March 1, 2016

5,000 cows, armed herdsmen occupying Agatu communities — CP

*Killings politically motivated — PDP

*Survivors say carnage rages on

By Emma Ujah,  Ben Agande & Peter Duru

MAKURDI—Benue State Police Commissioner, Paul Yakadi, yesterday, said over 5,000 cows accompanied by armed Fulani herdsmen were occupying part of Agatu local government area of the state, where about 300 lives were allegedly lost last week and 7,000 persons displaced.

This came as fresh report indicated that the killing of villagers had continued unabated despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that a panel of investigation into the crisis be established and announcement of the establishment of an inter-agency security team to forestall further attacks.


Armed Fulani herdsmen

Similarly, Benue State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, claimed the killings in Agatu by suspected Fulani herdsmen weres politically-motivated because the people of the area “overwhelmingly voted for Senator David Mark” in the last senatorial re-run election in Benue South senatorial District.

Yakadi, who led a team of police officers to assess the besieged communities, confirmed that seven villages, including Okokolo, Aila, Adagbo, Akwu, Omikuidi, Ocholonya and Odugbeho had been completely deserted.

He told newsmen at the Command Headquarters in Makurdi, that the invaders stormed Agatu from Naka in Gwer West local government area of Benue State, Loco and Doma in Nasarawa State.

According to him: “The worrisome renewed attack on the Agatu communities by Fulani herdsmen was as a result of the alarming influx of the herdsmen into the area through neighbouring towns of Naka in Gwer West local government area of Benue State, Loco and Doma of Nasarawa State, where cattle are made to swim across the water to Agatu. The Command, which was on an assessment tour of the area few days ago to identify areas that security needed to be beefed up, discovered Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons with their cows numbering over 5,000.

“We saw a number of houses that were either burnt or destroyed and foodstuffs from these areas were looted and some were burnt. The team also discovered that the following villages; Okokolo, Aila, Adagbo, Akwu, Omikuidi, Ocholonya and Odugbeho were deserted with no trace of persons living there while three corpses were seen in Aila and Adagbo.”

The Police Commissioner, who claimed the crisis had been brought under control, said the Police in conjunction with the state government and other sister security agencies had made conscious efforts to monitor and forestall further destruction of lives and properties in the area.

Fresh killings continue
Meanwhile, fresh report indicates that killing villagers in the local government has continued unabated.

A survivor of the alleged killings, Mr. Ada Ojechi, told Vanguard that news of Federal and Benue State governments’ intervention made the villagers to relax and that many of those who had earlier fled Odugbeho returned to the village on Sunday.

He said, “As we speak, Odigbeho Agatu has been razed. The massacre there today had no equal because Odugbeho is one of the most important and well-populated villages in Agatu.

”Our people were caught napping because we relaxed when we heard what we considered the cheering news that the Federal Government has intervened.

“Unfortunately, the Fulanis knew we had relaxed and took advantage to unleash a terrible massacre on us. As we speak, corpses litter everywhere in the village.

Killings politically-motivated
Meantime, the state chairman of PDP, Dr Emmanuel Agbo, has alleged that the killings in Agatu was politically-motivated because the people of the area “overwhelmingly voted for Senator David Mark” in the last re-run senatorial election in Benue South senatorial District.

Speaking at the PDP headquarters where he led members of the state executive council on a solidarity visit to the national chairman of the PDP, Dr Agbo alleged that despite the widespread killings, the government had maintained silence.

According to him: “We have witnessed massive attacks on several communities in Agatu Local government area of the state that have resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and properties worth billions of Naira. We have reason to believe that this recent attack on the Agatu people was punishment for their resolve to vote overwhelmingly for Senator Mark.”

Responding, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, promised that he would take up the issue with the Inspector General of Police, noting that the party would not sit by and allow its members to be intimidated and harassed.

He said: “I am going to site to the inspector General of Police over the complaints that you have told me. As a party, I will do everything to ensure that our rights are not taken for granted. We will follow this issue to its logical conclusion to make sure that none of our members is intimidated and harassed.”