Over 30 people were on Sunday killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in an attack on Odugbeho village in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
According to a resident of the community, Mr. Isaac Oche, the death rate could be more as more bodies were being recovered from the bush and other settlements.
This is coming as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has condemned what he described as the unprovoked daily killings and maiming of Nigerians.
He stated that the herdsmen invaded their village around 5:45 pm and started shooting sporadically.
According to him, the attackers disappeared into the bush around 6:40 pm after the killings.
He added that when most of them who escaped the attack came back, they discovered 11 bodies at the village centre.
They also saw other nine bodies on the roadside but couldn’t evacuate them for fear of being attacked.
Oche, who spoke to THISDAY late Sunday night, said they believed more bodies would be recovered on Monday.
“We cannot stay any longer to recover all the dead bodies this night because it is dark and no security. I believe more bodies will be recovered when the day breaks and security agents are around,” he said.
He added that the herdsmen were believed to have come from Nasarawa State, through the neighbouring local government of Gwer West in a guerrilla-style, and took them unaware.
He attributed the high number of casualties to the fact that it was on Sunday and most people were at home.
Corroborating the first eyewitness account, another eyewitness, Iyu Goche, said he was one of the youths that searched and recovered the bodies, adding that the death toll may rise later.
According to him, herdsmen from Nasarawa have been invading the riverine areas of Guma, Makurdi and Agatu local government areas, killing many people and displacing thousands of inhabitants.
“They are currently occupying the deserted villages, denying inhabitants access to their farms in the ongoing cropping season”.
However, the Agatu Local Government Chairman, Mr. Sule Adoyi, said 27 bodies had been recovered from the community.
He said more search was going on, adding that security agents have been informed over the killings.
The Benue State Police Command confirmed the killing, saying the death toll is yet to be determined.
The Police Public Relation Officer, Sewuese Anene, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said: “The attack is confirmed and the commissioner of police has deployed more police officers to manage the incident and forestall further breakdown of law and order. Number of victims is yet to be ascertained as officers are still engaged in stabilising the area.”
Meanwhile, Atiku has condemned the daily killings and maiming of Nigerians.
In a statement yesterday by his media office in Abuja, the former vice president expressed dismay at the level of bloodletting in the country, for which he said, “there can be no justification.”
Atiku’s reaction was necessitated by last Thursday’s killing of 88 persons in Kebbi State, with many still missing or unaccounted for, in a state that is yet to recover from the boat mishap that claimed the lives of over 100 people.
He was also reacting to the reported killing of persons in states like Niger and Imo, with the attack on a police station in Delta State; the yesterday’s killing of 22 persons in Igangan in Oyo State with yet, another reported attack that has claimed scores of lives in Zamfara State.
Atiku expressed deep concerns about how far criminals are willing to go, but “most worryingly, how we, as citizens, can continue to absorb these shocks unabatedly.”
He expressed concern about the depreciating value of human life in the country.
Atiku stated that all the negative activities have debilitated national development and democracy.
He added that no nation can witness any meaningful growth in the midst of worsening insecurity.
While noting the efforts of the nation’s security agencies in battling criminals, Atiku urged them not to rest on their oars.
He urged the government and the security agencies to place greater priority on the protection of lives and property of the citizens, “being the first line charge of duty to the citizens.”
Atiku acknowledged that the fight against insecurity can be herculean in terms of human and financial resources, but added that “it’s a course that as a nation, we have no choice but to face it headlong.”
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi