MUSA UMAR BOLOGI in the entourage of the army leadership to the trouble spots of killings by armed militias in Benue and Taraba states reports on the efforts of the army in bringing the menace to an end.
Beauty amidst threat Three soldiers stood inside the trench with a machine gun mounted on sand bags facing the river. They are going to be here under rain and sun, keeping vigilance – spot armed herdsmen that will come from the forest to attack the village on top of the hill.
Troops were also stationed in other locations from the village to prevent possible attack by the criminals.
Front the top of the hill, the beautiful vegetation down the valley is a sight to behold. It is a meeting point of two rivers – River Benue and River KatsinaAla – both casting a beautiful beach as the flow west ward. Across the river is a forest. and settlements of fishermen. It is from here that armed militias are harboured. What, for years, has been the nature’s gift to the people of Gbajimba community in Guma Local Government of Benue state is now a thing of fear.
“The criminals hide inside the forest and in the night they will sneak into the village, and start to kill people from one house to another,” says Dominick, Secretary Guma Development Association.
When it is raining is another good time for them to attack. By that time everybody is in-door. The criminals will come and knock at the door when you come out they will market you and when you try to run they will shot you with gun.” Benue state is the food basket of the country, and Gamu local government produces the highest food crops in the state.
However, this is now being threatened by the activities of armed militias, who also attack farmers on the farms. In February, the Nigerian Army launched exercise Ayeam Apkatuma aka “Cat Race” to stop the activities of the criminals. The exercise lasted for 46 days and recorded some successes. However, after a while, armed herdsmen attacks in Benue communities began again.
Like Gbajimba, like Anyibe Gbajimba and Anyibe community has many things in common. Like Gbajimba, Anyibe village in Logo Local Government Area of Benue state is also a riverine area. River Katsina-Ala. flows westward the village, and makes a little curve as it passed behind a mountain. Also across the river is a forest where the armed herdsmen hide. “Before this time we have been living in peace with our herdsmen, but in 2013 we begin to experience that some of them begin to move about with riffle and become very hostile,” says Richard Inago Edward, Chairman Logo Local Government Area. “They and began to penetrate everywhere, and kill kill everybody in their homes and farms.”
Challenge of tough terrain “The challenges we have is that some of the attacks are in the late hours and we don’t have good roads, so communication network is difficult,” Torvini said. “Some communities are not easily assessable because of lack of good roads, so mobile policemen that were stationed here before find it difficult to penetrate. They only moved where the road stops.”
It takes about three hours to get to Ayelabo village by road, and from here one takes a rough part to Anyibe village, which is about 20 kilometers from the main road. There were more than ten villages along the rough road to Ayinbe, but all without people. Cassava farms with the crop fully grown lays in both sides of the road, without people around to harvest them. They had deserted their communities after series of herdsmen attacks.
The chief ’s directives The chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was in the hot spots in Benue state to assess and re-strategise the military operation in the area, with a view to ensuring a quick stop to the killings by the militias. After assessing the two locations – Gbajimba and Anyibe- the army chief directed deployment of more troops and logistics to the areas to enhance rapid response to flash points.
“The terrain is one major challenge of operation here, and even the troops deployment,” he said. “So we need to see them so that we can address these challenges, especially the issue of mobility, additional troops and communication, and even additional weapon that they will require. And we hope very soon these criminal activities will come to a final stop.”
He appealed to the residents of the area to always provide the military with useful information on the movement and hideouts of the criminals. “On our own part we will continue to ensure that our troops perform their duty professionally, and anybody that is taking the laws into his hands will be dealt with accordingly,” he said. “Be rest assured that the federal government is very much concern. The Defence headquarters is mobilizing all assets, including the personnel in all the services to make sure that this place and other areas