Rose Ejembi, Makurdi

No fewer than 13 persons were feared killed by unknown gunmen on Monday morning at Ukpogo community, Edikwu Apa Local Government Area of Benue state.

The gunmen suspected to be armed militia gang had reportedly stormed the sleepy village at about 4am over disputed chieftaincy stool were said to have shot sporadically in all directions.

The attack was said to have left some of the victims with injuries while some compounds were also set ablaze.

A source from the area who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said he was still sleeping in his house that fateful morning when sounds of gunshots resonated across the village and everyone started scampering for safety.

Our source who confirmed that the attack was as a result of chieftaincy tussle said the dispute was over the stool of Alegwu of Edikwu which dates back to 1994.

“This tussle has continued to lead to persistent killings in the community by armed militia gangs who are usually hired by an aggrieved contender to the stool but on self exile.

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“The man (name withheld) disagreed with the choice of the kingmakers of the community who elected late Chief Imoni Otokpa as Alegwu of Edikwu before his demise in 2018.

It was further gathered that the latest attack on the community was coming just three months after the state governor, Samuel Ortom, represented by his Deputy, Engr. Benson Abounu intervened in the matter by conveying a peace meeting of stakeholders of the community last May.

Our correspondent gathered that at that meeting, it was agreed that all the aggrieved parties should sheath their swords and give peace a chance. But just few months after the meeting, the armed militia struck again.

At the time of filing this report, it was gathered that troops of the joint military operation in the state, known as Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) had mobilized and taken over the area to forestall further attacks.

When contacted on the attack, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Anene confirmed the attack saying 13 dead bodies have been recovered from the area while investigation is still ongoing.