There appears to be no let up in the gruesome bloodletting in the Benue-Plateau region in North-central Nigeria, as yet another 25 persons were reportedly killed in the wee hours of Tuesday in an attack on Dundu village in the Kwal District of Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State.
Confirming the attack, the President of Irigwe Development Association (IDA), Hon. Sunday Abdu, said the suspected Fulani herdsmen swooped on the community Monday night and raided it for hours, leaving at least 25 persons dead in the aftermath.
While the 25 were being buried in a mass grave in the village, Abdu said the search for bodies was still ongoing since some of the residents who tried to escape the bloody raid were killed in the surrounding bushes and may not have been discovered yet.
Also confirming the killings, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Tyopev Terna, placed the death toll from the latest attack at 25, adding that his men were drafted to the village to take charge of the situation.
But the spokesman of the military Special Task Force (STF) on Security in the state, Major Umar, had initially said eight persons were shot at, adding that seven died on the spot while the eighth victim who was rushed to the hospital eventually died, bringing the fatalities to eight.
Umar, however, called back Tuesday to say that the death toll had risen from eight to 21.
He also said that when the STF received a distress call concerning the attack, they quickly drafted soldiers to rescue the villagers, but the assailants had fled before they got there.
He added that the Dundu terrain was a very difficult one, spanning over 11 kilometres from the village.
Rev. Jerry Datim, a local cleric who conducted the mass burial, said the bodies brought for burial were 25, and lamented that the state government had abandoned the villagers to their fate.
He was critical of the state governor, Simon Lalong, saying that while the latter was making merry with President Muhammadu Buhari during the president's visit, suspected Fulani raiders were killing more people in the villages.
He called on the state government to stop giving false reports on the existing peace in the state when the reverse was the case.
Meanwhile, a mass burial for about 10 other persons who were recently slain in Miango village had been slated for Tuesday before the latest killings. Miango is a stone throw from Dundu.
At the burial in Miango, Abdu, who was grief-stricken, lamented that no one had come to the villagers' aid.
He said: "In continuation of their avowed determination to eliminate the Irigwe race, the Fulani herdsmen have continuously unleashed mayhem on communities, killing, maiming, burning, and destroying farmlands.
"Since January this year, we have picked the corpses of our loved ones, some burnt beyond recognition from night attacks by militia Fulani herdsmen; some killed in their homes, some on their farms, and others on their way home from places of leisure or business."
Abdu said the murders, which have continued unhindered, have left in their wake sorrow, tears and despair in Irigwe land.
He said it has also left the people homeless and hopeless, as they leave in droves daily to seek refuge in Jos, the state capital, and its environs.
He went on to excoriate Lalong, the Plateau State Government and other stakeholders for downplaying the menace of herdsmen in the state.
"We have cried to our security agencies to rise to the occasion, but it will interest you to know that some of the attacks occurred just a few meters from security checkpoints, but the soldiers would rather stay glued to these checkpoints even with distress calls and offer of intelligence by our people.
"We have noted with dismay certain releases from custody and comments in the mainstream and social media by the Miyetti Allah group, and we have had cause to debunk some of them as outright lies to justify an orgy of killings by their militia.
"Our situation and the seeming lacklustre pro-activeness on the part of the federal government to arrest the menace may have been compounded by the frequent claims by the Plateau State Government that peace has returned to the state.
"This stance of government officials is indeed an insult on the innocent rural dwellers who have not known sleep in a long time, nor been able to carry out their farming activities.
"This propaganda was reiterated glaringly during the recent presidential visit when Plateau State should have used the long-awaited visit to tell the president the true situation of things, but our leaders have sold us out by claiming that Plateau is at peace.
"What responsible government turns its back on its people as they face daily attacks? What do they want to achieve by taking such a wicked stance?
"Even worse was the comment by the CAN chairman during the guided presidential town hall meeting where instead of telling the president how the church was losing its population daily to the senseless attacks by the Fulani herdsmen, he chose to eulogise the state government for the payment of salaries which has made the church richer," he said.
But in reaction to the incessant killings in the state, the governor Tuesday sacked the Chairman of the Management Committee of Bokkos Local Government Area of the state over the incessant killings in his locality, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Lalong made this known through a letter sent to the state House of Assembly and was read at plenary by its Speaker, Mr. Peter Azi.
Angyol was one of 16 other persons appointed by the governor in July 2017 to manage the affairs of the 17 local governments areas in Plateau State.
The local council Angyol headed as well as neighbouring Bassa were both attacked by suspected herdsmen at the weekend, a few days after Buhari visited the state. The attacks led to the deaths of 32 persons.
"Following certain unpleasant developments in the management of Bokkos Local Government Council, I wish to seek approval for the removal of Mr. Simon Angyol as the Management Committee Chairman of the Council.
"I also wish to seek your approval to appoint Mr. Tamai Simon as the new Management Committee Chairman of the Council," Lalong stated in his letter to the Plateau assembly.
Members of the assembly, in a voice vote, approved the removal of Angyol and the subsequent appointment of Simon.
House to Probe Killings
Also reacting to the killings in the state, the House of Representatives Tuesday passed a motion setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate the circumstances leading to the killings and attacks on Bokkos Local Government, as well as the destruction of property in a Kogi ethnic crisis.
The lower chamber also urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to embark on an on-the-spot assessment to ascertain the level of destruction and provide relief materials to the people of Bokkos and the Bassa-Kwomu and Ebira communities of Bassa Council in Kogi State.
The lawmakers also urged the federal government to direct all the relevant security agencies to deploy men in the Bokkos area to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
The resolution of the House followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Solomon Bulus (PDP, Plateau) on the urgent need to arrest the wanton incessant killing/attacks in Bokkos Local Government Area, while the motion calling on NEMA to provide relief materials to Bassa-Kwomu and Ebira People of Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi was sponsored by Hon. Benjamin Ikani Okolo (APC, Kogi).
Bulus said the wanton destruction of innocent lives and property as perpetrated by herdsmen across the country was barbaric, inhuman, disgraceful and unacceptable.
According to him, "Herdsmen's attacks on innocent citizens have remained a recurrent decimal. Regrettably, this has been treated with kid's gloves by the authorities concerned.
"I am worried that if such heinous acts are allowed unabated, they may escalate and could lead to a total collapse of peace and security in the areas."
He said there had been little or no deliberate measures taken to either stop further attacks or bring the perpetrators of the mayhem to book.
Okolo, in his motion, said government had not done much to ameliorate the situation that has resulted in confusion, fear, frustration and agony, with a view to averting a recurrence of the incident in the Kogi communities.
He further recalled that on November 28, 2016, a violent crisis erupted at Kpanche in the Ozongolo ward in Bassa Kwomu district of the local government area, which disrupted the peace and harmony between the two districts and consequently led to destruction of lives and property.
Having heard their motions, the House resolved to probe the attacks and destructions of lives and property in the two local government areas in Plateau and Kogi States.
Also, on Tuesday, the chairman of the House ad hoc committee mandated to investigate the abduction of 110 schoolgirls by Boko Haram terrorists from a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State, Hon. Buba Yusuf Yakub, said his committee would visit Dapchi and interact with stakeholders in the town.
He said during a briefing: "We shall meet with the state governor, parents of the abducted school girls, military commanders and other security personnel in the area."
Among other things, he said the committee would also seek to determine the interface between the top military commanders and the state government.
Yakub said the committee will undertake the assignment with the highest sense of responsibility, adding that the investigation will determine the level of hot pursuit and the blockades set up by the Nigerian Army and Air Force immediately after the abduction, as well as examine ongoing rescue efforts.
He said no stone will be left unturned in the exercise, noting that the committee will apportion blame where necessary at the end of its investigation.