whoever was responsible.

“So what was the basis to attack and kill innocent people who knew nothing about your problem?  How can the herdsmen justify the killing of an 11-year-old girl, other children and the elderly over allegations that cattle were rustled? Our people do not rustle cattle; it is herdsmen that rustle cattle, not our people,” he said.

He urged the youth of the village to team up with security agencies to police the area so that those who had deserted the village would be encouraged to return home soon.

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