State Govt to legally arm newly formed Community Volunteer Guards
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
It’s been three weeks of bloodbath in what seemed a coordinated attack on communities in neigbouring Makurdi, Guma and Gwer West Local Government Areas, LGAs, of Benue state where armed herdsmen mindlessly bared their fangs on helpless farmers leaving close to 70 people dead and more than double that figure injured.
The marauders also razed houses, food barns, and farmlands in some of the besieged communities leaving in their wake trails of devastation that may take the communities several years to recover.
Perhaps the period under review may best be described as one of the worst in the history of the state in the gory slaughter of defenseless farmers and their family members by the bloodthirsty marauders aside the 2018 new year’s day coordinated massacre in Logo and Guma LGAs that claimed close to 80 lives sparking widespread outrage both locally and internationally.
The timeline of these attacks clearly indicated that the state has daily been recording an average of four deaths in attacks unleashed on the farming communities by the armed herders who have suddenly turned Benue communities into theaters of blood, sorrow and tears.
Available records of these attacks indicated that on April 14, 2021, the armed herders invaded Goh community a suburb of Naka, Headquarters of Gwer West LGA and murdered about eight persons. Goh community is less than three kilometers from Naka town.
Next on the line was Makurdi LGA where a family of four and three others including children were gruesomely murdered at Mbamondu community, Makurdi Modern Market Council Ward on April 17.
And on April 21, a traditional ruler and five others were also killed in three separate attacks on Tse-Zoola village Agan Makurdi LGA, Odugbeho in Agatu LGA and Mbayer-Yandev in Guma LGA.
In fact Governor Ortom ran into the victims of Tse-Zoola attack while returning back to Makurdi after an official engagement and had to personally intervene to ensure that the area was not thrown into a turmoil following the murder of the traditional ruler.
The Governor was also compelled to cancel most of the events organized in his honor by individuals and groups to mark his 60th birthday anniversary in show of solidarity and concern for families who lost loved ones in the spate of attacks.
And less than 48 hours after, came the coordinated invasion of Tse Ukor, Tse Gborigyo and Tse Uhembe communities all in Mbayer-Yandev Council Ward of Guma LGA on April 23 which claimed 17 lives and left scores injured.
Following that attack, Governor Ortom had to visit Guma and the Tse Uikpam IDPs camps where he raised the alarm that the attacks on Benue communities by the marauders were taking their toll on the people and creating a huge humanitarian crisis for his government. He appealed to spirited individuals, foreign and local organisations to come to the aid of the state.
And while the Governor was still lamenting the fate of the hapless Benue populace, came the mother of all attacks on April 27 which jolted the entire state and sparked outrage both within and outside the country.
The Abagena IDPs camp located in the outskirts of Makurdi town came under the ferocious attack of the herdsmen which left seven of the inmates dead and several others badly injured.
It again took a swift intervention of the Governor, who though broke down after seeing the corpses of the murdered IDPs, prevailed on the thousands of youths who had mobilized to the scene, to bury their thoughts of embarking on reprisal attacks after they had taken over the very busy Makurdi – Lafia road where they laid the corpses of the butchered IDPs, chanting wars songs.
The angry youths yielded to the appeal of the Governor but made demands on President Muhammadu Buhari.
The youths through their leader Amos Amo dropped a hint of what lay ahead in the days and weeks to come if the federal government failed to act fast to calm frayed nerves and reassure the people of the state of its commitment to put an end to the herdsmen menace.
Amo called on President Buhari to ensure justice by allowing Tiv youths bear AK47 riffles to defend themselves like the herdsmen who are allowed to move around the country with the weapon unhindered.
Hear him: “Mr. President, we want justice and justice must prevail. We want you to allow us also use AK47 riffle the same way Fulanis are using it.
“Yesterday we saw them with our eyes and heard them speaking Fulani. They killed some people and injured some others. Some are in the hospitals right now. Mr President, if you know you are in power, if you know you are the President of this country and we voted for you, you must rise up and do something, else we will do our best. We must do our best,” he exclaimed.
Despite the outrage that greeted the Abagena invasion, the marauders again struck at Udei branch in Mbabai Council Ward of Guma Local Government Area, LGA, same April 27 killing a man and his wife.
Then came the April 29 twin attack on Imandeakpu and Mbatyough Saghev communities in Guma and Gwer West LGAs respectively that claimed the lives of five persons.
That attack was followed by the May 2nd and 3rd attacks and sacking of Agbanu, along Naka-Agagbe road, Saghev Council Ward and Tse Amgbem close to Aondoana the home town of the Benue First Lady, Dr. Eunice Ortom which left 17 persons including women and children dead.
The attackers who reportedly burnt down Tse Amgbem sacked the inhabitants of the community and also left scores injured and many fleeing to nearby Aondoana community.
Bothered by the silence of the presidency on the unending attacks on Benue communities, Benue youths under the aegis of Benue Youth Forum, BYF, vowed to defend the state and its extant laws.
President of BYF Comrade Terrence Kuanum warned for the umpteenth time that the youths of Benue may not fold their hands anymore and watch the marauders annihilate their people and their ancestral land.
“For us as a people we are not going to fold our arms and allow ourselves be consumed by these people. So now that they have taken this attack to where we reside and have our seat of power, it has gotten to our neck and we are going to respond with commensurate measure of what they are going to bring to us. We are not going to fold our hands and be killed by these people.
“We must make this loud and clear that the entire Benue State is fully mobilized to defend its laws and land against any threat posed by members of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and any other violent Fulani group,” Kuanum said.
On his part, the President General of Tiv Youth Organisation, TYO, Mr. Timothy Hembaor warned that the youths of Benue had been pushed to the wall and might resort to self help with its dire consequences.
The TYO President General appealed to prominent Fulani personalities who were equally friends of the Tiv tribe to speak up to help calm frayed nerves as the situation was getting to a boiling point.
“We also have some of them who are honorific title holders in Tiv land. This is the time for them to speak out to avert a looming backlash that will not do anyone any good,” he said.
Meanwhile given the increasing spate of attacks on communities in the state by the armed herders, Benue leaders from across political parties at the end of stakeholders/security meeting on Thursday commended the efforts of security agencies in the state to stem the tide.
The leaders however observed that the agencies had been overstretched hence resolved to immediately set up a Community Volunteer Guards which should be made up ex service men and able bodied men of not less than 18 years and not more than 50 years.
Part of the resolution of the meeting read by the Governor Ortom stated that “Benue State Government should fully enforce the “Law to Provide for the Establishment of Community Volunteer Guards (Vigilante) and for the Purposes Connected Therewith” which were enacted in the year 2000.
“The State Government has been mandated to support the Vigilante with logistics as provided in the Law. Recruitment of the Vigilante should be carried out in the 23 LGAs of Benue State,” he said.
The meeting also resolved to arm members of the guard with legally recognized weapons for the defence of themselves and their various communities in order to put a halt to the armed herdsmen induced killings in the state.