By Peter Duru, Ndahi Marama, Henry Umoru & Boluwaji Obahopo
•Family of 7 wiped out as herdsmen kill 25 in Kogi; sack communities
•2 female suicide bombers die in foiled attack, injure 9 in Borno
•Army confirms 25 dead as herdsmen, farmers clash in Plateau
•Attack politically motivated but justice’ll be done — Kogi govt
•Benue bids farewell to Omusu 26 amid tears; it’s enough — Ortom
MAKURDI—No fewer than 50 persons have been confirmed killed by herdsmen in Kogi and Plateau states in the last 48 hours.
While the Nigerian Army confirmed 25 killed in Plateau in fresh attacks on Rafiki village, 25 were also reported killed in five communities in Kogi.
This is exclusive of the death of two female suicide bombers who blew themselves up in a failed attack in Maiduguri late Wednesday night, but injured nine persons in the process.
The killings came as 26 persons killed by herdsmen on March 5, 2018, at Omusu community, Ojigo, Benue State, were yesterday given mass burial by the state government, with Governor Samuel Ortom calling for an end to the senseless killings across the country.
The sustained and coordinated attacks in Kogi State occurred in Oganenugu, Iyale, Ojiapata in Dekina LGA and Obakume and Abejukolo in Omala LGA of the state; all in Igala land of Kogi East Senatorial District.
The attack in Kogi
The attack, which started on Tuesday evening and still ongoing, also saw a family of seven wiped out at Oganenugu, while five other communities in Omala Local Government Area were also reported to have been burnt down completely.
Vanguard gathered that the herdsmen first invaded Oganenugu, wiping out the family of seven on Tuesday evening.
While the villagers were still mourning, the headsmen, around 2 a.m. Wednesday, launched another round of attacks on the village, killing another 10 persons; with the death toll now placed at 17.
One person, Joshua Adejoh, was killed in Abejukolo, while the other three communities had, at least, two dead bodies each.
One of the villagers in Oganenugu, who was lucky to have escaped, said the herdsmen attacked the community in the early hours of Wednesday.
He said: “When the herdsmen invaded our community, we ran out of the community and saw some men in military uniform at a distance. Our hope of finding shelter with the ‘military men’ was dashed when they turned out to be herdsmen who slaughtered some of our villagers.
“The herdsmen came in boats with firearms, moving through two communities in the Oganenugu ward on Tuesday evening shooting, killing, and razing homes.”
He said many of the villagers, who were wounded, were left in the bush.
Vanguard gathered that soldiers have been drafted to the affected communities to restore calm.
However, another villager, Bala Julius, who fled from Iyale town, confirmed military presence in the community.
“Those on ground in many communities are members of local vigilance groups repelling the herdsmen wielding their AK-47 rifles. Many are missing after fleeing into bushes, so a clear figure of those dead or wounded is not immediately known,” he said.
Another source also said: “Herdsmen have invaded Oganenugu. They are in their hundreds and our people are almost being overwhelmed. At the same time, there is palpable tension in Omala.”
Confirming the attacks, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Admin), Kogi State Command, DCP Monday Kuryas, said his men had been drafted to the affected communities.
He, however, refused to confirm the casualty figures, promising to get back after normalcy would have been restored.
New set of herdsmen on the prowl
Meanwhile, there were fears that a new set of herdsmen had crossed into Omala Local Government Area through the River Benue from Nasarawa State.
They were said to be camped in the Obakume forest, preparing for attacks on Abejukolo, the local government headquarters and adjoining villages.
National President of the Ife (Omala) Development Association, Dr James Odaudu, who stated this yesterday, appealed to both the federal and state governments to take urgent steps to forestall the planned attacks.
In a related development, the Uk’Omu Igala (The socio-cultural umbrella body of Igala people) has convened an emergency meeting to discuss the unfortunate incident.
President of the Association, Gen Patrick Akpa(retd), who convened the meeting yesterday, said the gathering was purely to discuss the unfortunate attack on their communities by herdsmen.
These attacks are coming barely six months after the governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, gave an open invitation to herdsmen to relocate to the state, even against public outcry from the citizenry.
The governor further demarcated three council areas to be used as pioneer testing ground for the controversial cattle colony scheme of the Federal Government.
It’s political— Kogi Govt
Reacting to the attack, Kogi State government condemned it, saying it was politically motivated.
Speaking on behalf of government, the Director-General, Bureau of Information and Grassroot Mobilization, Abdulmalik Abdulkareem, said Governor Yahaya Bello has directed his security adviser to liaise with security operatives to investigate the incident.
He said: “The communities had been co-habiting with the herdsmen from time immemorial, though we can’t rule out pockets of crisis in some places but not like this.
“This new trend of attack is politically motivated by politicians who are desperate to get power; so they are causing disharmony between the herdsmen and the farmers, leading to communal crisis. They forget that peace is sacrosanct to better living.
“The state government condemns the attack and we are not resting until the root and immediate causes are unraveled.
“We sympathise with families affected and promise that no stone will be left unturned until justice is served.”
Army confirms 25 dead in Plateau
The Nigerian Army said its troops have discovered 25 dead bodies in a village in Plateau State.
The Army said the 3 Division Garrison in Plateau State discovered the bodies, adding that two soldiers from the division were also killed.
There had been several cases of mass killings in the state due to clashes between herdsmen and local communities.
The spokesperson of the army, Texas Chukwu, said in a statement issued late Wednesday night, that “while conducting search, troops discovered 23 dead bodies at Mararaba Dare shortly before Rafiki Village.”
Chukwu, a Brigadier-General, said the troops responded to a distress call about a clash between Miango community and herdsmen at Rafiki village.
“The two soldiers were killed by herdsmen who opened fire on the troops’ convoy,’’ Chukwu said, adding that two other soldiers wounded in the attack had been taken to a military hospital.
The Army said seven suspects had been arrested and weapons, including one AK 47 assault rifle, recovered.
The killings in Plateau State have continued, despite the curfew imposed on some communities by the state government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had visited the state recently to assess the situation and condoled with communities ravaged by incessant killings.
2 female suicide bombers die in foiled attacks
In Maiduguri, Borno State, an explosion caused the death of two female suicide bombers and injured nine residents late Wednesday night.
The police spokesperson in Borno State, Joseph Kwaji, said the two victims were the girls who wore the explosives.
He said the girls wore suicide vests hidden under their garments and tried to sneak into Maiduguri late on Wednesday.
Vigilant security personnel, who spotted the girls as they advanced towards a suburb of the city, very close to Giwa military barracks, ordered them to stop. But the defiant girls kept moving until they detonated their explosives.
The two of them died instantly, while nine residents of the neighbourhood sustained injuries in the blasts.
He said: “On March 14, at about 20:25 hours (8.25 pm), two female suicide bombers in an attempt to infiltrate into Alikaramanti area, after Giwa Barracks, were intercepted by security operatives on duty.
“The two female suicide bombers hurriedly detonated the IED strapped to their bodies, killing themselves and injuring nine others.
“Explosives Ordnance Department, EOD, have rendered area safe, while corpses and injured victims have been evacuated to the hospital. Normalcy has since been restored in the area.”
Enough of killings in Benue — Ortom
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has called for a halt to the ceaseless bloodshed in Benue State, caused by attacks on rural communities of the state by herdsmen, lamenting that the bloodbath had become too much.
The governor spoke yesterday during a state funeral service in honour of the 26 victims of March 5 herdsmen attacks on Omusu community, Ojigo Edumoga, held at St. Bernard Primary School, Ugwu-Okpoga, in Okpokwu Local Government Area of the State, amid wailing.
He reiterated his call for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore whom he said were the sponsors of the killings in the state, based on comments credited to them and published by various media houses.
The governor, while consoling the bereaved families, said: “The death of the victims and many others would put an end to the massacre of Benue people.
“I will also add that the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law of Benue State has come to stay because it is the panacea to the farmers/herders crisis in this country.
“Moreover, there is no land for open grazing to take place in our communities and at the same time have crop farming to go on concurrently.”
Governor Ortom, who assured of his government’s quick response to every security issue in the state, disclosed that data is being gathered for the compensation of those who suffered losses and damages during herdsmen incursions in the state.
In separate remarks, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Benson Abounu; Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly, Mr. James Okefe; representative of Otukpo Catholic Bishop Apochi, Rev. Fr. John Attah, among others, who commended the governor for his support to the bereaved families, urged the people of the state to remain resolute in their support for the grazing law.
On their part, the ethnic leaders of the state, represented by Mr. Amalia Amali and the representative of Movement Against Fulani Occupation, MAFO, Pastor Dave Ogbole, both said they saw the attacks coming and reported same to relevant authorities but nothing was done to avert the massacre.
While expressing disappointment with the Federal Government over its inaction towards the killings, Pastor Ogbole called on the international community to rise and stop a repeat of Rwanda in Nigeria, warning that the resolve by Benue people to remain law abiding should not be mistaken for cowardice.
In a sermon, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Benue State chapter, Rev. Akpen Leva, prayed God to intervene and save the state from herdsmen incursions and further bloodshed.
Senate to Buhari: Adhere to oath of protecting Nigerians
The Senate, yesterday, challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency, adhere strictly to the oath of protecting lives and property of Nigerians, when he took over the mantle of leadership of the country in 2015.
The Senate also in very strong terms, condemned fresh attacks by suspected herdsmen on the people of Dekina and Omala local government areas of Kogi State where scores of people were reported killed on Wednesday.
Against this backdrop the Upper chamber has urged President Buhari to direct the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai and the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, to move the military and the police to bring the situation under control.
The Senate also asked IGP Idris to arrest the perpetrators of the fresh attacks, just as it sympathized with the families of those affected and observed a minute silence.
The Upper chamber also asked the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA to send relief materials and assistance to all the affected victims.
Resolutions of the Senate, yesterday, were sequel to a point of Order by Senator Atai Ali Aidoko (PDP, Kogi East).
Senator Aidoko, who cited orders 42 and 52, moved a motion on the gruesome killings in Dekina LGA, Kogi State by herdsmen.
Presenting the motion, Senator Aidoko claimed that 20 and 12 people each were killed in Dekina and Omala local government areas; 12 in Omala, while another five were maimed in the two areas on Wednesday, March 14.
He expressed concern that “despite the widespread condemnation of the killings going on in other parts of the country, the perpetrators of this heinous crime have not been arrested and persecuted by the Nigerian Police Force. This has led to the continuation of the killings in the country”.
Senator Aidoko noted that “the senate is worried that the incessant attack impedes all well-meaning efforts at peace building.”
In his contribution, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North), who cautioned against tagging the killers Fulani herdsmen, said Nigerians should see them as armed bandits, who are operating in every part of the country.