Benue: 10 killed in fresh Fulani herdsmen attacks

The police have launched 24hour crime prevention and visibility patrols nationwide to prevent a repeat of last week’s killings in Benue and Rivers States.

Fulani HerdsmenIt is one of the several measures announced yesterday by the Police headquarters following Friday’s meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and Police Inspector General Ibrahim Idris.

Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams were also constituted and dispatched to Benue and Rivers States to get to the roots of the killings.

Seventeen were shot by suspected cultists at Omoku, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local government area of Rivers State on their way back home from the crossover church service last Monday, while 20 were gunned down by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Guma and Logo government areas of Benue State.

A Tiv socio- cultural organisation – Mzough u – Tiv – took exception to the statement made on Friday by Mr. Idris in which he described the Benue killings as a “communal crisis”.

President- General of Mzough u – Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege, said Idris’ statement was not only misleading, it was a mockery of the death of the children and women killed in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue who is still grieving over the incessant attacks by herdsmen in the state said yesterday he was withdrawing from all political activities until the brains behind the bloodletting are apprehended and brought to book.

Detailing the IGP’s directives in a statement yesterday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, a chief superintendent of police (CSP) said the Commissioners of Police in charge of Benue, Rivers and other contiguous States to the two States and their Supervising Assistant Inspectors General of Police and their personnel are on “red-alert with immediate effect to nip in the bud and prevent further attacks on innocent Nigerians by suspected herdsmen and other criminal elements in the mentioned states.”

He said the Deputy Inspector General of Police Operations has been “dispatched to Benue State to muster, coordinate and supervise the implementation of the new security strategies put in place by the Force to put an immediate end to the senseless killings and violence unleashed on innocent Nigerians by suspected herdsmen and other criminal elements in the two States.”

Besides, police aerial surveillance helicopters, five units of Police Mobile Force; and Police Special Forces were “deployed along with additional conventional Police Personnel, the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Police Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD) and Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams to Benue and Rivers State to work with the Police Personnel on ground – Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID) Personnel. This is to bring new impetus to the efforts of the Force to nip in the bud further attacks in the mentioned states.”

He said the Assistant Inspector General of Police in Zone 4 Makurdi and Zone 6 Calabar “have been mandated by the Inspector General of Police to convey stakeholders meetings in the affected states and also supervise the Police investigation and intelligence teams, and other Police Special Squads deployed by the IGP to the two States.”

The police ‘deeply’ commiserated with the governments and people of the two states over the killings and called for “calm and support for the police personnel deployed to sustain the normalcy that has been restored in the affected States.”

They implored the people to be “vigilant and security conscious” and promptly report suspicious acts or persons to the nearest Police detachment or station for prompt action to avert untoward incidents.

Reacting yesterday to the statement by IGP Idris that the Benue killings were a communal crisis, the President- General of Mzough u – Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege said there is nothing in the state to indicate a clash between any two groups other than “a well -planned and foretold unprovoked invasion by a group that had vowed to resist the anti-open grazing law.”

Continuing, Ugeje said: “It can be recalled that when the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, signed the law on May 22nd, 2017, officials of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore came out publicly to state that they would mobilize and invade the state to resist the law.

“They said the crisis in Benue was a struggle for natural resources since their coming to the Benue Valley predated the present inhabitants.

“This position was widely published by the media across the globe. Moreover, the Benue State Governor, the Speaker of the State Assembly, as well as we leaders of socio-cultural organizations in the state wrote several letters about the threats to the Presidency, the Inspector General of Police and all the relevant security agencies calling for the arrest of leaders of the association who made the threat.

“This development was also widely publicized.

“As the chief police officer in the country, we expected the Inspector General to have a better grasp of the facts of the attacks on Benue people carried out by rampaging Fulani herdsmen from this background.

“If he was quoted correctly, we hope his comments are not part of the grand strategy to misinform Nigerians about the true identities of those behind the recent killing of Benue people in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas.

“Perhaps one pertinent question to ask the Inspector General is which communities in Benue State were involved in the clashes?

“The Nigerian Police is currently prosecuting six herdsmen in Benue State who are suspected to be among perpetrators of the recent killings. It is therefore a contradiction that the Inspector General chose to absolve the herdsmen of culpability in the same crime for which they are being prosecuted by the police?

“It is also contradictory that the Inspector General of Police has ordered ongoing investigation into the killings but has jumped to the conclusion that the situation is communal crisis.

“With his comments, the Inspector General of Police seems to be in agreement with the conspiracy of the Fulani leaders and their position about the crisis in Benue State.”

The group called for the arrest and prosecution of the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bello Bodejo and the group’s National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan who “had repeatedly threatened to mobilize their members across the country to resist implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law enacted by Benue State.”

The position of Mzough u – Tiv is shared by a cross section of Benue citizens.

Emerging from a stakeholders meeting on the issue in Makurdi yesterday, the chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Chief Paul Unongo described the comments by the IG as unfortunate saying the police chief was uncharitable to the people of Benue State.

Governor Ortom said he found it difficult to believe that the IG said what was attributed to him while a youth leader Paul Aondona called for the immediate resignation of the IG saying he lacked the capacity to tackle security challenges in the country if he made such comments.

Addressing the stakeholders meeting earlier, Ortom said he was withdrawing from all political activities until further notice.

This includes his plan for the 2019 election.

The governor said he won’t be involved in any political activity until the incessant attacks by herdsmen were stopped.

The governor said he had reached out to former governor George Akume and the former Senate President David Mark, an indigene of the state to help put an end to the crisis.

Governor Ortom and federal legislators from the state met separately with Interior Minister Abdulrahman Danbazau who was on an assessment visit to the state.

The visit coincided with a protest by women who asked President Buhari to call the herdsmen to order.

In a communiqué at the end of the meeting with Danbazau, the governor and the Benue legislators reiterated their call for the arrest of the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who they accused of threatening, last year, to mobilize their people to resist the anti-open grazing law in the state.

They stressed that except the arrests were made the people of the state would conclude that the federal government was in support of an agenda to dispossess Benue people of their land.

The Minister, accompanied by Ortom visited the hospital where those injured in the attacks were receiving treatment.

He was also at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital mortuary to see the bodies of the casualties.

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