By Abel Daniel
The crisis involving the Agatu and herdsmen in Benue State is an extension of the attacks on Agatu communities in Nasarawa State. The Agatu in Nasarawa have suffered endless attacks from marauders leading to thousands of deaths and destruction of property since September last year.
What attracted the world’s attention to the Benue killings was Governor Samuel Ortom’s outcry unlike Governor Almakura of Nasarawa who never visited the troubled Agatu communities in his state until recently after pressures from associates within and outside the state.
There have been reported cases of killings of Agatu farmers in their farms, raping of women and destruction of farm produce by the attackers in Nasarawa. The state, over the past five years, has not known peace as a result of the invasion of several tribes and villages by herdsmen. The Eggons, Tivs and Alago communities have had their own share of the attacks.
The immediate past governor of Benue, Gabrial Suswan, in one of his joint security meetings with Almakura at the Nasarawa Government House, Lafia, had blamed the killings of the Tivs and the Agatu in Benue on the Nasarawa government which allegedly harboured the attackers.
“We are convinced that the Fulani militias are being harbored in some communities from where they attack Tivs and Agatus and withdraw to hide. We also believe that the large number of attackers do not come by air but by land. How can over 500 people move through land and anybody denies that he does not know?”
What, however, bothers observers is the sophistication of the arms used by the attackers, leading to high number of deaths.
During the Eggon – Fulani disturbance that led to the mysterious disappearance of the Ombatse chief priest, popularly known as Baba Alakyo, one of the police officers deployed to Awe local government area of Nasarawa told our correspondent that the suspected Fulani attackers involved in the disturbance were being camped in a particular location but the police were not mandated to attack the camp.
Another police officer once narrated to Sunday Vanguard that when officers were deployed to Agbashi, an Agatu community in Nasarawa, following an invasion, they ran into hundreds of Fulani men with sophisticated weapons, and wearing red berets. The suspected Fulani men, according to the officer, told them to mind their business as they did not have anything to do with the police.
Months later, Agbashi fell under attack from assailants who invaded the town at about 5.00am and destroyed all the houses, leaving only the police station and primary school in the community. Almakura could not hold back emotion when he visited the community to ascertain the level of damage. Till date, that community has remained a ghost town.
And only recently, the Agatu communities of Odenyi Magaji and Loko in Odege development area of Nasarawa were attacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Several people, including women and children, were killed during the attacks.