BENUE State is in the throes of security challenges occasioned principally by sustained by herdsmen’s attacks on hapless farmers. Since Fulani militia launched deadly attacks on Tiv settlements in Guma and Logo local government areas on New Year day and killed 73 persons, the attacks have continued unabated. Many villagers have been deserted, with more than 200,000 people taking refuge in eight internally displaced persons (IDP) camps spread across the state.
Since January 1, 2018, a day hardly passes without Fulani herdsmen killing a farmer in cold blood. The attacks have continued unabated in spite of the deployment of a special military security outfit code named Operation Cat Race. The trend has assumed a catastrophic dimension since Saturday last week.
The suspected killer herdsmen had launched a daylight attack in which they killed seven mobile policemen on Ayilamo-Anyone Road in Poovule community and made away with all their rifles in broad daylight. Thereafter, they moved to Tse Ginde village and commenced another round of attacks. This time, they shot and killed villagers who were asleep in the middle of the night, set their houses ablaze and looted their foodstuffs.
After Tse Ginde in Guma Local Government Area, the attackers, who were well armed with sophisticated weapons, destroyed all settlements in Unzughul, Saghev district. The attack, which started on Saturday evening in Saghev District, continued until Sunday morning with the destruction of many settlements and property worth millions of naira. No fewer than 15 people were killed in the Saghev attack, with victims, including women and children.
On Tuesday morning, at about 5 am, suspected Fulani militia launched another deadly attack on St. Ignatius Catholic Church Ukpor-Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area, killing two priests and 17 worshipers during a funeral mass.
And while the dust raised by the killing of two priests inside a church was yet to settle, the marauders invaded Ali Agudu village and killed 13 persons. A survivor of the attack, Mrs Bridget Msensoo, said the invaders stormed the village in the night and shot at every door, and whoever attempted to escaped was gunned down.
While the killings in Guma were going on, the same Tuesday night, another one was being carried out in Umenger village, another part of Guma Local Government Area, where more than 10 persons were brutally killed and houses set ablaze.
The methods employed by the attackers are similar to those of the deadly Boko Haram sect. They hack their victims to death, after which they slice their throats with knives. If it is a pregnant woman, they kill her, rip her stomach open and bring out the baby. Security men are not spared as many of them have been brutally killed.
Another strange dimension to the attacks is that they are targeted at the farming population in the state.
For instance, all the inhabitants of Azegeh, Uzer, Gbeleve, Ikyungwa, Dzungwe, Ibor , Anyibe and Damsa communities in Logo Local Government Area, known for massive production of yams, groundnut, rice, millet and other cash crop, have deserted their farms following the attacks.
In Guma, the country home of Government Samuel Ortom, renowned for Soya beans, rice and groundnut production, the inhabitants have fled their homes and farms and are now in refugee camps.
Ironically, many of the more than 200,000 people in IDP camps around the state are clamouring to return home in order to live their normal lives.
A 49-year-old farmer in Daudu IDPs camp, Tyona Ugoh, who lost his wife and two children when herdsmen overran his Umenger village, told our correspondent: “I’m tired of staying in the camp. I want to go back to my village and start a new life.”