•We are on top of situation, Operation Commander
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
A soldier, attached to the military Operation Whirl Stroke, deployed to Benue State to end the herdsmen crisis, was, early Saturday, killed, while two others sustained serious injuries, when militant herdsmen attacked and razed part of Nzorov, Governor Samuel Ortom’s home town, in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
Sunday Vanguard gathered from a resident in the area that heavy exchange of gunfire, including from helicopter gunships deployed by the military, was still going on in the area between troops attached to the operation and the heavily armed herdsmen who stormed the area from Keana and Awe Local Government Areas of Nasarawa state.
The source said, “ here is ongoing gun battle at the moment in Nzorov ward between soldiers of Operation Whirl Stroke and well armed militant herdsmen who, for days, have been moving into Guma in their numbers; but this morning, on sighting the personnel of the Operation, an exchange of heavy fighting ensued which led to the death of one of the soldiers and the injury of two others who we gathered have all been conveyed to the Air Force Military Hospital in Makurdi.
“As I speak to you, people are fleeing their villages including women and children who carry on their heads whatever property they could salvage from their homes as they fled from danger, while some houses and huts are also on fire,” he added
When contacted, the Chairman of Guma LGA, Anthony Shawon, who confirmed the latest attack, said, the armed herdsmen had over the last two weeks been moving into Guma in very large numbers preparatory to lunch an attack on communities in the area.
Shawon said, “we alerted the army that this people were coming and from the information we had, they were matching to attack Gbajimba, the local government headquarters, and Umenge.
“They said they were already aware and that they were ready for them. Today, the battle started early this morning, they attacked Nzorov, Benue State governor’s place.
“It was very serious and in fact the Air Force had to come in with two helicopter gunships to support the ground troops to dislodge the attackers because they were seriously fighting the troops and not retreating.
“The information at my disposal indicated that the heavily armed herdsmen killed one soldier and two others who sustained injuries have been brought to the hospital.
“These people normally come from Awe and Keana LGAs of Nasarawa where they have camps.
“I have just visited the soldiers that are stationed at Udei, I discovered that herdsmen have taken over 10km of Benue land from our border communities with Nasarawa state. That is their agenda.
“I pleaded with the soldiers to shift and create posts at the border communities and villages or else these people will take over most of our land and our displaced brothers and sisters would not be able to go back home.
“But they the soldiers are complaining that the schools in the area were destroyed by the invaders so they cannot find shelter to stay.
Reacting, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, who confirmed the armed confrontation between his men and herdsmen said he was yet to receive full details of the encounter from the field. “I can confirm that we had an encounter today with some armed herdsmen around the Gbajimba axis but as we speak the troops are still in the field, so I don’t really have any information as regards the encounter until the troops return.
“We are working hard to end this crisis, but you know that the crisis dates back to over 10 years, hence it will not be ended overnight; but we have made great progress and things have improved but we must all continue to maintain our vigilance,” Maj. Gen. Yekini said.