By Clifford Ndujihe
WHAT are the immediate and remote causes of the unceasing killings in Benue? How can the flowing rivers of blood in Benue be dammed and stopped?
Answers to these questions are legion and varied. And some of the answers have generated more problems and questions.
Following the early January series of attacks on some communities in Logo and Guma Local councils of the state, which left 73 people dead, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, dismissed it as communal clashes and later attributed the attacks to the Benue Open Grazing (Prohibition) and Establishment of Ranches Law, 2017.
“Obviously, it is communal crisis, herdsmen are part of the community. They are Nigerians and are part of the community, are they not?’’ he said.
In like manner, the Minister of Defence, Col. Mohammed Dan-Alli, retd, said that the enactment of the anti-grazing laws by some states was the immediate cause of violence by herders.
The minister, who made the claim while briefing journalists at the end of a security council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, said apart from the anti-open grazing law, he also attributed the attacks to the unwillingness of the affected communities to accommodate their fellow Nigerians and blockage of cattle routes which he said were available at independence.
“You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (of killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be routes whereby the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?
“These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, “ he reportedly said.
The IGP and Defence Minister’s comments have attracted condemnation from Benue State Governor, leaders and elders, who said that herdsmen attacks predated the law, and the law was enacted to address the attacks.
Indeed, members of the Movement Against Fulani Occupation, MAFO, presented a bill to the Benue State House of Assembly in March, 2016 after the Agatu massacre. Members of the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO), presented a bill to the Benue State House of Assembly in March, 2016 after the Agatu massacre. The law was passed by the state House of Assembly 14 months, specifically on May 5, 2017. The Governor signed it into law on May 22, 2017 and it became operational on November 1, 2017.
Reacting to the IGP and Defence minister’s comments, Governor Samuel Ortom said: ‘’I felt so sad when the Minister of Defence and the IG of police were acting the script of Miyetti Allah instead of doing the jobs for which they are collecting tax-payers money every month. If not, how can you say that the Prohibition of open grazing and provision for ranching law of 2017 in Benue state brought about those killings? Didn’t the killings take place in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017?
‘’This law is a necessity arising from the killings. And for us, we sought to bring a permanent solution with the perennial problem of herdsmen and farmers clashes and we did our research and globally we adopted global best practice which is ranching for all types of animals. And so it is amazing for anyone to assert that it is because of the law.
‘’In any case, is this law in Adamawa state, how many people did we hear that were killed? And almost everyday people are killed. Do we have the law in Plateau State, Kaduna State and Nassarawa State? We already have more than 10,000 IDPs from Nassarawa State camping in Benue State. Do they have this law in Edo, Ondo, Bayelsa and Rivers states?
‘’So, it is not about the law, it is deliberate and we live in a country where people will come out in the name of Miyetti Allah and issue threat that they are coming to attack, that they will mobilise people to invade the land and take over the land and even when you report to the authorities, no action is taken.’’
Indeed, the timeline of herdsmen and gunmen attacks showed that they have been many attacks and killings since 2013.
Timeline of herdsmen attacks on Benue State since 2013
- February 2013: – Herdsmen attacked Agatu burning Inoli, Ologba, Olegeje, Olegogboche, Olegede, Adana, Inminy and Abugbe communities. Many lives lost.
- April 23, 2013: – 10 farmers were killed in an attack on Mbasenge community in Guma LGA by suspected herdsmen.
- May 7, 2013: – 47 mourners gunned down in Agatu while burying two policemen killed the Tuesday before in Nassarawa.
- May 14, 2013: – No fewer than 200 herdsmen surrounded Ekwo-Okpanchenyi, Agatu LGA killing 40 locals.
- July 5, 2013: – 20 people were killed in a “conflict” between Tiv farmers and herdsmen at Nzorov, Guma LGA, Benue state.
- July 31 2013: – Herdsmen invaded two villages in Agatu LGA allegedly killing eight villagers in retaliation for the killing of 112 cows.
- November 7, 2013: Attackers strike at Ikpele and Okpopolo communities killing seven and displacing over 6000 inhabitants.
- November 9, 2013: – 36 locals were killed and seven villages sacked in an attack by herdsmen in Agatu LGA.
- Nov 20, 2013: – Herdsmen attack communities in Guma LGA, killing 22 locals and destroying properties worth millions of naira.
- January 20, 2014: – Gunmen attack Agatu LGA, killing five soldiers and seven civilians.
- January 20, 2014. Herdsmen attack Adeke village killing three.
- February 20-21, 2014: – Herdsmen attack Gwer West LGA killing 35 persons, displaced 80,000 persons and sacked six Local Councils.
- February 24, 2014: – Herdsmen attack a Tiv community along Naka road, Makurdi, killing eight people.
- March 6, 2014: – 30 people were killed in Kwande, Katsina/Ala and Logo LGAs by attackers dressed in military uniform. Six villages were sacked.
- March 12, 2014: – Raid on Ukpam village of Mbabaai in Guma LGA left 28 persons dead, yam barns and farms burnt.
- March 10, 2014: – Former Governor Suswam’s convoy attacked by herdsmen at Umenger. He and convoy managed an escape.
- March 12, 2014: – . Herdsmen attack Suswam’s village in Logo LGA, killing 22 and sacked entire village.
- March 23, 2014: – 25 people were killed and no fewer than 50 injured by herdsmen said to be bearing sophisticated weapons in Gbajimba, Guma LGA.
- March 25, 2014: – Police recover seven corpses following an attack on Agena village by herdsmen.
- March 29, 2014: – Herdsmen attack four villages in Agatu LGA. 19 people were killed and, 15 others abducted.
- March 29, 2014: – Suspected use of chemical weapons on Shengev community in Gwer West LGA left 15 people dead.
- March 30, 2014: – 19 locals were killed and 15 abducted in Agatu LGA.
- April 10, 2014: – Herdsmen attacked four villages in Ukemberaga/Tswarev ward of Logo LG, kileed six people and destroyed properties.
- April 15, 2014: – Attack on Obagaji, Headquarters of Agatu LGA left 12 youths dead.
- September 10, 2014: – Herdsmen attacked five villages in Ogbadibo LGA leaving scores dead.
- January 27, 2015: – 17 persons were killed in attacks on Abugbe, Okoklo, Ogwule and Ocholoyan in Agatu LGA by herdsmen.
- January 30, 2015: – Attackers stormed five villages in Logo LGA, killing nine persons.
- March 15, 2015: – . Egba village in Agatu LGA was sacked by herdsmen, over 90 locals, including women and children were killed.
- April 27, 2015: – 28 persons were killed by herdsmen in attack on three villages at Mbadwem, Guma LGA; houses and farmlands were razed.
- May 11, 2015: – Ikyoawen community in Turan Kwande LGA was invaded by herdsmen, who killed five persons and injured eight.
- May 24, 2015: – 100 people were killed in an attack by herdsmen in villages and refugee camps at Ukura, Gafa, Per and Tse-Gusa, Logo LGA.
- July 7, 2015: – One local was killed and several others injured following an attack on mourners at Imande Bebeshi in Kwande LGA.
- November 5, 2015: – 12 persons were killed and 25 others injured in Buruku LGA following an attack by suspected herdsmen.
- Feb 8, 2016: – 10 people were killed and over 300 displaced in a clash between herdsmen and farmers at Tor-Anyiin and Tor-Ataan in Buruku LGA.
- Feb 21-24, 2016: – Over 500 locals were killed and 7000 displaced in an attack on Agatu LGA by herdsmen. Over seven villages razed.
- March 9, 2016: – Eight residents were killed by herdsmen in attacks on Ngorukgan, Tse Chia, Deghkia and Nhumbe in Logo LGA.
- March 11, 2016; – Attack on Convoy of Senator David Mark by suspected herdsmen in Agatu LGA. No casualty recorded.
- March 13, 2016: – Six people including an APC youth leader were killed by herdsmen in an attack on Tarka LGA.
- February 29, 2016: – 11 killed in Edugbeho Agatu LG including a police inspector.
- March 10, 2016: – Two killed in attack on Obagaji Agatu.
- March 5, 2016: – Houses burnt in Agatu. Security forces prevented killings.
- January 24, 2017: – 15 persons were killed by rampaging herdsmen, who attacked farmers in Ipiga village in Ohimini Local Government Area of Benue State.
- March 2, 2017: – No fewer than 10 persons were killed in a renewed hostility between herdsmen and farmers in Mbahimin community, Gwer East Local Government Area.
- March 11, 2017: – Seven people were killed when herdsmen attacked a Tiv community, Mkgovur village in Buruku local government area.
- May 8, 2017: – Three persons were confirmed killed by herdsmen in Tse-Akaa village, Ugondo Mbamar District of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
- May 13, 2017: – Less than one week after many people were killed by herdsmen in three communities of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State, armed herders struck again on May 13 killing eight more people