Farming communities in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State at the weekend raised the alarm over the killing of 50 farmers by marauding herdsmen.
The community had following the development, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to come to the rescue of the victims of violence in the area.
In an open letter to Buhari titled, “Terror Attacks on Farming Communities, Including Women and Children in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State,” a copy of which was made available to THISDAY in Abuja, the community leaders called on the president to deploy security forces to the area to contain the terrorist herdsmen.
The letter, which was co-signed by the trio of Festus Iorkyaa, President-Turan Development Association (TUDA); Eric Tyohemba Udu and Solomon Terfa Jijah on behalf of members of the organisation, said the herdsmen killed over 50 people in an attack that lasted 10 days unchallenged.
“We write to report recent, sustained terror attacks on our communities over the past 10 days which have resulted in over 50 people dead, several injured, thousands displaced and loss of property and farmlands,” it stated.
The groups said the marauding herders with cattle numbering over 300 were said to have taken over the whole of Nyiev-ya (Mbakyor Ward, Turan) in kwande LGA, Benue state, covering a distance of not less than 100km.
Turan is the ancestral home of the Tiv ethnic group with Jato-Aka in Kwande LGA of Benue State as the headquarters.
The herders were said to have destroyed villages, markets such as Ayuluba in Ityuluv Nyiev-ya, farm produce, houses and many other property worth billions of naira.
The letter cited eyewitness accounts that showed that the attackers came in with over 300 cattle, armed with highly sophisticated weapons, terrorising the people of the area and killing unarmed civilians, women and children while destroying homes, food stores and farmlands.
“In some cases, they have taken over the lands and settled on them. They come in good numbers with their cattle, destroying farm produce for their animals to graze, chase away the inhabitants of such areas and pitch their tents there,” the letter read.
The community leaders also released the names of some of the victims killed so far in Turan and their respective districts by the invading herders.
They include, “Abande Njoor, Iornum Sonter, Abraham Terna, Aker Shagba Achuna from Iyon Anyura Bemshima Tyurugh,
Kendon Tyover, ornguga Tyodoo, Ajoh Iorhemba, Orshio Msughter, Abe Nyam, Aker Ushahembas, Ayagwa Lunen, Apav Terhile, Jirbee Amaku, Aza Bem, Ahil Wende and Iormumbes Ashi Shimave.”
It listed others to include, Terhemba Madom, Andyar Aemberga, Kundu Igba, Tarkper Adomko, Jirbee Amaku and Terlumun Swen.
“In Kendev-ya, the nmm, Terna Udam, Atighir Aondokula, Terfa Mbagbar, Terver Mbagbar, Terzungwe Chagh, Tyoazua Aondona, Kogh Aondowase, Akura Utoo, Iortsor Shaapera, Awuhe Terhemen, Lase Mbanengen.
From Barakur district (Nyiev-Tiev) we have Kuku Terngu, Kuku Mzehemen, Hangeuir Iorwuese Kuta, among others.
“These killings and destruction of lives and properties occur on a daily basis”, the community said.
The community called on the government and non-governmental organisations to come to their aid.
The Tiv community appealed to government to, “secure their lives, land and properties” and urged the president to “assist in giving relief materials to the refuges of the affected crisis, create IDP camps as people are homeless.
“This is because we are approaching the rainfall in our areas and refuges are sleeping outside, if rain resumes the dilemma will be unbearable”.
The Benue communities called on the federal government to “arrest and prosecute these terrorists. Ensure investigations to fish out the masterminds of these attacks speedily. Arrest and prosecute those funding and planning these attacks. Strengthen security for the affected communities.
“Provide urgent humanitarian support to displaced persons from affected communities who have now taken refuge in neighbouring communities most notably, in Jato-Aka in Kwande LGA.
“We look forward to your speedy intervention as you carry out your constitutional duty as commander- in-chief of Nigerian Armed Forces and call on you to use your good office to secure Kwande and in effect, secure Nigeria. Please be assured of our highest regards”, it said.
Speaking on the killings in Benue, the Director, Defence Media Operation (DMO), Maj Gen Musa Danmadami, described the security situation as a “lingering issue” which are “mostly reprisal attacks.”
While calling on all stakeholders to join hands to stop what he called a “cycle of violence,”
Danmadami said the military alone cannot end the crisis.
“On the issue in Benue state, it’s rather unfortunate about the killing that is going on in the state, and equally across the country. But in Benue we know that it has been a lingering issue between the herders and the indigenes of that area.
“Most times, these attacks are usually reprisal attracts. And honestly speaking like I said the military alone cannot single handedly bring any crisis to a logical conclusion.
“It has to be an all governments approach and all stakeholders must be ready to address the issue holistically,” he said.
He further stated that, “the military can only respond or prevent the issue. But if all stakeholders do not come together, and there is no holistic approach in arresting this issue, it will continue to occur itself. I am sure you are aware that most of these attacks going on in Benue and equally in other places are reprisal attacks.
“They would go there and kill this one and this one would go and kill this one. Who are the ones suffering this? It is the citizens and not the military.
“So, we need to be holistic and it is not the military’s responsibility to drive that holistic approach in addressing those issues”
“If you do not address the root cause of any problem, that problem will continue to linger on. The military can only go inside and try to mitigate and solve the crisis and bring some sense of normalcy in the area but cannot stop it at once.
“If we move in and stop the killing people would now say because they kill two people, we the military have gone inside to carry out reprisal attack. So, it is now left for the citizens to decide among themselves that yes we must stop this cycle of violence,” he said.
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja