President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, gave the marching order to security agencies to arrest the masterminds of the killings, maiming and wanton destruction of property in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president also ordered the security agencies to avert further attacks.
The president commiserated with the state governor, Samuel Ortom, over what he described as “wicked and callous” attacks on even innocent children.
“The president assured the governor and people of the state that relevant security agencies have been directed to do everything possible to arrest those behind the regrettable incidents and avert further attacks,” the statement read.
The governor said on Tuesday that 20 people were killed in the attacks. Among the dead were a father and his two-year-old son and a young man said to have returned three days ago after completing his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The communities attacked included Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan in Logo Local Government Area and Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District in Guma Local Government Area.
Buhari said the attack was one too many and promised that everything would be done to provide security for the people in the rural communities.
Meanwhile, the Police said they have arrested eight herdsmen over the attack. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Moses Yamu, said in a statement that the command has made additional deployments to the troubled area to forestall further occurrence and restore confidence of the people.
He said the situation in the two local government areas had been brought under control while investigation was ongoing.
“They attacked Tomater village in Sengev Council ward, Akor village in Nzorov council ward and Bakin Kwata village in Umanger council ward of Guma LGA.Among those killed were seven members of Benue State Livestock Guards, their vehicle burnt and an uncertain number of persons injured in separate attacks between 31/12/2017 and 02/01/2018.
“Again, Agba-Uko near Azege village and Tse-Aga village of Logo LGA experienced the same fate, where one person was killed, one motorcycle burnt and four persons injured.
“All the injured from both LGAs are currently undergoing treatment in various hospitals in the State,” the police spokesman said.
According to him, five combined teams of mobile and conventional policemen led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Operations, Emmanuel Adesina, have engaged the armed herdsmen in a gun duel in Guma.
Following the invasion of the six communities in two council areas and the bloodbath, the first by suspected herdsmen since the law came into effect, a violent protest erupted in Maude, the Benue State capital yesterday.
As early as 7am, angry youths had thronged out in their thousands and mounted roadblock in strategic areas blocking both entry and exit points while also preventing vehicular movement in and out of Makurdi.
The placard bearing protesters blocked the Lafia Makurdi Highway, the Otukpo road, the Old Bridge Road and stationed themselves at the popular Wurukum roundabouts.
One of the youths who gave his name as Bem Titus Terna, president, National Association of Ihiarev Youths said the protest will continue for seven days.
“We want the entire world and the international community to come to our aid,” he said.
Efforts by security operatives to calm the situation failed as the protesters defied the tear gas while they kept stoning the security operatives and insisted they must continue with their protest.
When Governor Samuel Ortom went to plead with them to sheath their sword and understand with President Buhari over the matter, they almost mobbed him but for the swift intervention of security operatives who quickly whisked away into a waiting vehicle.
Speaking to newsmen later at the Government House, Ortom said he understood the pain of the youths but called for calm.
Governor Ortom who said it was too early to declare curfew maintained that his government and the security agencies were on top of the situation and urged everyone to remain calm.
“We have asked for additional deployment of security in Makurdi and placed other local government areas on red alert. No curfew for now as it would mean more hardship for people traveling to their base. People should be careful. There should be no protest of any kind for now and if you must protest, you must get permission from the police,” he said.
He restated his call on the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH), who he claimed had openly said they would resist the prohibition of the open grazing law.
“Their threats have become a reality and they are living in Abuja with the Federal government. If FG does not arrested them, then they are throwing us into a state of anarchy. We assure the people of the state that we feel their pains and we assure that justice will take its course. No going back on the law,” he declared.
The Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law came into effect on November 1, 2017 to forestall attacks on Benue communities by suspected herders. The law stipulates five-year jail term or an option of N1 million fine for violators.
Reacting for the first time since the bloodbath, the traditional ruler in charge of Logo Local Government (Ter Logo), Chief Jimmy Meeme described the invasion of his domain as senseless and uncalled for.
“The president should intervene immediately and call his Fulani brothers to order and let them move out of Benue immediately. He should make the Fulani herders accountable for the lives lost and damage caused to Benue people,” he said.
Chief Meeme who also lost a close relative in the attack disclosed that five communities were affected in his domain.
He stated that corpses were still being discovered in bushes as at yesterday with others still missing.
“Many of my subjects are moving out en mass to wherever they can find refuge. Many are trekking long distances to safer havens. I tried to stop them but they refused saying they cannot toy with their lives anymore,” he said.
Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, Senator Joseph Waku, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and others have condemned the rising incidents of killings across the country, describing it as unacceptable.
Speaking against the backdrop of recent killings in Rivers, Kaduna, Benue states and other parts of the country including the recent suicide bombing at Gamboru Mosque in Borno State, Atiku urged Nigerians to use the opportunity of the New Year to reflect and resolve to live in peace and harmony.
The former vice President, in a statement by his media office, said the killings and reprisal blood-letting were not only ungodly, but a throwback to the stone age, and a hindrance to the promotion of peace and unity in the country.
He said the diversity of the country remained one of its strongest points, noting that leaders of all persuasion and at all levels should ensure that they promote the things that unite us rather than those that create divisions.
Senator Waku, a native of Guma Local Government Area who disclosed that he lost two relatives in the attack appealed to the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the activities of Fulani herdsmen in the state.
In his reaction, the Benue State chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Aba Yaro described the attack as an act of terrorism.
This is as CAN in Northern Nigeria called on the Federal Government to investigate the killings of District Head of Numana kingdom, Dr. Gambo Makama, his wife and two others as well as the murder of about 50 persons in Kaduna and Benue states on New Year day.
The Christian body, in a statement issued by its chairman, Rev. Yakubu Pam, condemned the killings of Christians in the north and urged Federal Government to fish out the e perpetrators of the brutal act.
“CAN is not only condemning in stronger terms these mayhem and carnage but is calling for the immediate arrests and prosecution of all perpetrators of this heinous crimes without let.
Rev. Pam called for calm in both communities where the attacked was carried out and urged government to step up security not only in the affected communities but the entire country to forestall future killings.
He challenged Federal Government to investigate thoroughly and take stringent measures on allegations of security complacency to calm already frayed nerves.