Funeral rites, were yesterday, conducted for the souls of the 73 victims killed by suspected herdsmen in Logo and Guma local government areas of Benue state amid tears and wailing. The victims were killed variously between January 1 and 6.
The solemn event was organised by the Benue state government to honour the victims, described in the state as, ‘heroes of Benue AntiOpen Grazing Law. The state governor, Samuel Ortom, had in respect of the slain victims, declared a threeday mourning, beginning from Tuesday with Thursday as work-free-day. For the mass burial, shop and markets in Makurdi, the state capital, and major towns of the state, were all closed by the traders in honour of the victims.
It was tears and mourning as the bodies of the deceased were conveyed in five trailers and six hummer bus ambulances to the IBB Square, where a service was conducted for the dead. The service which started at about 12 noon ended around 3:30pm, with final interment taking place around 4:15 pm.
Speaking at the funeral service, Governor Ortom said the state had looked forward to start the New Year with renewed hope when the people were invaded by the hoodlums.
He said from the beginning of the year to after one week, more than 73 people were murdered, with several others missing, while many who sustained various degrees of injuries were still receiving treatment. According to the governor, people of the state have been pushed to the wall and would no longer tolerate the killing of its people.
“We have been killed, we can no longer tolerate this. The federal government and security must protect us or the blood of those killed will cry and God will listen and fight for them.
”We took the decision to collectively mourn for those killed in the current attack and also accord them mass state funeral to underscore the fact that their blood was spilled after a formal declaration of war on Benue state.
“Our sons and daughters, pregnant wives, children, fathers and mothers were slaughtered like animals. What is happening in Benue state should be a lesson to all. The problem is surely not in our law, it is with the green grass and water wherever found in Nigeria.
“Our law is progressing steadily as 20 persons caught contravening the law have been charged to court. States including Zamfara, Adamawa, Cross River, Niger, Kaduna, Abia, Ogun among others, have not enacted anti-open grazing law but are under attack by the herdsmen.”
Earlier, the Tor Tiv V, and Chairman Benue Council of Chiefs, Prof James Aytse, said what was happening was not just in Benue, but Nasarawa and Taraba states too, describing the killings as ethnic cleansing, and urged the federal government to rise up and end the carnage.
Meanwhile, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has commiserated with the government and people of Benue state on the occasion of the mass burial of the victims of the recent suspected herdsmen attacks. Ekweremadu expressed sadness over the preventable loss of lives in Nigeria and reiterated his call for decentralised policing in the country.
He said: “This is a black Thursday, not only for the people of Benue State, but also for the entire nation. My heartfelt condolences go to the government and people of Benue state as the victims of the suspected herdsmen attacks are committed to mother earth.
“While I join fellow Nigerians to pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of the victims and fortitude to those who lost their loved ones, let me reiterate that we must avert such future occurrences by urgently rethinking our security system.
“As I have always maintained, the reasonable thing to do right away is to decentralise our police system to enable every federating unit to take its fate in its own hand in effectively protecting the lives and property of its citizens and residents. This is the primary object of government”.