-Man loses 2 wives, 3 children
-63 arraigned over Kaduna violence
At least, twenty-six persons have been killed in a fresh attack carried out on Monday evening by suspected herdsmen militia on Omusu, a community in Okpokwu local government area of Benue state.
The attack came just few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari, announced plan to visit some troubled states, including Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara and Rivers, all affected by one form of violence or the other.
The President commenced the visit on Monday with Taraba, where he was reported to have said the number of those killed in the state was more than that of Benue and Zamfara.
It is however not clear when Benue would take its turn to receive the president. But as indigenes of the state look forward to hosting Mr. President, some hoodlums believed to be herdsmen struck in another community, precisely Omusu, killing an octogenarian and 25 others.
The attack, according to our reporter, happened between 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm, with children, women and the old being the worst hit.
One of the local farmers, Mr. Godwin Igoche, lost his two wives and three children in the attack, while in another neighbouring compound, three women and five of their children who had ran and locked themselves in a room during the attack, were found, and murdered by the hoodlums.
Another resident, Eric Attah, who also went to the stream with his wife to fetch water, was also killed by the herdsmen.
Ortom visits scene
Governor Samuel Ortom, in the wake of the attack, yesterday, visited the area for an on-the-spot assessment of damage done by the rampaging herdsmen. One of the survivors, Peter Ojobo, told our correspondent, who accompanied the governor to the affected area, that 35 bodies had so far been recovered.
He said many others were still missing, because the attack was sudden and many people fled into the bush in different directions. Ojobo said his father, an octogenarian, was killed in the attack. “The herdsmen came from Ado local government through River Ogege, where they are camping to attack us. We were in a meeting when we started hearing gunshots behind LGEA Primary School, Omusu, in Edumoga, Okpokwu local government area.
“I ran towards my father’s place, but I could not save him because the Fulani herdsmen had entered our house. The attack led to a chaotic situation and the villagers were running in all directions,” he said. Another survivor, Paul Abba, said when the herdsmen came, his wife and children had run into the bush to escape, but he couldn’t because he had fracture on his leg.
He said: “The herdsmen were over 50 in number. They came and started shooting and killing people. They did not even spare women and children. I ran into my house and hid inside, when I saw them coming. They went round killing; it was only God that saved me.”
Addressing residents of the affected area, Governor Ortom described the killings as “unacceptable,” describing the incident as the highest “level of injustice on the people.” He said the attack on the community was unwarranted, insisting that it was coming few hours after the Okpokwu local government chairman held a meeting with the locals and herdsmen over some skirmishes between them.
“This is unacceptable and the highest level of injustice on our people. How can anyone just wake up and kill 26 persons in one day? What has the seven and eleven-year- old do to warrant this treatment? How can a 70-year-old rustle cattle? “Cattle rustling is done by professional cattle rearers who in this case, are still herdsmen.
This law was meant to protect both herdsmen and farmers and is the only solution to the herdsmen, farmers’ crisis. “When Zamfara enacted Sharia law, those who could not obey it left the place without causing any problems. Why is the Benue case diffrent? If we go by what the Minister of Defence, Dan Ali Mansur, said these are foreign herdsmen, why should we leave our borders porous to allow herdsmen come into the country to kill our people? “This is not right.
The law must be respected. In Benue, we believe in rule of law and that is why instead of taking laws into our hands, we resorted to enacting the law prohibiting open grazing which also provides for establishment of ranches,” the governor lamented.
Police confirm development
However, the state police command had earlier, late Monday, released a press statement indicating that only 15 persons were killed in the attack. According to the police, the attack was a reprisal from the herdsmen who claimed that youths in the area, similarly attacked and maimed their cattle.
The statement added that “a peace meeting was held between the two factions after the incident, only for the herdsmen to launch a reprisal few hours after the meeting.” As at the time Blueprint visited St. Mary Catholic Hospital and General Hospital, Okpoga, 13 injured persons were lying critically at the facilities, while two others were said to have died few hours earlier. The hospital management said four other victims were still in critical condition, while some nine others’ were stable.
63 arraigned over Kaduna violence
Meanwhile, the Kaduna state government has charged 63 persons to court over last month’s violence at the Kasuwar Magani market in Chikun local government area of the state. The February 16 mayhem led to loss of at least 12 lives and destruction of property. The suspects were arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court in Kaduna, the state capital on Friday.
They were charged with alleged criminal conspiracy, rioting while armed with offensive weapons, culpable homicide and inciting disturbance. Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Chris Umar, disclosed this at a news briefing yesterday. According to him, the suspects were arrested by a combined team of security agents deployed to the area following the outbreak of the violence. “As you are aware, several people were killed during the crisis, houses and properties were set ablaze by the rioters carrying dangerous weapons such as knives, bows and arrows, catapults, locally made improved petrol bomb and big sticks.
“A combined team of operatives were mobilised and deployed to the scene and 63 people were arrested in the act. After completion of initial investigation the 63 people were charged before the Chief Magistrate’s Court 6, Daura Road, Kaduna. “The case was mentioned and it was adjourned to the 15th of March, 2018, to enable the police conclude their investigations, while the 63 suspects were ordered to be remanded in prison custody with the exception of one Theophilus Sa’idu who is an under-age person.
” Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, assured indigenes that those arrested would surely be prosecuted to serve as deterrent to orders. He urged the people to go about their normal activities, adding that security agents and the government were working towards protecting their lives and property.