Hundreds feared killed as herdsmen attack Benue communities

Posted by News Express | 25 February 2016 | 3,778 times

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Shock, disbelief and anger yesterday trailed the alleged killing of hundreds of persons in four Agatu communities in Benue State by marauding Fulani herdsmen and militiamen.

While some sources claimed that hundreds have been killed, a member of the state House of Assembly representing the affected Agatu Constituency, Sule Audu, who spoke on phone refused to give a specific death toll. But he noted that the number of people killed could not be quantified for now as “there were bodies almost everywhere and many were yet to be identified and recovered.”

He said a most disturbing aspect of the killings was that a helicopter which had taken off from neighbouring Nasarawa State was seen hovering over the area.

“As I am speaking to you now, a large number of the attackers are still crossing over to Agatu. A source in Nasarawa State just told me that they are being transported on motorcycles to Loco from where they cross over to Agatu,” Sule said.

He said he reported the matter to the police and was assured that security agents had been sent to the area to quell the crisis. He also disclosed that a delegation of Agatu elders met with the state governor, Samuel Ortom, in order to find a lasting solution to the incessant crisis.

A former councillor in Agatu Local Council told The Guardian late yesterday afternoon on phone that fighting was still going on in Ayila, a situation he said would swell the death toll.

A resident of the area said that the attacks had frightened residents, especially of the local council headquarters in Obagaji where hundreds of survivors from the villages under attack were already taking refuge.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State has condemned the killings in the Agatu communities.

The party has therefore called on the Federal and Nasarawa State governments to intervene by doing everything possible to end the killing of innocent men, women and children.

The APC in a statement signed by its director of publicity, John Ikwulono, yesterday expressed shock at the sophistication of the attackers who it said used a helicopter to supply food, arms and ammunition to the rampaging militiamen.

According to the statement: “The Fulani herdsmen and militia who were seen yesterday with a helicopter hovering around Agatu, set ablaze four communities including Akwu, Adagbo, Ayilla, Ogboju in addition to Okokolo and Abugbe which had been razed earlier. This act of violence is barbaric, highly condemnable, heartless and uncalled for.”

Stressing that the crisis was detrimental, not just to Benue State but Nigeria as a whole, the party called on neighbouring Nasarawa State and the Federal Governments to join hands with the Benue State government to arrest the situation once and for all.

Several efforts to confirm the development from the state police spokesman, Assistant Superintendent of Police Moses Yamu, failed though the Commissioner of Police, Paul Yakadi had confirmed the clashes and the deployment of police and military personnel in the area to stop the killings.

Giving a background of the lingering crisis, the Save Agatu Project, in a recent statement says Agatu is one of the nine local councils in Benue South Senatorial District made up of 22 large clans who are predominantly farmers, producing yams, cassava, beans and other crops in large quantities.

The statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the group Nats Onoja Agbo said: “For many years, Fulani pastoralists lived in some Agatu villages. Although the Fulani made their homes in the bush, contacts between them and the Agatu were without rancour, at least until 2013 when the Fulani started a series of armed attacks on many Agatu villages.

“The first attack occurred at Okokolo and soon spread to Okpagabi, Edumogbo and Egwuma. The attackers often came across River Benue from Nasarawa State where they were said to have camps.”

He also lamented other invasions of Agatu through Bagana in Kogi State. Using the Bagama route, they attacked Okpanchenyi, Onicha K Oladukwu, Usha and Oweto.

“In all these attacks, several people were killed in the affected villages. It was at that stage that the federal authorities sent some troops to Agatu. The fear, however, was that being based in Obagaji, the headquarter of Agatu Local Government, the security men could not restrain the rampaging Fulani attackers.

“That fear was proved right two weeks ago when Fulani warriors once more descended on Okokolo village, just a few kilometers from Obagaji. The village was sacked and with no form of defence, the survivors migrated to neighbouring villages, including Ugboju-Achega and Odugbeho. By yesterday, February 23, 2015, Fulani attackers pushed their luck further by sacking Akwu and Aila villages. At the rate they are going, it is just a matter of time before Obagaji would fall into the hands of the Fulani attackers.

“Like in the previous attacks, many men, women and children are being killed by the attackers without any form of provocation. Houses, farm produce and other property worth several millions of naira are being burnt or destroyed by the attackers.

“We are appealing to the Federal Government and international community to step into this matter and stop the genocide being perpetrated against the people of Agatu. As citizens of our great country, Nigeria, the people deserve the protection of the government of Nigeria. The Federal Government should send enough military personnel to protect the people of Agatu against these attackers. We also call on the governments of Nasarawa and Benue States to step up security in the border areas. We are also appealing to the Nigerian media to see this as a special challenge to bring the mindless annihilation of the Agatu to the attention of the entire world.”

•Sourced from The Guardian. Photo shows Fulani herdsmen but not the ones responsible for the killings.

Source: News Express

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