341 killed in 67 days as violence persists

The people of Nzharuvo community in Basa Local Government Area of Plateau State and indeed Nigerians were shock when gunmen reportedly killed five persons in defiance to the peace pact initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari less than 24 hours after. Buhari had launched a five year road map for peace strategy to end the cycle of violence around the country.

The attacked community, according to a youth leader, Danjuma Auta, is located close to ECWA Secondary School, Mingo, in Bassa Local Government. Auta said the victims were mostly children and a woman. “With the persistent attacks on our communities, most men no longer sleep at home. We do keep vigil at border areas to our communities; we wonder where the attackers of our community came from. It is an unfortunate incident, these killers are heartless. They do not have mercy for even innocent children.

They macheted the children to death, as we speak, we are preparing for their burial.” Before then, about 24 people, including children, women and the elderly, were killed by herdsmen in Omusu- Edumoga, Okpokwu Local Government Area, on March 6. It was gathered that the herdsmen, who came into the community, through the Ado Local Government axis, invaded the village at 3:00p.m., and started shooting sporadically killing everyone in sight while others scampered for safety.

Those killed included a man, Eric Attah and his wife, a septuagenarian, Pa Innocent Itodo, an 11- yearold school girl and another 60 years old woman, Mrs. Catherine Abah, among others. A man, Godwin Igoche, was also said to have lost his wife and two children while another lost his two wives in the mayhem. In recent time the killings have somewhat become a daily ritual. However, the attacks in that part of the country began on January 1, and are still ongoing. The government placed the official figure of fatalities of the January attack at 73, but various reports estimated that actual figure may be over a hundred.

The severity of the attack had prompted the president to order the relocation of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to Benue. While attacks by herdsmen on Benue communities continued unabated since the beginning of the year, some of the herders raided and killed about 55 villagers in Lau Local Government Area of Taraba State.

The invasion reportedly began on January 6, with bodies of 25 victims recovered and given a mass burial. On February 28, about 20 persons lost their lives in a clash between herdsmen and farmers in Gwamba village in Demsa Local Government Area of Adamawa State. Reports from the affected area indicated that the herdsmen stormed Gwamba village at 6:30p.m. on a reprisal attack following a previous attack lunched on them by the Bachama youths. About 10 persons were equally killed as herdsmen attacked two villages in the Birnin-Gwari Local Government of Kaduna State.

It was gathered that the suspected herdsmen invaded Dangaji and Ungwan Gajere villages and unleashed terror on residents. According to an eyewitness, the attacks lasted for hours as the suspected herdsmen moved from one village to another, killing and burning houses. Not done, the herdsmen killed nine on February 1, also at Kaguru village in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna.

Aside that, a middle-aged mother, Patience Salami, was hacked to death by herdsmen on January 5, with some body parts missing, in Arodoye community, in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State. Spokesperson for the Ondo Police Command, Femi Joseph, had before then, confirmed the death of a commercial driver said to have been stabbed to death by herdsman on January 30. In fact, Amnesty International has claimed, that clashes between farmers and herdsmen alone have claimed at least 168 lives since January.

This was made known in a statement by Osai Ojigho, country’s director of the organisation, who called on the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis. “The Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence is totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful,” Ojigho said, adding: “Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January alone. Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder,” he said. As if in competition, the Boko Haram sect also killed four aid workers on March 2, in attack in Rann, in the northeast.

“Of the aid workers that were killed, two worked for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in camp management; and one was a medical doctor working as a third party consultant for UNICEF,” the UN children’s agency, she said. On March 7, the sect killed another 10 people in three separate attacks in northeast Nigeria, according to a local militia in the region. Earlier on February 27, two Nigerian soldiers were killed and four injured in an ambush.

The attack happened as the soldiers were travelling between the towns of Biu and Damboa in Borno State. An Army Commanding Officer was also killed on March 1. Lieutenant- Colonel AE Mamudu, one of the commanding officers of the Nigerian Army Strike Force Group, was killed by a vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device in Sambisa Forest.

Mamudu died along with a young naval officer while on patrol for Operation Deep Punch 11. In total, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has put the casualty figure from the Boko Haram insurgents at 159 as at January. But many believe it could be higher. Cult members are not left out in this orgy of violence across the country.

In fact, the New Year started on a sad note in Rivers State when suspected cult members reportedly shot and killed 23 persons in an early morning attack at Omoku, the headquarters of the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state. Among the dead was a son of the paramount ruler of Ogbogburu in Egiland where the incident took place.

The Caretaker Committee chairman of the local government area, Ossy Olisa, who confirmed the attack, said that six persons were injured in the incident and were receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital. For a long time, the Nigerian state has been under siege by herdsmen, terrorists and cultists operating under a predictable pattern of exploration, attack and withdrawal, leading to many deaths and social dislocations. In the past few years, the statistics of the terror unleashed on innocent communities across the country have been mindboggling.

And the memories of the dead, butchered like animals in most instances, have continued to haunt the communities affected. Meanwhile, Nigerians have been reacting angrily to the incessant attacks and killings by the country’s exterminators. For instance, a security expert, Dr Ona Ekhomu, has called on the Federal Government to refocus the war against terrorism. Ekhomu, who is the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, said the terrorists were adopting a new strategy which required “a more cerebral and sophisticated security architecture to combat.”

He said, “The recent attacks presented many new variables and elements that should concern intelligence officials, security officials and members of the public.” The former director, DSS, Mike Ejiofor, in his reaction also said: “There is no justification whatsoever that people should be killing innocent citizens, especially women and children.” He spoke on the importance of enlightenment and awareness, saying, “the people should be enlightened on the security consciousness of their environment, they should be able to alert the security service.” For the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which reacted through its president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, the government was not serious about putting an end to orgy of killings around the country. Ayokunle said that government should act decisively before it becomes a national war.

He said that the government had failed to uphold the constitution which it swore to “because it has failed in protecting Nigerians from the attacks. For the chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, the bloodletting that is going on in different parts of the country is “unfortunate”.

According to him, “the situation is extremely unfortunate and something must be done to address it. On his part, a former retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, believes that the country is in a serious situation where killings are carried out on children and pregnant women. “It is an appalling development,” he said. “And if we say that we should arm our people for retaliation, it will get out of hand, and perhaps, snowball into a full blown war.”