Benue: Farming communities deserted as herdsmen attacks escalate

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Benue: Farming communities deserted as herdsmen attacks escalate
Benue: Farming communities deserted as herdsmen attacks escalate

By Matthew Atungwu

Africa-Press – Nigeria. As farming season sets in, communities in Benue State are unsettled owing to the escalation of attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Armed herdsmen militia have killed at least 28 persons, including six security operatives of the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards and Livestock Guards, in a fresh attack on three communities in Gwer West Local Government Area, (LGA) of Benue State within the last one week.

The attacks came just one week after 17 victims of herdsmen attacks were given a mass burial at Mbaikyor Mbalom Gwer East LGA of the state.

Chairman of Gwer West LGA, Mr Henry Agba, who confirmed the incident, said several other persons were injured.

According to him, “The attack started on Saturday; six security operatives of the state, comprising Benue Security Community Volunteer Guards and Livestock Guards were killed.

“They (operatives) escorted a family of a deceased to a village called Mbabwande where they had gone to bury their loved one and they ambushed them and killed them.

“On Sunday at about 11 pm they attacked a community in Gyaluwa and 14 people were killed.

“Also on Monday, they attacked a community along Naka/Adoka road where the villagers have so far recovered six dead bodies. Many people were wounded and receiving treatment at some clinics within the LGA.”

In a similar tragic incident, bandits descended on about nine communities in Apa Local Government Area of the state, killing and setting houses on fire.

DAILY POST reports that while some locals gave the casualty figure as 25, the lawmaker representing the area in the state Assembly, Abu Umoru, said he had lost count of the casualties.

The lawmaker said, “About 95 percent of a section of my community is displaced and I can mention them.

“The entire Edikwu community has been displaced; the entire Opaha, where I come from, nobody in is that community; Odugbo, nobody is there; Akpete, Ikobi, Akpata, Idiaha, Ochumekwu, Adija nobody is in those communities.

”Every day they will be burning houses in Akpete. As I speak to you, for three consecutive days, they have been going to Akpete and burning houses after chasing them out of their ancestral homes.”

Before now, no fewer than 50 persons, including a family of seven, were feared dead, following the invasion of the Gbagir community in Ukum Local Government Area of the state by suspected armed Fulani militia, with another sixteen people killed during an attack on Wa-ndoo, a community in Mbalom, Gwer-East Local Government Area.

A survivor, Tersoo Adagher, who lost four family members in the attack, said the attackers, suspected to be armed herders, invaded the community at about 7 pm while some of the residents were having supper.

“The herders invaded the community with guns and machetes. Then they began shooting indiscriminately.

“I took cover in the bushes. But by this morning (Friday), we have recovered 16 corpses, including that of a child,” Mr Adagher narrated.

DAILY POST also gathered that several persons were killed in a fresh attack on Ogboju community in Agatu Local Government Area of the state.

Confirming the incident, a former deputy chairman of Agatu Local Government, John Ikwulono, said nine corpses were recovered after the attack.

“Suspected armed herdsmen came to Ogboju community in Agatu local government yesterday night to attack our people again. This attack claimed nine lives as at the last count of the recovered corpses,” he stated.

Similarly, two persons were killed while several others were declared missing from their farms after suspected armed herdsmen attacked the Onipi community of Adoka in Otukpo Local Government Area of the state.

A local, who pleaded anonymity, informed DAILY POST that “after killing the victims in the farms, the herdsmen also burnt down yam barns and a mini-truck conveying tubers of yam from the farms.

“It was an unprovoked attack because the people had no issues with them. Nobody can tell why they are doing this to our innocent farmers, who toil day and night to produce for their families and to sell for sustenance.

“So far, two persons have been confirmed dead while many others are missing but the search for them is ongoing and we hope that they will be found alive.”

In another tragic incident, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen also killed a farmer at Olakpoga community of Entekpa Council Ward in Adoka District of Otukpo LGA of the state.

Two others also sustained injuries, while one farmer was reported to have been kidnapped.

Findings by DAILY POST indicated that the deceased and others were among those who fled their homes recently as a result of constant attacks.

They were said to have returned to their farms in the community not long ago.

According to a local in the affected community, “All the victims are IDPs who went to fetch food on their farms and were attacked by the same armed herders who chased them away from home in the first place.”

Speaking to DAILY POST, the caretaker chairman of Otukpo Local Government Area, Alfred Omakwu, said the entire Entekpa Ward comprising seven villages has been deserted.

“As I’m talking to you, all the villages in Entekpa Ward, where I come from have been displaced. All the villagers from these areas are kept in an IDPs camp in Adoka centre,” he lamented.

He confirmed the recent killing of two people, adding that the armed herders again attacked another village, Upu, in the Entekpa Ward but were repelled by soldiers who engaged them in a gun battle from the afternoon until 7 pm.

Omakwu said, “The IDPs are camped in St. Charles Primary School; most of them, as they are going to their farms to fetch farm produce, rented one room for their family to stay in Adoka central.

“They (victims) left Adoka where they were taking refuge and went to their farms at Umogidi when they were attacked, two of them were killed.

“There was another attack in Upu village; they (armed invaders) opened gunfire on the village, the soldiers were there, so they engaged them and chased them to the bush. They exchanged gunfire till 7 pm and they (armed invaders) ran away. There was no casualty.”

Speaking on efforts to arrest the situation, Omakwu said it had been resolved that different security operatives be deployed to all the affected communities.

He said, “The last security meeting I had with the security heads in the local government is that we agreed to deploy security personnel to patrol around the farms so as to protect the farmers while they do their farming activities and also shield them as they return home from the farms.

“Now the planting season has set in and our people must go to the farm because farming is our occupation. If they do not go to the farm, then hunger is imminent.”

Speaking to DAILY POST, a farmer, Amodu Igoche, lamented the situation facing them, especially as farming season sets in, calling on the authorities to intensify efforts to help them go back to their farms, which he said is their source of livelihood.

“We have never encountered a situation like this before. For more than two months now, we cannot access our farms because the armed herdsmen have taken over our farms.

“They shoot, kill and maim anybody they see. Any of our people that dares goes to the farm risks being macheted to death. They have macheted a lot of people that went to the farm to pick foodstuff,” he lamented.

Another farmer, Aboje Edache, who spoke to DAILY POST, said the armed herdsmen who have taken over the farms, either set their cattle to eat up their yam seedlings and other harvested farm produce or set fire on them without being challenged.

“As I speak with you now, all the yam seedlings people harvested and kept in the barns at the farm are either being eaten by their cattle or set ablaze. What kind of wickedness is this?” He queried in anger.

Source: Daily Post Nigeria

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