The security agencies should strive to halt the renewed bloodbath in Benue, Plateau and Kaduna states before it degenerates to anarchy. The federal government must rise to the occasion and bring the situation under control. Since January, the three states and others in the middle belt region had witnessed uprisings leading to loss of lives and destruction of properties. In Plateau, about 130 persons had been killed, 1,000 buildings burnt and 22 villages sacked in the ongoing disturbances in Mangu and Riyom Local Government Areas of the State.
According to the State’s chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the killings, which started in Mangu villages on Monday, May 15, 2023, by the so-called unknown gunmen, have claimed many lives and property with many persons still missing. The villages affected include Fungzai, Hale, Kubwat, Bwoi and many other communities of the Kombun District of Mangu Local Government Area and some communities in the Riyom Local Government Area.
In Benue, the mayhem took a frightening dimension when suspected herdsmen killed about 18 persons during an attack on the Iye Community in Uvir Council Ward of Guma Local Government Area of the State. Some of the victims, including women and children, were said to have been beheaded and their remains burnt alongside their houses and food barns. Others sustained varying degrees of injuries during the attack. The assailants had stormed the community when the residents were transacting business on a market day. The victims had earlier been displaced from their village, Tse-Orvihi in Uvir Council Ward of the same Guma LGA.
Other parts of the state have also not known enduring peace since then. In April, an army officer, one soldier and 15 others, were reportedly killed by suspected herdsmen in an attack on communities in Edikwu 2 Council Ward of Apa Local Government Area. The action took place, shortly after a Ward Chairman of the Labour Party, Nathaniel Ochoche and three others were murdered in an ambush by the herders.
Elsewhere in the state, gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen militia, attacked Umuogidi community in Otukpo Local Government Area, (LGA), killing 46 persons including a policeman. Within the same period, the traditional ruler of Ugbobi community in Apa Local Government Area and several others were wasted when suspected armed herdsmen invaded their villages.
Reports by the people of Southern Kaduna, under the aegis of Atyap Community Development Association (ACDA), claimed that 518 people had been killed, 20 villages ransacked, 18 burnt down, and thousands of victims rendered refugees across many communities from 2017 till date, over the persistent attacks and killings in Atyapland in the Zangon Kataff Local Government Area of Kaduna State.These are undoubtedly, conservative figures but they are staggering and worrisome. The victims are mostly rural, innocent farmers, women and children. The affected states fall into the food producing zone of the country, hence the food supply chain has been obstructed. Farmers can no longer visit their farms because of the prevailing climate of fear, leading to drop in food supply and consequent rising cost of food items.
The ugly development is not good for peace and security in the country. The ongoing bloodletting in the North Central geopolitical zone constitutes a threat to the corporate existence of the country.Although every crime is local, the carnage in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna and neighbouring states calls for change of tactics and more proactive measures in the security arrangement in the country. This is the time for the government to accord serious attention to the decentralisation of the present police arrangement and allow for community and state policing.
In some states where relative sanity has been achieved, it has been as a result of the synergy between the government and local vigilante outfits. The federal government can take a cue from the successes recorded in such states and replicate similar measures in other states.
The primary function of government is the security and welfare of the people. The killings in Benue and adjoining states have become intractable. We condemn the barbaric acts in very strong terms. It is disheartening to see innocent citizens being killed and their properties destroyed in such a gruesome manner. Government and law enforcement agencies should bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice and ensure the protection of lives and property of all citizens. There is need to stop the carnage in Benue and other states. Let the government devise measures that will ensure lasting peace in the affected states.