Bandits…Begin ‘operation clear our forests’ to dislodge, neutralise criminal herdsmen, terrorists, bandits

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Last Saturday, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state narrowly escaped death when suspected herdsmen militia opened fire on him in his farm at Tyo Mu community in the outskirts of Makurdi town on Makurdi-Gboko road.

The Governor in his usually routine visited his farm located in the community close to the shore of River Benue and some two kilometers from the Makurdi-Gboko Highway.

Unknown to him and his security team, the deadly armed militia who obviously camped in the expansive forest just across River Benue had laid an ambush for them with the aim of assassinating him.

Luckily, his security aides were able to repel the attack and after running for about one and half kilometers to where his official car was parked, the Governor was safely escorted back to Benue Government House.

The assailants who met stiff resistance from the Governor’s security aides thereafter fled into the forest, directly facing Tyo Mu community on the other side of River Benue, which seems to be their base, from where they launch attacks on communities on the outskirts of Makurdi town.

The bandits easily access parts of Makurdi at this time of the year from the forest which obviously is their base because River Benue has substantially dried up hence allowing the assailants unhindered escape route back to their base after any attack.

Governor Ortom who had a close encounter with this daredevil armed gang expressed worry that the bandits have taken over the forested communities from where they unleash mayhem on the innocent citizens.

The Governor in his account of the Saturday incident said, “I want to call on the security agencies to fish these people out. They are in the forest between Makurdi and Abinsi. They are living there and coming out to commit atrocities and evil, killing our people, maiming them, raping women and destroying our farmlands.

READ ALSO: Attack on Gov Ortom attempt to silence man of truth and justice — Group

“And anytime our Livestock Guards and security agencies go after them, they run back into the forest across the river,” he said.

This account of the Governor alluded to the fact that these bandits have converted the forests as their safe haven and operational base.

Aside Benue, other states of the federation that are bearing the brunt of the bandits recount similar experiences of the armed men storming their communities from known forests after which they beat the retreat to such forests regarded as their operational base.

Interestingly, after the attack on Governor Ortom, the Commander of OPWS, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini decided to deploy his troops to the Tyo Mu general area and the forest.

Findings indicated that the troops are combing the entire forest and have already found and burnt a makeshift camp said to belong to the bandits.

According to him Gen. Yekini his troops would intensify patrol and surveillance of the general area where the Governor was attacked to help check the activities of the militia herdsmen and other criminal elements emerging from the nearby forest to unleash mayhem on the people.

“We will remain here in the coming days to clear the forests. No mater what it takes, we will do it and we will eventually sustain patrols in the forests in order to forestall a repeat of what happened and also dislodge the bandits completely from the forests,” he said.

Reacting to the development, Convener of Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, Comrade Joe Bukka commended the OPWS Commander for the decision to mount surveillance on the forest.

He said, “that is what we expect to be done in all parts of the country where bandits, Boko Haram, armed herdsmen and criminals have been unleashing mindless attacks on innocent Nigerians.

“What is stopping the military and security agencies from storming these forests and leveling them since these are the hideouts of the criminals. Their hideouts are known, so why can’t the military storm them.

“The decision of the troops in Benue to comb the forest is a welcome development and we expect same to be extended to other states where these bandits are tormenting the people.

“The security agencies and the government must not continue to treat the worsening insecurity with kid gloves. It is time to storm the forests, take them over and chase the criminals out.

“The idea of some persons going into the forests to negotiate with bandits must stop. They should be declared terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

“The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, didn’t engage in this type of bloodletting yet they were declared a terrorist organisation and nobody negotiated with them, why is anyone negotiating with the bandits?

“Besides, the leadership of herdsmen groups have been making inflammatory statements right there in Abuja, claiming responsibility for some of the incidents that have taken place in Benue state. We expected nothing but their arrests. If that is not done, then we will all conclude that this government is not serious about tackling insecurity in the country.”

On his part, a security expert, Mr. Terrence Kuanum said, “the decision of the troops in Benue to take over the forest from where an attack was launched on the Benue Governor last Saturday is a welcome development.

“That is what we expect across the country where cases of banditry are being reported daily. The forests where the armed men operate from should be taken over and cleared by the military. These forests are known.

“If you dislodge the bandits from their comfort zone it becomes very easy to neutralize them. That should be the priority of the security agencies. All the forests where these people operate from are known and should be taken over by our security forces, whether sambisa or whatever.

“The armed forces should declare ‘operation take over the forests’ if we are serious about ending the worsening insecurity and spate of bloodletting in parts of the country,” he said.

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