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Despite Massacre of 134 People in 5 Days, Benue Indigenes Won’t Be Provoked into Taking Up Arms, Says Governor Ortom

He urged Buhari to go beyond mourning with families of the bereaved and direct security agencies to arrest the Fulani militia believed to be responsible.

In the aftermath of the gruesome killing of more than 134 people, allegedly, by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State in the last five days across three local government areas of Otukpo, Apa and Guma, the state governor, Samuel Ortom, has said indigenes would not be provoked into taking up arms against anyone.
In a statement on Sunday, Ortom described the killings as “heinous and cowardly”.

Ortom reiterated his call on Buhari to come to the aid of residents of the state.
The statement made available to THISDAY by Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Nathaniel Ikyur, said Ortom spoke when he paid a condolence visit to the Mgbam community in Nyiev council ward of Guma Local Government Area, where 36 people, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) were killed by Fulani herdsmen last Friday, while over 40 people were injured.


The governor said the president should not just stop at mourning with the families of the bereaved, but should also direct security agencies to go all out to arrest the Fulani militia, who had made life unbearable for the people of the state.
He said the time had come for the president to act fast beyond words and with concrete actions to end the killings.
Ortom, however, appealed to the communities and their leaders to continue to be law abiding but also be vigilant at all times to be able to ward off the assailants.


The governor also visited the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, where those injured in the attack were receiving treatment.
Speaking to journalists after going round the wards, Ortom bemoaned the mindless killings by marauding invaders. He said in the last five days similar attacks by armed herders in three local government areas of the state, including, Otukpo, Apa and Guma, had claimed over 134 innocent lives.


Earlier, District Head of Nyiev, His Highness, Bernard Shawa, who lost a son and a daughter in the attack, recalled how the assailants stormed his community about 9pm on Friday night and began shooting sporadically, killing and wounding his subjects. He said the victims were mostly those already displaced from their ancestral lands and were taking refuge in a primary school near his home.


Mue Ter Ihyarev, who also spoke on behalf of Ter Guma, HRH Dennis Shemberga, expressed deep shock over the unprovoked killing of his subjects by the armed herdsmen. He appealed to Ortom not to be discouraged by the spate of renewed attacks on communities, and urged Buhari to send more troops to the troubled areas to end the killings.


On Monday, April 3, herdsmen launched an attack on Ikobi community of Apa Local Government Area killing 47 persons, including a traditional ruler, who was killed along with some of his subjects.
Similarly, on Wednesday, April 5, the invading herdsmen unleashed mayhem on Umogidi community in Entekpa Council Ward of Otukpo Local Government Area, where they massacred another 51 persons and sacked the community.
The devastating attacks by marauding herdsmen in Benue communities resumed after the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections. Kwande, Guma, Gwer-West, Logo, Apa, Agatu, Otukpo local government areas are some of the major flashpoints.
Within 48 hours, the attacks moved to the Umogidi community of Entekpa ward in Otukpo Local Government Area, where 51 persons lost their lives.


From the scenes of the Friday night attack, the governor visited survivors, who were receiving treatment at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital in Makurdi and commiserated with them.


A survivor, Mnenna Orkega, who lost her 10-year-old daughter, told newsmen that they were all asleep when they heard gunshots.
“I tried to escape through the window, when a herdsman grabbed my child and killed her,” she said.
Others who narrowly escaped said the whole attack was horrific and sad.


The Benue State police command confirmed that 28 people were killed and several people sustained gun injury.
In a short message by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Catherine Anene, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), the police confirmed the attack at Mgbam.


Anene said 28 corpses were recovered and deposited at the hospital morgue, while investigation was on-going.
Meanwhile former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 election Atiku Abubakar, in a statement, noted, “The resurgence of violence and killings in parts of the country after a lull, stands condemned.
“The attack and killing of scores of innocent citizens in Umogidi, in Otukpo LGA of Benue State, and the kidnap of dozens of young people in Wanzamai village in Zamfara have no place in our country.


“They are a reminder that a lot more still needs to be done to guarantee the security of the lives of Nigerians across the country. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased.”
No fewer than 60 people, mostly children, were at the weekend abducted by terrorists in communities straddling Zamfara and Katsina states.
Sources said the incidents happened when the terrorists were moving from Sububu Forest in Zamfara State to neighbouring Birnin-Gwari Forest in Kaduna State.


The victims were from the Kucheri, Wanzamai, and Danwuri communities of Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State, and Yankara town in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.
In the meantime, Sokoto State Police command confirmed the escalation of banditry in some communities in Gwadabawa Local Government Area of the state. The police said the situation was responsible for the rising tension in some villages within the local council.
Spokesman of the Sokoto State Police Command, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sanusi Abubakar, who confirmed this to newsmen, said joint military operations with members of the State Police Command were on-going to arrest the situation.


However, Abubakar could not confirm an earlier report by some media outfits about the outbreak of violence between the Fulani and Hausa communities that claimed the lives of some persons. He said details of the alleged violence could not be ascertained, as on-going joint military operations were taking place within the local council and its environs.
An international media outfit had quoted a local official, Aminu Gwadabawa, to have said people in the area were living in fear, as the conflict also claimed the life of a soldier.


Attempts to speak with the Nigeria Army to confirm the report were unsuccessful, as calls to the spokesman of the   8th Division, Nigeria Army, did not go through at the time of filing this report.
But a military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, blamed the increase in armed criminal activities in some village on informants who sabotaged the efforts of the military.


He lamented, “At times, villagers will call us to inform us on attack and later tell the bandits where we are coming through.
“Can you imagine? We will receive a distress call over an attack, but same villagers will call bandits to tell them where we are coming through and they would ambush us.”
The officer cautioned the villagers, saying the military are on ground to protect them.

George Okoh in Makurdi, Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto

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