•Over 100 victims in Benue killed by killer herders
•Gana loyalists connive in 4 Wards of Katsina-Ala LGA
•16 killed in 2 LGAs in Plateau
•Protesters block Karina-Suleja-Abuja highway over
abduction of 15 women, children
By Wole Mosadomi, Peter Duru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Mary Therese-Nanlong
BENUE — No fewer than 116 persons were weekend killed by killer herders in communities in Benue and Plateau states.
While over 100 were killed in four wards in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State by a combination of killer herders, who acted in connivance with loyalists of late militia leader, Terwase Agwaza, alias Gana, 16 had their lives snuffed out in Jos North and Riyom Local Government Areas of Plateau State. These came as hundreds of angry youths yesterday blocked the Karina-Suleja-Abuja highway, following the attack of their communities by bandits who abducted 15 persons, mainly women and children.
In the Benue killing, Vanguard gathered from a reliable source in the area who spoke on condition of anonymity, that the gangs had between Saturday and Sunday invaded and sacked several communities at Yooyo, Utange, Mbatura/Mberev and Mbayongo Council Wards in the LGA.
He said: ‘’Since Saturday, communities in four council Wards have come under severe attacks by armed herdsmen who are supported by a local militia gang made up of loyalists of late Terwase Agwaza, alias Gana.
“The villages and communities in the four council Wards have been like war zones since Saturday. The militia gangs moved from one community to another shooting sporadically, killing and looting the properties of the people. “The development has created pandemonium of unimaginable proportion in Katsina-Ala LGA. The gangs have adopted the commando-style attacks to kill unsuspecting farmers.
“They attack a community and before the military and security personnel arrive the scene, they pull out and invade another community.
“As we speak so many persons have been killed between Saturday and Sunday, and the people are fleeing and running for several kilometres to safer places and communities but the fear is that nobody knows the next community that would be invaded.’’
Confirming the development, Chairman of Katsina-Ala LGA, Mr. Alfred Atera, said the situation and manner of attacks might have overwhelmed the military and security personnel on ground in Katsina-Ala. He said:“The herdsmen have developed a strategy. They are not attacking just one place; they have been attacking from one place to the other. If they attack Kwaghaondo, the next thing you hear is that they are attacking Utange.
“Four Council Wards are under attack by the herdsmen. They include Yooyo, Utange, Mbatura/Mberev and Mbayongo Council Wards.
“More than 100 people have been killed at different places. I told the military that the attackers have developed a strategy of attacking from one place to the other. “So the military and security personnel are going here and there. But before they get to a place, the attackers had finished and gone to another point, that is the situation in Katsina-Ala.
“The authorities are aware of all these things. As I am speaking to you, my traditional rulers are here to see what we can do at our own level.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, DSP, Catherine Anene, said she was yet to receive reports of the incident from the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, for Katsina-Ala LGA.
On his part, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Brig. Gen. Clement Apere, said “the narrative is not true.”
Katsina-Ala LGA is one of the three LGAs that constitute Sankera axis of the state which is known as the food basket of the nation.
Contacted, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Colonel Paul Hemba, retd, said ‘’though security personnel claimed there was nothing like that “ a team of military personnel, the local government council chairman and myself would Tuesday (today) visit the communities for on-the-spot assessment, after which a formal statement would be issued on the matter.”
Vanguard recalls that Governor Samuel Ortom had at the weekend, raised the alarm that the ceaseless invasion of Benue communities had taken its toll on the economy of the state and also created serious food shortages across the state.
16 killed in 2 LGAs in Plateau
In Plateau State, 16 persons, mainly women and children, were killed in two separate attacks in Jos North and Riyom Local Government Areas of Plateau State by men suspected to be herders.
The attack in Dong village of Jos North occurred at about 8.00 p.m. on Sunday as the village came under siege with sporadic gunshots.
The Village Head, Daniel Choji, said the attackers came under the cover of darkness to unleash terror on the community, adding that the attack left eight persons dead, comprising five females, two males, and an infant.
In another attack in Kwi village of Riyom Local Government Area, just about a kilometre to the Yakubu Gowon Airport, the attackers invaded the community on Sunday night, leaving eight people dead and one injured. The member representing the Constituency in the Plateau State House of Assembly, Timothy Dantong, confirmed that four males and four females were killed in the attack.
Dantong, who described the attack as barbaric, senseless and inhuman, also called on security operatives to live up to their responsibilities by responding to distress calls early to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous acts were apprehended and brought to book. The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dan Manjang, and the senator representing Plateau North senatorial zone, Istifanus Gyang, also confirmed the attacks.
Reacting to the killings, Manjang said: “Plateau State government is deeply saddened by the recurrence of violence in parts of Dong Kasa in Jos North Local Government Area and Kwi in Riyom on Sunday night where innocent citizens including children and women were murdered in cold blood.
‘’The act is barbaric, callous and a desperate attempt to rupture the peace and security of the state.”
While commiserating with families that lost loved ones and valuables in the two separate attacks, he added:“The governor, Simon Lalong, is deeply distressed by the incident and has vowed to ensure that the cherished values of peace and security and the sanctity of lives remains sacrosanct in the state.
‘’The administration would continue to take measures and work hand in hand with security agencies to protect the lives and property of citizens.”
He said as soon as the government was alerted about the attack, it quickly reached out to security agencies who responded immediately and had been in pursuit of the attackers, with a view to apprehending and bringing them to justice.
The commissioner reiterated that the capacity of the security agencies for rapid response and intervention would be boosted once the approved 50 patrol vehicles and 200 security motorcycles are supplied.
Also reacting, Gyang, who is the Senator representing the two areas, said: “Shortly after the IGP issued a security alert on likely terror attacks on Jos and the FCT, the blood merchants have visited terror on Dong community adjacent Wild Life Park, Jos and Kwi village, adjacent Yakubu Gowon Airport Heipang on Sunday night, where 16 persons were butchered to dead, including children.’’
Senator Gyang, whose constituency and constituents, had been victims of sustained attacks, loss of lives and displacement from ancestral homes, condemned in strong terms the renewed attacks, describing same as “dastardly, wicked and unwarranted.”
The senator in a statement by his Special Assistant, Media/Protocol, Musa Ashoms, noted with concern that “available information indicates that some persons at a meeting with the Police the week preceding the attacks vowed to visit mayhem on helpless communities.
‘’ It is, therefore, incumbent on the Plateau State Police Commissioner to arrest and prosecute those very persons forthwith,’’ he said.
He further called for “decisive action against all those that are known to security agencies, the OPSH, Police and the DSS for the serial killings, displacement and forceful occupation of ancestral homelands of communities in Plateau North as inaction on this matter will amount to condoning criminal act and complicity.
Spokesman of the state police command, Gabriel Ubah, said the command received a distress call from the community and responded with the deployment of a combined team of security personnel, led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, to repel the attackers. He added that security personnel had been deployed to the affected areas to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
Protesters block Karina-Suleja-Abuja highway over abduction of 15 women, children
In Niger State, angry youths of Gauraka community in Tafa Local Government Area of Niger State yesterday blocked Abuja-Kaduna highway to protest the series of abductions in the community.
Gautama community is located along Abuja-Kaduna highway. The protesters halted movement of traffic on the highway while burning tyres to create a scene.
The community is protesting the abduction of some residents by gunmen.
They said about 30 persons from the community were currently in kidnappers’ den, and that their abductors were demanding a huge ransom.
The protesters said they embarked on the action to call the attention of the relevant authorities to their plight after gunmen invaded the community early yesterday, around 1:00 am and abducted 15 persons.
Speaking during the protest, a member of the community, who identified himself as Hassan Hassan, said the gunmen invaded the community around 1:17am and abducted 15 persons. He said they decided to protest to ask the government to come to their rescue in Niger State.
“At exactly 1:17am in the morning, I heard a gunshot. I had to quickly close my windows because they were opened. I told my people at home to be calm.
“I went to my toilet to see what was happening. I saw that the gunmen were taking my neighbour with his two children. One is 10 years old and the second is 8 years old.
“They operated till around 1:51am. Around 2:15am, the army came to our rescue. Some of us came out to see those who were kidnapped.
‘’We discovered that they have kidnapped about 15 persons and cut the two hands and ear of one woman who was carrying a baby. “This is not the first time. This is not the second time. We just want to know if we are safe in this country and Nigeria,’’ he said.
Another member of the community, who identified himself as Dare, said last Thursday, gunmen kidnapped four persons in the community, adding that they were demanding a N10 million ransom. He said when the community informed a nearby police station about the incident, they were told that there was no ammunition and vehicle to repel the attack.
Meanwhile, Niger State governor, Sani Bello, yesterday met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governor’s meeting with President Buhari came on the heels of the protest by hundreds of citizens in his state who blocked the Abuja-Kaduna expressway in Gauraka town, protesting rampant kidnapping in the area.
The governor, who recently announced that Boko Haram had hoisted its flag after taking territories in the state, was accompanied by Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, and governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Caretaker Committee and Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni.
Although the agenda of the meeting was not disclosed to journalists at the time of filing this report, it was gathered it was in connection with the heightened insecurity in Niger State.
Protesters took to the highway in Gauraka, town Monday blocking the expressway and causing traffic gridlock that extended for a few kilometers along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.
After the meeting with the President that lasted over one hour, the governors declined to speak to journalists when he was approached on his way out of the President’s office on the agenda of the visit to the Presidential Villa.