Suspected Fulani herdsmen have invaded five communities in Benue State, killing over 50 persons and leaving many others wounded.The attackers struck around 10:00 a.m. on New Year day and in the early hours of yesterday.The affected communities are in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas (LGA) of the state.
Sources told The Guardian that the assailants, armed with dangerous weapons, attacked a suburb of Ayilanmo and Turan in Gambe-tiev, Logo LGA, while residents were in church observing end-of-year prayers.They were said to have proceeded to Tomatar and Umenger in Guma LGA around 3:00 a.m. where they opened fire, killed some villagers and members of the state livestock guard and burnt a patrol vehicle.
The governor, Samuel Ortom, described the incident as unfortunate when he visited the victims at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH).
He said more than 20 persons were killed, nine of whom were personnel of the livestock guard."We are living in a country we call our own, yet this kind of thing is happening. The security agencies are aware of what you are seeing today and this is just a tip of the iceberg. What happened, from the report I have received, is far beyond what you have seen here. So many houses have been burnt. So many people have been killed. Some are still missing," the governor said.
"Can you imagine innocent children and women being killed and their private parts removed? People were slaughtered like animals. The Federal Government must arise to this challenge and give us protection, to show that truly we are also citizens of this country. This is not fair. This is not right, and we cannot accept it. We may continue to be law-abiding but there is a limit to how far," Ortom added.
BSUTH staff, Dr. Gajir Hembaor, said over 30 injured persons were rushed to the hospital, three of whom later died.The Police spokesperson, Moses Yamu, said his men were still combing the bushes, adding he could not ascertain casualty figures until he received a detailed report.
Also on New Year day, suspected cult members murdered about 20 persons as they returned from church in Omoku, Rivers State.Condemning the killings, including that of a traditional ruler, Dr. Gambo Makama, and his wife in Sanga LGA of Kaduna State, President Muhammadu Buhari directed law enforcement agencies to intensify efforts at apprehending the perpetrators, adding: "I have always maintained that nothing justifies the taking of the life of an innocent person."
In a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, Buhari described the incidents as "reprehensible and unacceptable" and appealed to citizens not to embark on reprisals but allow security agencies to carry out comprehensive investigations.The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, meanwhile, has offered to reward any person with information leading to the arrest of the culprits in the Omoku killings.
At the residence of wanted militia leader, Don Wanny, the governor disclosed: "We have placed a N200 million bounty for relevant information that will lead to the arrest of all those involved in this unfortunate act of violence. Anybody who is connected to this crime in any way will have his/her house forfeited to the government. This place has been peaceful until this unfortunate mayhem. We will not allow another case of this violence. We have mobilised the security agencies to take the battle to the perpetrators."
Emotionally stricken, he commiserated with the families of the deceased, assuring residents of the town that the government was working with security agencies to arrest the criminals. He promised that his administration would support the bereaved families in burying their loved ones, and also foot the medical bills of those who sustained bullet wounds.
He was accompanied by the Brigade Commander of 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Brigadier General A. A. Bande; Commander of the Joint Task Force, Colonel M.N Madi; Rivers State Deputy Police Commissioner, Ahmed Magaji; and the Director of the Department of State Service, Mr. Tosin Ajayi.
Senator Magnus Abe (Rivers South East) said the killings were an indication "that all is not well with the security network of the state. The state government should assist security agencies with the needed tools to tackle the rising insecurity. The incident is condemnable and should be condemned by every right thinking Rivers man and woman. Rivers communities should not be allowed to become havens for bloodthirsty hoodlums".
The Omoku incident, however, has reignited a war of words between Wike and former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, currently Minister of Transportation.At the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, Amaechi said: "The governor needs to get a bit more serious. He should stop encouraging militant groups in the name of politics and election. You heard about 21 only in Omoku. What about in Akutoru, where two people were killed? What about other LGAs? It never happened when I was governor. We stayed awake so the citizens could sleep. I think the governor needs to do much more or quit office."
But the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Emmah Okah, dismissed Amaechi's words as regrettable.He said: "For the avoidance of doubt, Amaechi's statement is false and an infantile attempt to gain political mileage from a senseless killing of innocent Rivers indigenes. The fact that he made such a statement in the precincts of the Presidential Villa is a sad commentary."