Tension mounts in Nasarawa over migrating herders We must remain united against violence, says Saraki Bolaji Adebiyi, Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja, James Sowole in Akure and George Okoh in Makurdi Despite the efforts by the security agencies to end the gruesome murders carried out armed cattle herders in the country, they continued with their killing […]
- Tension mounts in Nasarawa over migrating herders
- We must remain united against violence, says Saraki
Bolaji Adebiyi, Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja, James Sowole in Akure and George Okoh in Makurdi
Despite the efforts by the security agencies to end the gruesome murders carried out armed cattle herders in the country, they continued with their killing spree when they allegedly killed a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Patience Salami, in Arodoye community in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State, recently.
One person was also reportedly killed in Mbayer Yandev Council Ward of Guma Local Government Area in Benue State, while several people were sacked from Anyii in Logo Local Government Area in the state on Wednesday night.
This is just as the alarm was raised by the Tiv community in Nasarawa State over skirmishes between residents of Awe and Keane Local Government Area in the state, which both border Benue State, and migrating herdsmen from Benue.
Although it was not verified by the Nasarawa Police Command or the state government, four deaths were reportedly recorded in clashes said to have occurred when residents in the two local government areas resisted attempts by the herdsmen migrating from Benue to force them off their lands.
In the Ondo incident, it was gathered that the attackers who hacked the woman, Mrs. Salami, to death on her farm did not stop at that but went on to dismember her body.
One of the owners of the destroyed farmlands was a serving judge of the Ondo State Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Michael Owoyemi, who owns about seven acres of arable crops.
The Ondo farmers lamented that they had lost millions of naira due to the destruction of their crops, including cocoa, cassava, cocoyam, yam and vegetables, which were set ablaze by the killer herdsmen.
Speaking on behalf of the farmers, Justice Omoyemi said the herdsmen usually come during yuletide season.
“The herdsmen returned last December destroying over 5,000 heaps of cassava in my farm. They took advantage of the break and brought their cattle and uprooted the cassava to feed their cows.
“We have reported the herdsmen to the security agencies in the past and also to the traditional ruler, the Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, who promised to wade into the matter.
“The herdsmen are determined to send the farmers out of their land in the South-west unless steps are taken by the concerned authorities, otherwise, it will degenerate to ethnic clashes in the South-west.
“What they have destroyed in the twinkle of an eye is worth millions of naira,” he said.
Owoyemi disclosed that the farmers had petitioned the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, the security agencies and the Ministry of Agriculture to intimate them on the havoc wrecked on farmlands in the area.
Also speaking, one of the farmers, Victory Oweh, said he lost over ten acres to the herdsmen and their cows, saying the herdsmen also set his farm on fire after destroying the crops.
“We are just respecting the laws of the land and trying not to take the law into our hands. We have been reporting them to the security agencies with no positive results,” he said.
He disclosed that he voluntarily resigned from the public sector some two years ago to take up farming, but the incessant invasion on his farm had discouraged him from farming.
“I cannot imagine working all through the year and some herdsmen and their cattle will invade our farms to destroy all my labour in just one day.
“The Ondo State Government should follow the steps taken by the Ekiti State Government by enacting laws to curb the activities of the herdsmen in the state.
“We are calling on the state government and security agents in the state before taking the law into our hands,” he admonished.
Another Death in Benue
In Benue also, the attacks by armed herdsmen remained unabated, as one person was reportedly killed in Mbayer Yandev Council Ward of Guma Local Government Area, while several people were sacked in Anyii, Logo Local Government Area of the state.
An eyewitness disclosed that the herdsmen attacked Mbayer Yandev on Wednesday night when most villagers were asleep.
He said the herdsmen were brandishing guns and shot sporadically at anyone in sight.
An unidentified member of the community was killed while several others were injured.
In Logo, several residents were seen moving out of the council after the herdsmen attacked Anyii community also on Wednesday night.
A resident of Anyii, Mr. Terwase Apam, said the community was under siege from the herdsmen. He called on the state and federal governments to come to the aid of the people.
Also, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and legislators from the state reiterated the call for the arrest of Fulani leaders, saying they were responsible for the current gruesome killings in the state.
They made the call during a courtesy call by the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd.) at the Benue Government House, Makurdi, yesterday.
Both Ortom and Senator George Akume who read the communiqué of the state and National Assembly members explained that their call for the arrest of the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (Cattle Herders Association) was based on their threats last year that they would mobilise to resist the Anti-open Grazing Law passed in the state last November.
They stressed that except the arrests were made, the people of the state would conclude that the federal government was in support of an agenda to dispossess Benue people of their land.
Responding, the minister, who was representing President Muhammadu Buhari, and went with the governor to visit those injured during the New Year massacre at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, assured that he would convey the message to the president.
Dambazau also assured his hosts that the federal government would take measures to collaborate with the state government to apprehend those culpable and stop the killings.
Dambazau described the killer herdsmen as criminals that must be brought to book, adding that the president was aware of the situation and had directed that the perpetrators of the act must be arrested and brought to book.
He also conveyed the sympathies of the president to the people and government of Benue State.
He assured them that Buhari was committed to ensuring that the federal government does not support people who take up arms against the defenceless in the society to go unpunished.
Dambazau quoted the president as stating that efforts would be intensified to fish out the perpetrators, reiterating that the long arm of the law would catch up with them.
Ortom, in his response, assured the people of Benue that the Anti-Open Grazing Law had come to stay, adding that their land cannot be taken away from them under any guise.
The governor stressed that ranching was the best global practice, not only for cattle but for all livestock.
“The law is not targeted at any ethnic group and I wonder why the herdsmen feel embittered about the law.
“The law was initiated after diligent as well as due consultations and is in the best interest of everybody because it was meant to protect both herdsmen as well as farmers,” he said.
Ortom also commiserated with the families of the victims killed during the protest on Wednesday, describing the attack by the security forces on the young protesters as “insensitive to the current mood” of the people who were grieving over the killing of many innocent persons by armed herdsmen in Guma and Logo earlier in the week.
In a statement issued yesterday, the governor’s chief press secretary, Mr. Terver Akase said, the governor condemned the attack on the protesters and promised that the state government would ensure that those responsible for the deaths of the three youths are brought to justice.
The governor appealed to the people of the state to remain calm and resist the temptation to take the law into their hands, as the state government was exploring every lawful means to restore peace in the communities affected by the renewed herdsmen attacks.
Also apportioning blame for the recent wave of violent attacks by herdsmen in the state, the Benue Committee of Elders blamed the security agencies for the recent killings in Guma and Logo, saying it was ironic that despite several forewarnings by the governor on the imminent invasion, the security agencies refused to take heed and had allowed it to happen.
Condemning the invasion of the two local government areas by some armed cattle herders in a statement signed by Hon. Simon Shango and Chief Mike Iduma, chairman and deputy chairman of the group, respectively, the elders said the attacks resulted in the deaths of unarmed and defenceless men, women and children.
The Benue elders added that the invasion also left hundreds of people wounded and many villages destroyed, and sympathised with the governor and the traditional rulers in the state – the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, and the Ochi’dom, Dr. Elias Obekpa.
The committee of elders saluted the courage and steadfastness of Ortom in the implementation of the Anti-open Grazing Law, which they said was intended to protect both the Benue farmers and the herdsmen in the course of their lawful activities in the state.
Benue Women Blast Buhari
In the same vein, women from the communities where the armed herdsmen attacked and killed scores of villagers, yesterday staged a peaceful demonstration and disrupted the visit of Dambazau.
They also blasted Buhari for neglecting the people of Benue.
The women came from Ayilamo, Turan and Gaambe-tiev in Logo LGA, and Akor, Umenger and Tomatar in Guma LGA.
Speaking on behalf of the women, Mrs. Rebecca Apezan, while addressing the Minister of Interior, said the president had failed to protect the people of the state, despite the huge votes he got from the state in the 2015 general election.
She said Benue people were regretting voting for Buhari, even as she decried the lack of patronage Benue was getting from the federal government.
“What have we to gain from Buhari but sorrow, tears and blood? Our children, husbands and parents have been killed in cold blood, while farmland and houses have also been destroyed,” she lamented.
She, however, added that most people in Benue were still in support of the president, but warned that they will be forced to look for alternatives in 2019 if the president fails to protect the people of the state.
Also speaking for the women, Mrs. Josephine Habba, coordinator of civil society groups in the state, called on the president to beef up security in the state and said that the killer herdsmen should be classified as a terrorist group.
Tension in Nasarawa
But even as the people of Benue were still mourning their loved ones, tension was rising in neigbouring communities in Nasarawa State over migrating herdsmen from Benue who tried to displace Tiv residents in two LGAs – Awa and Keane – early this week, resulting in the unconfirmed deaths of four persons and several injured.
An official of the Nasarawa State Government confirmed the tension in two local governments bordering Benue State.
He said following the enactment of the Anti-open Grazing Prohibition Act in Benue State, herders flocked into the two neighbouring local governments in Nasarawa and demanded that the Tiv inhabiting them should also evacuate to Benue State.
He could not confirm if the situation had escalated to a violent confrontation, resulting in the loss of lives, but said the situation was under control.
He said the deputy governor of the state, Mr. Silas Agara, who is holding forth for Governor Tanko Al-Makura who is abroad, had summoned an emergency state security council meeting to strategise on how to ensure that the conflict does not degenerate into violent clashes.
Also reacting to the skirmishes in Awe and Keane, the Police Command in Nasarawa State said it would investigate the killing of four persons as alleged by Tiv leaders in the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, DSP Idirisu Kennedy, told reporters in Lafia, the state capital, yesterday that the command was not aware of the purported killings.
Idirisu, however, said that the command was aware of the apprehension following the attacks in Benue leading to the influx of people to the state.
He said that the leaders of the Tiv Development Association (TIDA) were yet to report to the police on the alleged killings of four persons and urged them to come forward with evidence to prove their claims.
“If really anybody was killed in Awe and Keana, we expect that they should report to our Divisional Police Office in those areas and not to bury them hurriedly as alleged,” Idirisu said.
He confirmed, however, that several people had fled from their communities due to fear of attacks and were currently taking refuge in schools in Awe and Keana towns.
He said the command had already deployed armed personnel in the affected areas to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
Mr. Boniface Iter, President of TIDA in the state, had told newsmen that four of their people were allegedly killed by herdsmen and so many injured in Awe and Keana local governments.
He also said that the Tiv in Nasarawa had nothing to do with the anti-grazing law enforced by the Benue State Government and deserve to be allowed to live in peace.
On the plight of those taking refuge in schools for fear of attacks, Mr. Zakari Allumaga, Executive Secretary of the Nasarawa State Emergency Agency (NASEMA), said the agency would contact the necessary authorities in order to mobilise support for them.
Saraki Condemns Killings
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has condemned the recent killings in Benue, Rivers and Kaduna States, describing the attacks on the affected communities as “heinous” and “reprehensible”, and called on all Nigerians to remain united in their condemnation of violence.
According to him, “The recent killings in this new year that have left many families without their loved ones, and several communities in distress were reprehensible acts of violence.
“As Nigerians, we must all remain united in our condemnation of violence. Such actions have no place anywhere in our culture. The killers and perpetrators of this callous act must be caught and brought to justice.
“The Senate will continue to render all the necessary support to ensure that this happens.
“I call on our security forces to continue to work around the clock to ensure the safety of the affected communities — and all communities across the nation.
“Such random and widespread acts of hate and disorder are part of the reasons why last year, we inaugurated an Ad-Hoc Committee to Review Nigeria’s Security Infrastructure for better delivery across board.
“The committee is still at work, however, now it is clear that we need to review, revamp and reposition our security apparatus across the nation to be able to respond to the diverse nature of the crises and concerns of various communities.”
The Senate President expressed the view that the intelligence gathering aspects of the country’s security system were not measuring, adding: “We need to ensure that our security system can gather relevant intelligence and analyse them to prevent the activities of hoodlums and insurgents so that we don’t always cry after the milk is spilt.”
“These killings, like those that occurred in Benue, Rivers and Kaduna, are becoming too recurrent and the relevant Senate committees will hold discussions with the senators from the affected states with a view to having a proper understanding of what the issues are and make appropriate recommendations to the executive,” he stated.
Saraki also commiserated with the families who lost their loved ones as well as the government and entire people of Benue, Kaduna and Rivers States on the sad incidents.