March 19, 2016

AGATU GENOCIDE: Benue lawmakers slam Buhari

•Threaten to defend themselves
•We’ve lost over 1000 people
•Fulani herdsmen occupying destroyed communities — Rep Okwu

By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja

MEMBERS of the Benue State caucus in the House of Representatives, yesterday, slammed President Muhammadu Buhari for downplaying what they described as genocide against the Agatu people of the state.

Briefing journalists, the 11 members led by Rep Orker Jev, decried the lukewarm attitude of the Federal Government towards the ‘jihad’ being waged against Benue people by Fulani herdsmen.

Jev who read the press statement on behalf of the group insisted that if nothing was done to address the issue Benue people would have no other option than to defend themselves against the herdsmen.

The 11 lawmakers, who urged urgent resolution of the problem and signed signed the statement were: Orker Jev (Buruku Constituency), Herman Hembe (Konshisha/Vandeikya), John Dyegh (Gboko/Tarka), Samson Okwu (Oju/Obi), Ezekiel Adaji (Otukpo/Ohimni), Hassan Saleh (Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu), Adamu Entonu (Apa/Agatu), Emmanuel Udende (Katsina-Ala/Logo/Ukum), Dickson Tarkighir (Makurdi/Guma), Wayo Benjamin (Kwande/Ushongo) and Gbillah Mark T. (Gwer East/Gwer West.)

Specifically, Samson Okwu lamented that after massacring Agatu people including women and children and razing down the eight communities, the alleged perpetrators of the calamity, the Fulani herdsmen, have taken over the areas unchallenged.

Okwu told Saturday Vanguard that the killings that took place in Agatu were nearly the same style used by the Boko Haram in North-East and that the Federal Government should set up an intervention fund to rebuild Agatu.

Speaking for the 11-man caucus, Jev said: “A genocide that is typical of the Nigerian state has been downplayed or ignored until it spirals out of control. After the Agatu mass massacre, a few headlines were recorded, a few sympathetic comments in high places but concrete moves to stop the killings have not been made.

FG’s lukewarm attitude

“We decry the lukewarm attitude of the Federal Government towards this ‘jihad’ being waged against our people by the herdsmen. We condemn the belated reaction of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau (retd), who broke their unholy silence a week after over 500 people were killed and 10 villages razed in Agatu area of the state.’’

Wondering why the Federal Government has not made public the Investigative Panel report it set up, the legislators lamented, ‘’it’s disturbing that every planting season is heralded by serial attacks by these Fulani herdsmen. They also return during the harvesting season.”

They wondered where the herdsmen get their sophisticated weapons and ammunitions from and why it is taking the government so long to bring to justice those behind the genocide since no herdsman has been arrested.

They warned that they may be faced with no other option than to mobilise  their people against the herdsmen in the absence of protection from government.

We’re being pushed to embrace self-defence

“If the Federal government fails to end this regime of impunity and senseless killings, we will not hesitate to mobilise our people and defend ourselves in whatever way we can. We can no longer continue to remain sedate while the Fulani herdsmen desecrate our land.

“We want to bring to the notice of Mr. President, the Federal Government and indeed the whole world that not less than eight local government areas including Agatu, Buruku, Guma, Gwer-west, Logo, Kwande, Gwer- East and Katsina- Ala and Otukpo have been under perennial heavy attacks from the Fulani herdsmen since 2013.

“The incessant attacks by these Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the death of thousands of Benue people. Since the beginning of this year, not less than 1000 people have been killed and property worth millions of naira destroyed by these ravaging Fulani herdsmen.

“It is despicable and unacceptable that despite the outcry that trailed the killings and sacking of Agatu communities by the Fulani militia, the marauders have continued unabated laying siege to other local governments and killing more people. The visit of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase and his unsympathetic statement that the number of those killed was blown out of proportion expectedly encouraged the herdsmen who have intensified their killing bazaar in the state. Two days ago, they sacked over 25 villages in Logo Local Government Area of the state, killing many. The attackers also rendered close to 3,000 homeless after several houses and huts were razed in the affected villages.

‘’The herdsmen have taken over the affected villages that include Ukemberegya, Bwarer, Mbawar, Gov and Gambe Tiev communities. They are presently occupying Abiam Koya, Iordye, Nyakoo and Mkpikpa. Others are Afom, Uzaagir, Ugbende Mue, Dam, Shaausu, Ukume, Chenbe, Anwen, Sebungen Ubosha, Chia, Asemngoroko and Inderkar.

“Two days ago, they attacked some communities of Mbaya, Mbaapen and Binev in Buruku Local Government and killed seven people, destroyed farmlands and many homes. In Kwande Local Government, they have attacked seven Council Wards including Moon, Yaar, Mbadura, Mbakyior, Live I, Live II and Mener.

“The most affected Council Ward is Moon, where the entire community has been sacked and its inhabitants are now refugees in Jato-Aka and Adikpo. More than 150 people have been killed and about 300 homes destroyed. These herdsmen do not spare anyone.

“The Benue state Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, himself has lost over 50 hectares of paddy farm to the attackers since coming into office. A few days ago, some policemen were also reportedly hacked to death in the state by these marauders. This is in spite of the fact that Governor Ortom, on taking over last year, had gone to great length to negotiate peace moves with the herdsmen. Apparently, the more the herdsmen are appeased, the more flagrant and audacious they carry on with their activities.

“There is a grave danger ahead because if the Federal Government continue to shy away from taking pragmatic actions to end this carnage and genocide against our people; if the Federal Government fails to end this regime of impunity and senseless killings, we will not hesitate to mobilise our people and defend ourselves in whatever way we can.

‘’We can no longer continue to remain docile and sedate, while the Fulani herdsmen desecrate our land, kill our men, women and children; rape our women, destroy our farms and raze our houses.

“We urge the security agencies to stop the attacks, killings and wanton destruction of property by the Fulani militia. They should arrest, disarm, prosecute and jail the foot soldiers and their sponsors. We also call on the Nigerian Immigration Service to be alive to its responsibilities in identifying and expelling foreign nationals who constitute security risks to the country”.

Need for joint security patrol

On his part, Okwu described the killings that had made eight Agatu communities to seek refuge in neighbouring communities of Apa and Otukpo as planned and coordinated, lamenting that after killing the people, the herdsmen have taken over the areas roaming about with their cows.

The lawmaker who was in company of former Senate President, David Mark, to inspect the level of destruction in the eight communities, said: “What happened in Agatu require more than sending relief materials… The Federal Government should send patrol teams to the communities in order to allow the displaced people to return to their houses.  A joint patrol team comprising the police, the army and the Air Force ought to be on the roads there, then it will give confidence to the people living there and take away the Fulani herdsmen. The Fulani herdsmen had after destroying the houses, razed everything down. They are now going out to destroy farm produce knowing full well that the Agatu people are predominantly farmers.”