Death toll hits 26 in fresh Benue herdsmen attack

Twenty-six people have been allegedly killed in the latest attack by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.

The herders stormed Omusu community in Okpokwu Local Government Area around 3:30 p.m. on Monday and opened fire on the residents. Most of the victims were women, children and the aged.

“The herdsmen came from Ado Local Government Area, through River Ogege. We were holding a meeting when suddenly we began to hear gunshots behind the LGEA Primary School in Idumoga. I ran towards my father’s place but I could not save him because the herdsmen had entered the house. Villagers were running in all directions,” said Peter Ojobo, a survivor.

Another, Paul Abba, told The Guardian: “The herdsmen were over 50. They came and started shooting and killing people. They did not even spare women and children. I ran into my house and hid myself when I saw them coming. They went about killing. It was only God that saved me.”

One farmer, Godwin Igoche, lost his two wives and three children in the attack.

Three women and five children who had locked themselves up in a room were found slaughtered. One Eric Attah, who with his wife had gone to the stream to fetch water, was also killed.

Governor Samuel Ortom visited the community yesterday. He described the killings as unacceptable and regrettable, coming barely hours after the chairman of Okpokwu Local Government Area had held a meeting with the residents and herdsmen following an altercation.

He called for the perpetrators to be brought to book.

He said: “This is the highest level of injustice to our people. How can anyone just wake up and kill 26 persons in one day? What have seven and eleven-year-old children done to warrant this treatment? How can a seventy-year-old man rustle cattle? Rustling of cattle is done by professional herders who, in this case, are still herdsmen.

“This law (anti-grazing) was meant to protect both herdsmen and farmers and is the only solution to the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis. When Zamfara enacted Sharia law, those who could not obey it left the place without causing any problems. Why is the Benue case different?

“If we go by what the Minister of Defence, Dan Ali Mansur, said that these are foreign herdsmen, why should we leave our borders open to allow herdsmen come into the country and kill our people.

“This is not right. The law must be respected. In Benue, we believe in the rule of law and that is why, instead of taking laws into our hands, we enacted the law prohibiting open grazing, which also provides for the establishment of ranches.”

The Benue State police command on Monday had released a statement saying only 15 persons were killed. It said the attack was a reprisal by the herdsmen who claimed youths in the area had maimed their cows.

The statement added that following the alleged maiming, a peace meeting was held between the two factions before the killings few hours later.