- Seems like the fight against unruly herdsmen is still on in Benue state as there have been a series of attacks in various communities
- Communities like Ogbadibo, Okpokwu and down south of Benue state are now major targets for the daredevil group
- Meanwhile, the Benue state government has lauded security agencies for their attempts to salvage the situation
The activities of Fulani herdsmen in Benue State have continued to rise unabated despite the effort of the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom.
Recall that Ortom has been in the vanguard of the campaign against herdsmen attacks.
The governor had creed out severally on the alleged displacement of Benue indigenous people by suspected herdsmen.
In most parts of the states, herdsmen had threatened the peace of the Benue people. In most villages and communities, people were forced to flee their homes over the threat of marauder herdsmen.
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But the state government had amid the development passed Anti-open Grazing, Ranching and Prohibition bill into law. But the Miyetti Allah has always kicked against the law, saying it threatens the freedom of its members.
The Agatu massacre
Recall that the Agatu people in Benue State have had bitter tastes of herdsmen attacks on several occasions. One of such was the attack launched on mourners in Okpachenyi in 2013 when over 47 mourners were killed. Agatu local government is in the Idoma-speaking area of Benue South, also known as zone C.
Also in 2013, gun-wielding herdsmen attacked Ekwo-Okpanchenyi, Agatu LGA, killing 40 locals. Just last year, over 30 people were killed in another Agatu village, Odugbeho. Eyewitnesses had said the herdsmen invaded the community around 4 am and disappeared into the forest after killing many villagers.
Since 2013, Agatu alone had witnessed over 40 different attacks with massive loss of lives. Attacks have since then continued to go on in other areas of the state including Gbajimba where suspected herdsmen killed over 50 people in a single attack.
The TIV-speaking areas of the state have witnessed more attacks than all other parts of the state.
Herdsmen move further south, Ogbadibo, Okpokwu now targets
But with the new strategy and the local security strength in Agatu and other areas formally prone to herdsmen attack, the attackers have shifted their attention to around Okpokwu and Ogbadibo Local Government Areas.
A source from Agatu local government told Legit.ng that peace has returned to the local government following the setup of local security outfits in villages.
The source who does not want his name in print because of its security implication said:
"We can sleep and wake up the next morning now because we have local security men that are formidable. They know the technics of the attackers and have also fortified themselves. This means you can't use a diabolical means to enter and succeed. They are fully on the ground.”
Herdsmen attacks in Okpokwu
Following the hostility and the resistance they faced in the Tiv-speaking localities and Agatu respectively, herdsmen have migrated down south, towards, Okpokwu and Ogbadibo Local Government Areas and on the fringes of Enugu State, particularly Eha-Amufu.
Suspected herdsmen had penultimate Sunday killed 11 persons in Igama, Edumoga Ehaje, Okpokwu Local Government Area.
Reports claimed the attackers stormed the area in the dead of the night and killed locals while also destroying their buildings and other property.
Abba Moro reacts
During a visit to the Benue community, the Senator representing Benue South senatorial district, Comrade Abba Moro warned them to tread carefully in their dealings with herdsmen, charging them to be vigilant and report all cases to the police or any nearby security agents.
Moro spoke while attending the mass burial held in honour of the slain victims. About 24 hours after the attack on Igama, suspected gunmen again attacked Effeche in Edumoga Ehaje, Okpokwu local government area.
Though details of the attack have remained sketchy until now, reports claim the people have fled their community.
Suspected killer herdsmen in Ogbadibo
In Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State, suspected criminal herdsmen have gone on the rampage, abducting and killing locals.
Only in the month of June, Owukpa, a district in the local government recorded 4 major kidnapping incidents allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen.
First was the attack on the parish house of St. Mary's Catholic Church, Aho. The kidnappers who stormed the parish with the intention of abducting the priest only succeeded in kidnapping the parish cook. An undisclosed amount of ransom was paid to secure the release of the cook after several days in the kidnappers’ den.
A few days after the release of the cook, herdsmen launched another attack on an hotelier, Mr Agbara. Refusing to stop for the gunmen who had blocked the road, his car was riddled with bullets. He was lucky that he escaped.
A few days later, suspected herdsmen abducted two in Ankpa Owukpa. After several failed efforts to rescue them, a ransom was paid.
The herdsmen struck again around Orokam and Owukpa boundary after a failed attempt to adopt a logger. When local vigilantes on the ground went after the suspects, two of the vigilantes were unlucky as they were gunned down. Two suspects were, however, nabbed by the vigilantes in conjunction with other security forces.
Benue government laments
The Benue state government has lamented the continuous attacks on Benue people by suspected killer herdsmen.
Reacting to the recent upsurge of attacks, Ikyur Nathaniel, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, said despite efforts by the state government championed by the governor himself, attacks from killer herdsmen have continued unabated.
Recall that Governor Samuel Ortom had been attacked by the same herdsmen while he was on his farm in Gbajimba LGA.
But Nathaniel said:
"There seems to be no help coming from anywhere. The government appreciates the security agencies making effort, but it seems they have been overwhelmed at the moment.”
Police speak on Owukpa/Orokam attacks
The Benue state police command has warned criminals in the state and by extension, Idomaland to be prepared for tough times.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr Tajudeen Abass said his men have been mobilized to areas prone to attacks in Idomaland and in the entire Benue in order to end the activities of criminals.
But concerns have emerged at different quarters over the increasing rate of crimes perpetrated by herdsmen in various communities across the state despite the effort of the state government.