•Rape woman in husband’s presence, abduct another with baby
•It’s most regrettable, they come to kill, not to graze — Benue govt
•Fears attackers may spread coronavirus in Benue
•Agatu leaders demand apology, compensation from Military over “attack”
•We recovered fire arms in your community – Defence Headquarters
By Peter Duru
Suspected armed herdsmen, yesterday afternoon, reportedly hacked and killed a middle-aged man, Titus Nyitar, raped a woman in the presence of her husband and shot several others in three villages of Mbawa Council Ward in Guma Local Government Area, LGA, of Benue State.
The marauding herders also took a woman and her child hostage but were later confronted by security personnel drafted to the area who succeeded in rescuing their captives.
Vanguard gathered that the armed herdsmen stormed Chongu Gugor village at about 2pm and ambushed the deceased who at the time was busy planting his yam seedlings.
A source said: “He was alone in the farm planting his yam seedling when the armed herdsmen stormed the farm and hacked him to death with machetes.
“Security personnel stormed the area but the attackers had at the time left the community, they only recovered the corpse of the victim.
“It was that same armed gang that stormed Tse Gishe and gang-raped a woman in the presence of her husband who they beat up thoroughly.
“They also moved to Mande Gem village where they shot and injured over eight persons and kidnapped a woman alongside her child as they were pulling out. Luckily, the woman and her child were later rescued by security personnel. All the injured have been taken to private and public hospitals at Daudu and Gbajimba.
“Before this latest attack, these armed herders have been tormenting and attacking our people. But three days ago, a team of joint security personnel’s operation discovered and destroyed the camp they have been using to launch attacks on our communities at Tse Faasema where several farm produce stolen from our communities were also discovered.
“We thought the sacking of their base would save us from further attacks but they came out this time to unleash mayhem on our people after which they fled.
“As we speak, the affected villages have been deserted. The people have fled their homes and many have taken refuge at Daudu Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camp.’’
“While confirming the development, chairman of Guma Local Government Area, Mr. Anthony Shawon, blamed the attack on traitors in the communities who he claimed give information to armed herdsmen on the position of soldiers and livestock guards drafted to the area and urged those behind the act to desist in their own interest.
Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, DSP, Catherine Anene, said she was yet to receive details of the incident.
Reacting, the Special Adviser to Benue State Governor on Security, Lt. Col. Paul Hemba, retd, described the incident as most regrettable.
He said: “It is most regrettable because the attack came a day after Governor Ortom magnanimously granted rebate and reduced the fine that was to be paid for 460 cows that were seized and quarantined for violating our grazing law, as goodwill gesture.
“We felt betrayed by their action. We feel that they are now coming for aggression and not for grazing.
‘’They leave the green areas and you find them in parts of Makurdi town on people’s farms, including the JS Tarka Federal University where they graze in the institution’s research farms which they have eaten up completely, just to provoke crisis.
“Regrettably the attack on Mbawa which was unprovoked, continued even today (yesterday). We had to call the military to intervene. I also received a call from the Vice Chancellor of the University that they besieged the institution today (yesterday).
“Unfortunately, the state government is handicapped in the area of security which is controlled by the federal government and all we can do is to report to security agencies who normally respond by chasing them away.
“Regrettably, when you chase them from one area, they move to another another and strike. It is very unfortunate because the rainy season is almost here and some of the displaced persons attempted to go back to rebuild their burnt houses and farm so as not to permanently remain in IDPs camps but once they go, they are attacked just like it happened now.
“They are killed and chased out of these communities. You can see that the coronavirus problem is being compounded by these herdsmen attacks.
“Apart from the killings, we do not know whether they are infected with the virus or not. They come in and kill without being checked and they go out at will. That is the double jeopardy we are facing in Benue State.’’
Meanwhile, leaders of Odejo community in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State have called on the Chief of Air Staff to tender an unreserved apology and pay compensation to the people of the area for allegedly attacking the community.
The leaders in a statement signed by Chief Yakubu Agwiye on behalf of Agbaduma community in Odejo Village, insisted that the sad event that happened on Monday, March, 23, 2020, at Odejo should also be probed.
The statement read: “On the morning of the attack, men of the Nigeria Airforce invaded Odejo village with helicopter hovering in the air, shooting sporadically, while other Airforce men on the ground surrounded the community with sophisticated weapons, shouting at the residents to remain motionless wherever they are.
“Suddenly, they started entering people’s houses, forcibly breaking the doors using their legs and weapons to enter inside in search of what we don’t know.
“In the course of carrying out their operation, they burnt down a house belonging to Otoh Okpachu, shot at one Ochejele Abu who later died.
“They arrested one other person, Gawan Adikwu, whose whereabouts is still unknown, claiming that they found bullets in his room, but the man in question is a hunter who keeps few cartridges for his hunting business and nothing more.
“They also wounded one Adigogo Oluma who is in the hospital now. The Airforce couldn’t get any arms or ammunition as claimed by their men.
“We call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, and other law enforcement agencies to call to order men of the Nigeria Airforce who attacked Odejo village without any provocation from our community.
“We demand public apology from the Chief of Air Staff, compensation, as well as undertaking from the Airforce that such barbaric act will never happen again in our community.’’
However, a day after the said attack, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Brig. Gen. Bernard Onyeuko, had in a statement claimed that operation in the community led to the recovery of illegal firearm.
He had said: “Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke, in conjunction with NAF Special Forces as well as 72 Battalion troops, carried out a cordon and search operation in Odogoke and Odejo communities in Agatu LGA to apprehend bandits, following deadly clashes on March 23, 2020. During the operation, the bandits fled from the area abandoning their weapons.
“Items recovered from the two settlements include one double barrel gun, nineteen locally made rifles, one pistol, four rounds of 7.62x54mm ammunition, three cartridges for pump action rifle among other accoutrements.
“Normalcy has returned to the communities and general security in the area remains calm. Troops have dominated the general area with fighting patrols to ensure peace and stability in the area.”