Benue Killings: Youths Raise Militia Group To Tackle Herdsmen

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 Ndubuisi Ugah, Cephas Iorhemen, Regina Otokpa, with agency reports

Strong indications emerged last night that youths in Benue State in a bid to counter the recurring attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the state may have resorted to the establishment of a militia group to check the attacks. Saturday Telegraph reliably gathered from a competent source in the know of the latest move that the youth decided to form the militia group, which is expected to take the formation and modus operandi of some well known groups in other geo-political areas in order to save indigenes from further bloodshed arising from the attacks.

The source, who craved anonymity, said by establishing the militia group, the youth were not in any way trying to be violent or confrontational as the case maybe but instead, were trying to safeguard the numerous lives and property yet to be destroyed, especially as it affects other indigenes from other states. It will be recalled that armed gunmen had on Janaury 2, unleashed violence and mayhem on some rural communities in Benue where about 50 persons were killed.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday condemned the killings, and wanton destruction of property in the affected communities in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state even as he commiserated with the government and people of Benue over the incidents.

The president had also expressed outrage at reports of killings of innocent persons in Omoku, Rivers, and the traditional ruler of Numana, Kaduna State, the Etum Numana, Dr Gambo Makama, and his wife.
The traditional ruler and his wife were killed in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State in the New Year.

However, the source told Saturday Telegraph that: “The resurgence of attacks on Benue communities since the beginning of the year has remained a sour grape in our mouths. Our people now live in perpetual fear of the unknown particularly on which community or area would be attacked again. This is very absurd. From reports available, it appears the indigenes are being pushed to the wall and this is saddening.

“Even, I “scooped” from some them saying they are planning to establish militia group (s). You know the implication of this but I can tell you that this is going to be far reaching. Our brothers elsewhere did same and there was sanity in the domain.

Maybe this is going to be far reaching as the days unfold.” The source, who could not state categorical what the group’s name may be, noted that the situation had called for a proactive measure to check the activities of the Fulani herdsmen in the state. “We are not violent people. Everyday, the news is about Benue State being attacked in one way or the other. How long shall we continue like this with the killings of our people,” he asked.

Buhari: Killer herdsmen deserve maximum punishment

President Muhammadu Buhari has described herdsmen who murdered over 50 persons in Benue communities a few days ago as criminals. President Buhari, who spoke yesterday through his representative and Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd), during a condolence visit to Governor Samuel Ortom at the Government House, Makurdi, said he was personally pained by the heinous incident.

He said: “We feel your pain especially our mothers who bore us in their wombs. Government will not sit down and watch people to be killed and their property destroyed. Anyone found wanting deserves maximum punishment.” The president cautioned Nigerians against politicising the incident, noting that many people were cashing on the killings for their selfish political interest.

“We should exercise restraint. The Federal Government is putting heads together with the state government to find a lasting solution to the crisis. As I have said, the attacks have nothing to do with religion, it is criminality. Benue State as the food basket of the nation needs a lot of security.”
On why the Federal Government failed to act fast despite a letter written by Ortom to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the minister said he was yet to be briefed, stating that the attacks were unacceptable in a civilised society. “This is a sad period in our nation’s history but I assure you that security agencies are doing a lot to contain the situation.

We will stop at nothing in fishing out perpetrators of these act and deal with them,” he vowed. Dambazzau disclosed that over 5,000 agro-rangers were being trained by the Federal Government to handle incessant herders, farmers clash across the country.

Ortom urged President Buhari to demonstrate his words with action by directing the immediate arrest of the leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore whom he said were executing their earlier threat to the peace-loving people of the state.
“These people that issued threat are staying with you there in Abuja. We want you to arrest them and make them to account for their words,” Ortom said.

Senator George Akume who is the Chairman of Committee on Army expressed confidence in president Buhari to handle the situation. He urged him not to allow the issue of herdsmen to dent his hard earned image.

Ortom: I am not afraid of assassination threats

Meanwhile, the governor yesterday said he was not bothered by threats to his life by those who do not want implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in the state. Ortom stated this when leadership of the state’s branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), paid him a courtesy call at the Government House in Makurdi.

The governor affirmed that if it is not the will of God, no man has the right to take life or stop the ongoing implementation of the ranching law of the state. He told the people to remain steadfast till impunity is defeated in Nigeria, saying no sacrifice is too big in the struggle to end the genocide being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen in parts of the state.

Ortom said it is time Benue sons and daughters put away political differences and unite to speak with one voice against invasion and occupation of their land which has left many people dead and property worth billions destroyed.

He said the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law had come to stay and no amount of intimidation could make the state stop implementing of the legislation. The governor expressed the hope that President Buhari would take further steps to stop the carnage and arrest those behind the genocide especially leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who had threatened to resist the law.

Ortom, while appreciating the NBA for the consolatory visit, said he was happy that he had not done the wrong thing by enacting a law that seeks to protect his people, stressing that it was a global best practice and that he and President Muhammadu Buhari also practise ranching. Earlier, Chairman NBA Makurdi branch, Mr. Emmanuel Agbakor, said the gruesome killings violate the right to life of Benue citizens as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

Army confiscates 30 motorcycles from Fulani insurgents

A detachment of the Nigeria Army deployed to contain the renewed attacks on Benue farmers by rampaging herdsmen in parts of Guma Local Government Area yesterday confiscated over 30 motorcycles used by the attackers.

This is just as seven Fulani herdsmen who were arrested in connection with the invasion of two local government areas of Benue State, and another one who was arrested for grazing in Governor Samuel Ortom’s farm were also yesterday arraigned before a Makurdi Chief Magistrate Court presided over by Isaac Ajim.

The accused herders who were arraigned for criminal conspiracy, mischief by fire, anti open grazing, causing grevious hurt with dangerous weapons and culpable homicide include Ibrahim Saleh, Jibrin Adamu, Magaji Yau, Ibrahim Abubakar, Useni Bala, Sabin Yau, while Ibrahim Mallam was also arraigned for grazing on Governor Ortom’s farm along Naka road in Makurdi. Briefing Ortom at Branch Umenger, during his tour of parts of Guma, a soldier (names withheld), said the attackers had gathered at Bakin Korta in Keana Local Government Area of Nasarawa State preparatory for operation before they were discovered and dispelled during routine patrol.

According to him, the rampaging herdsmen, numbering about 200 engaged them in a gun battle but were eventually overpowered and their motorcycles confiscated. Nine of the motorcycles were taken to Makurdi while the rest were burnt at the scene of the operation.

Ortom while addressing the displaced persons at Umenger, Kaseyo and Gbajimba, said more deployments of security personnel were being made and hoped that the deserted communities would be secured for the displaced persons to return home.

He stated that the blood of the innocent farmers spilled by the herdsmen would always cry to God and the enemies would be defeated. It added that during police investigation, six accused person including Ibrahim Saleh, Jibrin Adamu, Magaji Yau, Ibrahim Abubakar, Useni Bala, Sabin Yau were arrested and further investigation into the matter revealed that the suspects had destroyed houses, crops and burnt down many buildings.

The accused were also arraigned for openly rearing their cows within farmlands at Akor village in Guma Local Government Area thus contravening section 97,329,333 and 222 of the penal code law of Benue State and Section 19(2)(3) of the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law of Benue State 2017. When the case came up, no plea was taken for want of jurisdiction but prosecution counsel Edward Imoh asked for another date.

The presiding Chief Magistrate, Isaac Ajim who noted that the court could not grant the accused persons bail because the charges against them were very grave, adjourned the case till March 5, 2018 for further mention and ordered that they be remanded at the Federal Prison in Makurdi.

Over 40,000 persons displaced –SEMA
Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) yesterday said over 40,000 persons had been displaced following the attacks. The Executive Secretary of SEMA, Mr. Emmanuel Shior, told journalists in Makurdi, that the agency had opened four camps for the displaced persons in the affected areas. Shior disclosed that Ortom had been extremely worried over the plight of the people. “As we speak over 40,000 persons have so far been displaced as a result of the attacks on our people in Guma and Logo LGAs.

“Government has decided to open four camps, three in Guma LGA and one in Logo LGA, the camps in Guma LGA are in Daudu, Gbajimba and Agasha, while the camp in Logo LGA is in Ugba,” he said. Shior said that the state government decided to locate the camps in areas considered safest in the LGAs for security reasons. “The camps are in areas that are safe and enough security has being provided for the safety of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

What we are doing at the moment is to open temporary camps except the one in Daudu that already has existing camp facilities, the others camps are situated in primary schools located in the areas. “We do not hope to keep them in the camps for a long time, remember this is January and most of the affected persons are farmers who are still harvesting their crops,” he said. Shior said that gov-nment was concerned about the security of the people and their communities to enable them to return back to their homes instead of staying in the camps.

Buhari’s govt has betrayed, failed Nigerians-CAN

The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has lambasted President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for betraying the confidence of Nigerians, and its failure in protecting their lives and property from the rampaging Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country. In a statement made available to journalists yesterday in Abuja, CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, noted that unlike government’s nature to act decisively and address the attacks levelled against Nigerians by various groups, it has continued to remain silent, doing nothing to address the attacks perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen.

According to him, the Fulani herdsmen within the short period of its operations when compared to the years of attacks by the Boko Haram sect, have killed more people and almost displaced more people than the Boko Haram sect. He said that given the spate of attacks, Christians were now reaching a breaking point in their patience and toleration of the wicked impunity which if not addressed speedily by competent actions and not just action by words of mouth, would soon degenerate into a civil war.

“We in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) are forced to make this press release on the continuous inhuman and wicked activities of the Fulani Herdsmen all over the federation who are going from community to community killing innocent farmers with impunity.

“While the government has taken the battle to Boko Haram terrorists, the Indigenous People of Biafra, the Badoo boys, the Niger Delta Avengers and other groups, the government has not shown any serious willingness to checkmate the murderous Fulani herdsmen.

This to us is a betrayal of the confidence reposed in this government by Nigerians when they voted them into power.

“Similarly, the government has failed to uphold the constitution which they swore to uphold because they have failed in protecting, Nigerians from the attacks of Fulani herdsmen in the affected areas. If they continue to allow the herdsmen to be having a field day in killing people like this, is it not the Fulanis alone that would remain that they would be governing? God forbid,” he said.

Ayokunle questioned the inability of security operatives to uncover the sponsors of the deadly herdsmen saying, “we need to know why the intelligence units of all security apparatus we have in this country have not been able to discover the sources of supply of ammunition to the herdsmen living virtually in the bush.

“The Customs and the Immigration services together with the Police have case to answer. Who are the suppliers of these weapons?
If the murderous herdsmen are foreigners, as it is being claimed in some quarters, why did we allow dangerous foreigners into our country to come and kill us? Our government has a case to answer too.

“We are, therefore, tasking the government of the day; the Executive, the Senate, the House of Representatives and all security agencies to rise up to their responsibilities and we equally call on all stakeholders in this nation together for a solemn assembly that would address all these things and come out with lasting solution to these senseless attacks,” he added.

The CAN president who further called on the international community to comment and assist those affected by the wanton attacks, urged all churches to set aside time this coming Sunday to pray for Nigeria and for victory over the unfortunate situation bedevilling the nation. “The international community cannot afford to be watching us without lending a voice to our cries to our government to checkmate the murdererous Fulani herdsmen who appear not to care about the future of this nation.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is further appealing to the international community to come to our aid by providing relief for many in the hospitals and those that are displaced as a result of these attacks.

“We urge all churches to set aside time this coming Sunday, January 7, to pray for Nigeria and for victory over the wicked killings by Fulani herdsmen. Our nation can never be great in a state of insecurity and war as we are presently experiencing it,” he added.

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