Less than 24 hours after herdsmen killed 19 people, including two catholic priests in Benue State, the insurgents, in the wee hours of yesterday, attacked 15 villages in Guma and Gwer West local government areas, leaving at least 43 farmers dead.
According to residents, the herdsmen were dressed in the Nigerian Army uniforms and attacked Mbakpaase, Tse- Umenger, Tomanyiin, Tse-Ali Agudu and Mbanyiar communities.
The herdsmen in Gwer West attacked 10 council wards. It was gathered that the heavily armed men, numbering over 50, stormed Tse- Umenger on Tuesday night at about 7p.m. and set the entire village on fire, killing 19 people.
It was gathered that while the attack was going on, another group of the insurgents numbering over 20 attacked Tomanyiin in Saghev council ward, Tse- Ali Agudu, Mbanyiar at Mbawar council ward at about 11 p.m., killing 19 persons.
As if the killings were not enough, the herdsmen also invaded and attacked Abiam village in Sengev council ward of Gwer West Local Government Area, killing eight people. They abducted one person and took him to an unknown destination.
Chairman of Gwer West, Mr. Francis Ayaga, told journalists that the herders have occupied 10 out of 15 council wards of the local government areas.
Ayaga, however, said that he could not ascertain the casualty figure as more bodies were being retrieved from the bush. A resident of Gwer West, who did not want his name mentioned, said the victims who were taking refuge in Naka, had gone to the villages, to find out whether they could return to their homes when the herdsmen swooped on them.
The resident recalled: “The victims went home to find out whether their villages were safe for them to return, but they were attacked and abducted by the herdsmen. This morning, the herdsmen collected a phone of one of victims and called his family members, and while he was still speaking, they executed him.
The herdsmen also called and told family members of the victims to go and collect bodies of the deceased. But nobody could go there because the herdsmen are still occupying the place.”
A former governorship aspirant, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the state, Dr. Tivlumun Nyitse, from Umenger community, said that the invaders killed many people and burnt several houses stuffed with food items.
Hordes of inhabitants, who deserted their homes are said to be taking refuge in the bush, while in Mbakpaase, corpses recovered were hurriedly buried by the villagers, who had since fled for safety. As at press time, many people were still missing.
The Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, said that he was yet to obtain details about the killing. He promised to divulge the details as soon as they were ready.
Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange, has blamed the persistent killing of Benue people by herdsmen militia on the refusal of the Federal Government to effect the arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.
Ikyange stated this while reacting to the attack on a Catholic Church in Ayar, Mbalom, in Gwer Local Government Area that left two Catholic priests and 17 other worshippers dead.
He recalled that the Assembly had in a unanimous resolution in June last year, drawn the attention of security agencies, the Federal Government and the international community to threats issued by the socio-cultural association for prompt action.
The Speaker lamented that if the Federal Government and security agencies had heeded the call by the Assembly, government and prominent indigenes of the state, the attacks would have been averted and the leadership of the group brought to justice.
Ikya, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Bem Abunde, described the attack on St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayar, Mbalom, where Reverend Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Iorlaha were killed as an affront, not only to the Catholic Church, but the entire Christian community in the state and beyond.
He reiterated the Assembly’s call on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency, carry out practical steps towards arresting the sponsors and executors of what he described as “execution of a systematic agenda” aimed at taking over the One of the survivors Benue valley from its original inhabitants.