By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Seven-year-old Mwese Nyatan, a survivor of last April’s attack on Saint Ignatius Quasi Catholic Parish, Mbalom in Gwer local government area of Benue State, where two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners were killed by suspected armed herdsmen, has appealed to the Federal Government to arrest and prosecute the masterminds of the attack.
Mwese, who was hacked on the head and left to die by the invaders, believes the attackers who stormed the community on the fateful day were armed herdsmen and not Tiv farmers.
She still carries about nine inches long scar on her head and could hardly move her right hand and leg as a result of the injury when Sunday Vanguard visited her at Ayar Mbalom.
The victim appealed to government and public-spirited Nigerians to help her overcome her deformity through corrective surgery.
Narrating the April attack, Mwese said, “We woke up on the fateful day, April 22, and, still at home, when we saw armed herdsmen coming towards our church which is very close to our house, shooting sporadically.
“Some of them went to the church shooting while others were chasing and killing people. We all started running with our parents, but they were still shooting and killing people.
“I was also unlucky, one of them caught up with me and hacked me with a machete or knife on the head and I was left for dead.
“It was at Saint Vincent Hospital Aliade that I was revived but I was immediately transferred to Benue State University Teaching Hospital for further treatment because I was bleeding profusely and my parents were crying.”
Mwese said she still felt pains in her head and might not be able to go to school because of the severe pain and her deformity.
“I appeal to government to arrest those who attacked our community and killed two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners”, she stated.
“We still live in fear. They killed our reverend fathers. Our neighbour was also killed. I want the people arrested by government so that they don’t come back to attack us again”.
Mwese’s elder sister, Msugh Nyatan, who also spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the victim’s condition, said her survival was a miracle given the nature of the injury inflicted on her by the attackers.
Msugh disclosed that family members mistook Mwese for dead after the attackers had left and her almost lifeless body was found in the bush at the point she was attacked.
“When we were all running, amid that confusion and sporadic gunshots, we lost her to the attackers who we identified as Fulani herdsmen because of the language they spoke and their mode of dressing”, the sister narrated.
“When we returned to the village after the attackers had left, we saw her in a pool of her own blood almost lifeless.
“In fact, we thought she was dead because of the deep, long cut on her head and amount of blood she had lost and unattended to before she was discovered.
“She was rushed to Saint Vincent Hospital for initial treatment and later transferred to the teaching hospital by the state government where she was operated upon.
“So far she remains the only survivor among those who were directly and physically attacked by the armed men but her condition is a source of worry to the family.”
Continuing, Msugh said, “As a result of the injury, the right part of her body is deformed. She can hardly walk or even use her right hand since coming out of hospital. We fear the injury might have affected her brain.
“We are indeed disturbed and we appeal to the Federal Government to not only arrest and prosecute those behind the attack on Mbalom in order to give the victims justice, government and well-meaning Nigerians should also extend assistance to Mwese to correct her deformity.”
While regretting what she termed deliberate moves my individuals to change the narrative of the attack on her community by suspected armed herdsmen, Msugh said the development was saddening.
“We saw the people who attacked us. They were Fulani people, they were not Tiv people; so it was wrong for anyone to now come out to say it was our own people that killed each other. It is sad indeed”, she stated.
“So, are they saying that it was my Tiv brothers that did this to my sister or killed the two Catholic priests and the parishioners? That is heartless and uncharitable to a people who have suffered trauma in the last few months.
“If not for Governor Samuel Ortom, only God knows what would have been our fate in Benue State given the level of killings and the manner our villages were sacked by armed herdsmen.
“He sacrificed his comfort and privileges as governor and brought himself to our level to defend the victims who are ordinary people. He stood up and put up a resistance to the pogrom and, for that reason, we owe him a lot of gratitude, no matter what anybody says.
“Those making that allegation that we were killing each other are mocking us and should apologize to the Catholic Church and this seven-year-old girl for that heartless statement because what happened to her could have happened to anyone or anyone’s child”.