Violent protest rocks Makurdi, Atiku, Mark, others condemn killings

The killings in Benue State continued on Wednesday as three protesters, who were protesting about the killing of scores of people in six communities in the state by herdsmen, were feared dead in a violent demonstration by some youths in Makurdi, the state capital.

The protest followed the killing of residents of about five communities in the state between Monday and Tuesday by cattle rearers.

No fewer than 20 people were killed and 30 others injured when herdsmen attacked the communities in between the New Year’s Day and Tuesday.

The invaders attacked communities in the Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state.

The protesters in Makurdi on Wednesday almost attacked the state governor, Samuel Ortom, during his visit to calm the frayed nerves.

Security operatives saved the day by whisking the governor into a waiting vehicle.

To avert a breakdown of law and order, the military, police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and vigilantes were drafted to beef up security during the violent protest.

The Assistant Director of Information of Nigerian Army, 707 Special Force, Major Olabisi Ayeni, however, denied knowledge of any death during the protest.

Also, the spokesman, Benue State Police Command, Moses Yamu, said, “The command is not in receipt of any such report please.”

Thousands of youths across the state had embarked on a protest in Makurdi on Wednesday, demanding an immediate stop to herdsmen attacks.

The youth, who carried placards, blocked the Lafia-Makurdi highway, the Otukpo road and the Old Bridge Road and converged on the popular Wurukum roundabout.

As early as 7am, the protesters trooped to major roads, mounting barricades in strategic areas, blocking both entry and exit routes, which also prevented vehicular movement in and out of Makurdi.

The President, National Association of Ihiarev Youths, Bem Terna, lamented that despite the killings by the herdsmen, President Muhammadu Buhari had yet to make any statement or order the arrest of the suspects.

He said the protest would continue for seven days.

Terna stated, “The Federal Government is not doing anything to address this situation. In fact, it is conspiring against the state to allow this carnage to continue. The President is adamant over the issue. We will continue to stage this protest for seven days. We want the entire world and the international community to come to our aid.”

The youth defied the tear gas canisters fired by security operatives to disperse them while they kept stoning the security agents.

The demonstrators turned violent when Ortom visited them at Wurukum, insisting that the only person who they were ready to listen to was Buhari.

Security operatives had to whisk away the governor in a waiting vehicle when the situation became tense.

Meanwhile, Ortom, who later spoke to newsmen at the Government House, noted that he understood the pain of the youths, but called for calm and urged the people to go about their lawful business without fear.

He said he had already called for additional deployment of security operatives in Makurdi and the local government areas of the state.

Ortom added, “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 travelling to their bases.

“I have reiterated my call on the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore because they have openly said they would resist the law on open-grazing, which is an initiative of the Benue people. There is no other alternative to ranching.

“But I think the right thing to do is for the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of MAKH or else, they are telling us that we are not part of Nigeria. Their threats have become a reality and they are living in Abuja with the Federal Government.

“If FG does not arrest them, then they are throwing us into a state of anarchy. No going back on the law.”

Eight herdsmen arrested –Police

Meanwhile, the Benue State Police Command said it had arrested eight Fulani herdsmen in connection with the attack on five communities on Tuesday.

The command’s Public Relations Officer, Moses Yamu, stated this in a statement on Wednesday.

According to the statement, six of the herdsmen were arrested in Guma while two were apprehended in the Logo Local Government areas of the state.

The PPRO stated, “The Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, called for calm as eight herdsmen, six in Guma and two in Logo, have been arrested in connection with the attack.”

The statement added that 17 persons, including seven members of Benue State Livestock Guards, were killed and their vehicles burnt and an uncertain number of people injured in the attacks.

Meanwhile, prominent citizens in Benue State have condemned the herdsmen’s attacks.

Senator Joseph Waku called on the Federal Government to declare emergency on the activities of the Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.

Also, the Benue State Chairman, All Progressives Congress, Comrade Aba Yaro, called on the Federal Government to tackle the menace of herdsmen in the state.

Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone, Waku, who hails from one of the communities attacked by the killer herdsmen, said he lost relatives, farmlands and other things to the latest Fulani attacks in Guma.

Waku added, “I’m a direct victim of the two days attack on my community because several lives were lost, also farmlands and other properties.

“For now, I cannot quantify what we lost because some of the bodies of victims of the attacks were yet to be found.

“I’m calling on the Federal Government to declare an emergency on the activities of the herdsmen and to also deploy soldiers permanently in the troubled areas.”

Yaro, who condemned the latest killings in the state, said the party was in full support of the anti-open grazing law enacted by Ortom.

He called on the Federal Government to show more concern to the people of the state and to join hands in condemning the act which he described as an act of terrorism.

Atiku, Mark, others condemn killings, Dogara demands troop deployment

Meanwhile, prominent Nigerians and groups, on Wednesday, condemned the killing of scores of residents of Benue communities by herdsmen on New Year’s Day and Tuesday.

They demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari must stop the atrocities of the killer herdsmen.

Also, three persons were feared dead among protesters who took to the streets on Wednesday, protesting the mindless killings in the communities.

Among those who reacted to the Benue killings are former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yabubu Dogara; members of the House from Benue State; the National Council of Tiv Youths and two civil rights groups.

Mark lamented the renewed attacks in Benue, Rivers and Kaduna states, describing them as lawlessness that the government must stop.

In a statement in Abuja on Wednesday by his Media Assistant, Mr. Paul Mumeh, Mark called for an urgent and strategic approach to halt further tragedies.

The lawmaker condemned the attacks on defenceless citizens across the states, saying “this pogrom is reprehensible, barbaric and inhuman.”

Mark lamented the “unabating anarchy” across the land, urging security agencies to rise up to the challenge and curb the menace.

He also called for a synergy among security operatives to combat “the worrisome situation.”

The senator condoled with the governments and people of Benue, Rivers and Kaduna over the killings, asking them to step up measures needed to protect lives and property.

He said, “No matter the anger in a man’s mind, resorting to violence or taking another person’s life can only aggravate the situation. There are enough channels of mediation, including the courts and the legislature to address perceived or alleged misdemeanour.

“Nobody has a right to take another man’s life needlessly. The law must take its course and perpetrators must not go unpunished. This lawlessness must not continue. Security operatives must do the needful to fish out the perpetrators.”

In his own reaction, Dogara said he was in shock over the mass killing of children and women in the renewed attacks by herdsmen in Benue State.

Dogara also condemned the latest killings in Kaduna and Rivers State.

A statement by his media office in Abuja reads, “These killings, coming shortly after the whole world was outraged by similar killings in Agatu in the same Benue State and another in Rivers State, is a clear indication that it is high time all the security apparatuses of the country were mobilised to put a stop to these mindless killings. Enough is enough!

“No reason whatsoever can be enough justification for such dastardly acts.

“It will be recalled that a traditional ruler in Kaduna State was recently killed by the same ‘unknown’ gunmen.

“The killing of the second class chief came a few days after several people were also killed during a Christmas carol in the Jama’a Local Government of the state.

“It is worrisome that at a time government is taking every step to tame the security challenges in the country, there seems to be a steady deterioration of security of lives and property all over the country.”

Also, Atiku described as unacceptable the cycle of blood-letting that had led to the loss of precious lives across the country.

Atiku said this against the backdrop of recent killings in Rivers, Kaduna and Benue states, and other parts of the country, including the Wednesday early morning suicide bombing at Gamboru Mosque in Borno.

The former vice-president, ina statement by his media office in Abuja on Wednesday, said the killings in those states, and other senseless killings and reprisal was ungodly, a throwback to the stone age, and a hindrance to the promotion of peace and unity in the country.

He stated, “That the Almighty in His Wisdom made us a nation of different tongues and tribes; made us Africa’s most populous nation with more than 300 tribes, is no accident. If well enhanced, our diversity should be our biggest strength.

“There cannot be development when innocent lives are being lost in a seeming endless cycle of attacks and reprisals. While we should hold every life as precious, it is more painful that the victims of these attacks are women and youths – the demography that we depend upon to drive development.”

Declare violent herdsmen terrorists –Reps, Tiv youths

In a similar vein, members of the House of Representatives from Benue State on Wednesday condemned the renewed attacks by the herdsmen on defenceless villagers.

They asked the Federal Government to declare them as terrorists.

A member of the House from the state, Mr. Teseer Mark-Gbillah, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues in Abuja, expressed concern that the Federal Government had refused to pay the same attention to the herdsmen as it had done in the case of Boko Haram insurgents.

Mark-Gbillah noted that the government was not only hesitant in reacting to the killings but had also ignored the victims by failing to send relief materials to them.

The lawmaker also stated that all the members from the state were in support of the anti-open grazing law being implemented by the state government.

He added, “We condemn the attacks in totality. We state here again that we stand solidly behind the state governor (Samuel Ortom) on this matter.

“This is terrorism. These people should be declared as terrorists by the Federal Government. We have continually made this demand.

“We support the enactment of the anti-open grazing law and its full implementation, no matter the intimidation or attempt to frustrate the implementation of this legislation.”

Mark-Gbillah recalled that a resolution, passed by the House on the matter, urging immediate action by the Federal Government to halt the killings, had been ignored till date.

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Also, the National Council of Tiv Youths called on the President to declare emergency against the activities of killer Fulani herdsmen and pronounce them a terrorist group.

The President of NCTY, Dr. John Akperashi also expressed no confidence in Buhari for failing to act on the violent activities of the herdsmen.

He condemned “the President’s insensitivity to the perennial massacre of innocent Tiv farmers.”

Akpetashi said, “As we speak, over 50 people have been butchered by the Fulani marauders, who have taken over communities in Logo, Guma and Kwande Local Government areas.

“When there was the issue of cattle rustling in Kebbi and Gombe states recently, the military were drafted to confront the matter. The 72 Military Battalion is located right on the soil of Benue State as well the Nigerian Air Force.

“Yet, there has never been an appreciable effort in taming this pogrom. Why has the President remained mute in the face of these mindless killings even as he has the capacity to enforce a lasting solution?”

The NCTY recalled that not long ago, the President had declared members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, “who were only expressing their anger within their domain and had not fired a gun at any innocent Nigerian,” as a terrorist group.

Alleging that the Fulani herdsmen “flaunt their sophisticated weapons, invade farmlands, forcefully occupy ancestral homes of the natives, go on rampage and hold an entire community to ransom”, the organisation said the activities of the Fulani herdsmen were far more dastardly than those of IPOB.

Akperashi stated that the state governor, Samuel Ortom, and the Paramount Ruler of the Tiv nation,  Prof James Ayatse, reported the threats by the cattle breeders to the Presidency, which did nothing.

He stated, “All the security formations were notified! Now, what else could have been done? Yet, no caution was handed the Miyetti Allah and their leadership! No proactive security measures were taken either in protecting and securing lives! “Today, the MACBAN leaders are making good their threats under the very nose of the government killing innocent Tiv farmers like animals, occupying forcefully their farmlands.”

Handle attacks like B’Haram, civil society tells Buhari  

In their reactions, two civil society groups – Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership – said Buhari-led Federal Government had not shown enough determination to stamp out killer herdsmen as it is doing to the Boko Haram insurgents.

The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “These killings call for the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari and the military who is over-celebrating the measured victory over the Boko Haram insurgents.

“It is a call to the President and the government of the All Progressives Congress that as they are tackling insurgency in the North-East, they must also pay serious attention to other variants of violence, which are culminating in daily extra-judicial killings by ways of the herdsmen’s attacks.

“Section 33 of the Constitution, dealing with the right to life, is on a daily basis abused in this country and we have witnessed this in the most bizarre form.”

The Executive Director of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said, “If lives are being destroyed, it means the presence of the government has been jeopardised. If these killings continue, it means that the Federal Government is complicit.

“I think the people have to protect themselves. If they are exposed to such dangers, they should put their hearts together. These ethnic clashes may degenerate into ethnic cleansings such as the incident in Rwanda.”

Also, a security analyst, Ben Okezie, expressed surprise that the President failed to mention the killings by Fulani herdsmen.

The analyst observed that Buhari had never ordered the police and other security agencies to tame the attackers, stressing that he was the President of the whole nation and not just the Fulani.

Okezie stated, “The President has not done enough. The police too have been sleeping on duty; they have not been doing what they are supposed to do.

“So, why would the President keep quiet? If he continues keeping quiet, then the constitution should be invoked against him because he has not upheld the constitution he swore to uphold.

“The police IG should resign for not being able to protect Nigerians. He does not know what he is supposed to do.”

In similar vein, a lawyer and human rights activist, Victor Giwa, expressed disappointment with the lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government to the killings by Fulani herdsmen, noting that the issue of illegal arms possession must be frontally addressed.

He said, “Possession of firearms is criminal unless you have been licensed to own it, but nobody has told us that they have licensed Fulanis to bear arms and if they have been licensed, then the farmers too should be licensed so that they can carry arms too and defend themselves when necessary.”

Buhari orders arrest of culprits

In his own reaction, Buhari said he had directed relevant security agencies to do everything possible to arrest those behind the killings, maiming and wanton destruction of property in the Guma and Logo LGA of Benue State.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President also ordered security agencies to avert further attacks.

The President commiserated with Ortom over the incidence.

“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.

Describing the attack as one too many, the President promised that everything would be done to provide security for the people in the rural communities.