By Peter Duru, Makurdi
To say that Yooyo and Mbayongo council wards in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State are now ghost communities is an understatement. This is no thanks to the activities of a notorious armed group led by one Terwase Akwaza also known as â€˜Ghanaâ€™ which recentlyÂ unleashed terror on the communities.
The armed militia which has established a base in Katsina-Ala, few days ago sacked the entire Yooyo and Mbayongo communities with no fewer than 65 persons shot while over 210 houses and huts were burnt down in the process.
Farm lands and produce were not spared by the rampaging gang who also ensured the destruction of yam farms, barns and thousands of acres of farmlands and properties worth several millions of Naira.
The militia group whose activities in the affected communities span about six years has left no fewer than 250 dead in the lingering hostilities with no end to the killings in sight.
The carnage and devastation in the affected communities prompted an angry protest at the gates of Benue State Government House few days back by youths, women and children who were at the seat of power to register their disenchantment with the governmentâ€™s insensitivity to their plight.
They urged the Gabriel Suswam-led administration to take decisive steps to arrest militia activities in their communities, lamenting that â€˜Ghanaâ€™ and his gang of militia have literally taken over their communities and subjected them to fear and debasement.
Vanguard Metro gathered from the wailing protesters that , destroyed public property and forced people, including women and children,Â to flee to theÂ bushes and forests forÂ refuge.
According to Mr. Justine Shaku, youth leader of the protesting group: â€œThe militia men appear in army uniforms and sometimes in plain clothes and they consistently raid our villages at night. They burn houses and kill at random, and they have succeeded in sacking inhabitants of Yooyo and Mbayongo communities as the people have all sought refuge in the bush and forests.
â€œEven women and children are in the forest without food or water. The rampaging militia have killed over 250 persons and destroyed countless villages.
â€œWe want this madness stopped; government should stop these killers and save our communities from extinctionâ€™â€™.
Vanguard Metro also gathered that the dreaded militia leader who hails from Mbayongo council ward has over the years kept a large army of loyalists recruited from Chad , Cameron and Niger Republic, who willfully brandish sophisticated weapons.
The militia gang is alleged to be enjoying the support and patronage of the Local Government Council Chairman, Augustine Avaan who it was also alleged is the major financier of the group.
Avaan was also recently invited by the Benue State Police Command for questioning to ascertain his level of complicity or culpability in the unfolding scenario in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area but was let off the hook on self recognition. However Vanguard Metro gathered that he made useful statements to the Police.
Bothered by the renewed carnage in Katsina-Ala LGA, the Benue State Police Commissioner Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed convened a security meeting with stakeholders in the area and neighbouring Logo Local Government Area.
At the meeting the Commissioner alerted his guests of the heinous activities of the armed militia in the affected area and why they must not be shielded from police onslaught.
Mohammed informed his audience that â€˜Ghanaâ€™ had established a colony in the communities where he also set up a court, detention centers and also perpetrated extra judicial killings through death sentences passed by the court he presides over.
The CP said: â€œA criminal cannot survive for so long and become well-established in a community if that community is not shielding it from law enforcement agencies. No single individual criminal can become so powerful and so intimidating to his community if such a community is determined to live a secured lifeâ€.
He informed that the Police carried out a raid on the hide-out of the notorious gang on February 24 at Ankur village Yooyo, assuring that the bandits would be dislodged and warned that â€œanyone giving shelter to the armed bandits will not likely command the respect of the lawâ€.
Vanguard Metro, however, gathered that few days after the Police raid on â€˜Ghanaâ€™s colonyâ€™ the bandits staged a reprisal attack on Yooyo and Mbayongo communities, desecrating graves, shooting women and children burning and looting properties.