Farmers/herdsmen clashes: 3,000 lives lost, still no end in sight

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By PETER DURU, MAKURDI

FOURTEEN years after the gruesome murder of Zaki Iyordye Akaahena, a renowned paramount ruler in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State alongside his two sons who were allegedly beheaded by rampaging Fulani herdsmen in 1989, over 3,000 lives have been lost to the unending bitter fight.

In fact, the relationship between most Benue farmers and herdsmen has been shrouded in suspicion and deep rooted abhorrence for each other. Perhaps, this may account for the persistent bloodbaths between the two in several communities and villages around Agatu, Guma, Gwer West, Makurdi and Gwer local government areas of the state.

There is no gainsaying that the crisis has, like in the past, centered on dispute over grazing routes and allegations and counter-accusations by the feuding parties that the other had trespassed beyond bounds. This simply means that because the Tiv man places so much premium on his farms, likewise the herdsman who could kill his fellow man for tampering with his cattle, any attempt by the duo to cohabit would always lead to bloodbath.

*Some displaced persons moving to new locations

*Some displaced persons moving to new locations

This undoubtedly could be responsible for the persistent clashes between Tiv farmers and Fulani herdsmen along the Benue valley where lots of farming activities take place, but where herdsmen have also found suitable for grazing.

Actually, in the last 14 years hardly would any month pass by without reported cases of conflicts between the farmers and herdsmen, leading to deaths and destruction of property.

In fact, between last Friday and Sunday, close to 60 persons were killed, while scores were injured and others still missing in one of the bloodiest crisis between Tiv farmers of Guma and Fulani herdsmen.

The latest crisis has created a huge refugee situation in Guma with well over 7,000 displaced persons, mostly women and children, now camped in Gbajimba, the local government headquarters; yet the fight still raging in the remote villages.

Speaking on the recent crisis, chairman of Guma local government council, Mr. Frank Usa Adii, lamented thus: “Lives are being lost on a regular basis in the hinterlands while the repeated crisis is also taking its toll on the finances of the council. Like I told you, the situation is bad because we actually have a serious refugee situation in our hands at the moment considering that over 7,000 persons have been displaced by this crisis; we have been able to camp them at Gbajimba.

“Majority of these displaced persons are women, children and the elderly; but luckily, as I speak to you, soldiers have moved in to Gbajimba, the local government headquarters, and are already mobilizing to move into the crisis areas in order to check further killing”.

Also speaking, former Benue State Head of Service, Mike Iyordye, who lost his father to the crisis 14 years ago and whose house was burnt down in last week’s crisis, pleaded with the authorities to take steps to check the crisis “ before it snowballs into something else.”

Unfortunately, despite the repeated outrage that continues to greet these unending conflicts and the resultant massacres, there seems to be no end in sight to the wanton killings and destruction of property between these feuding parties.

Perhaps government could give a thought to the panacea put forward by the Paramount Ruler of Nagi Kingdom, HRH, Daniel Abomste who recently implored the Federal Government to urgently create grazing routes across the country for herdsmen in order to stem the persistent conflicts taking place around Benue State.

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