Twenty-four residents were killed and 20 others feared missing after suspected herdsmen struck again in Benue State Monday [March 5, 2018] afternoon, residents have said.
Residents of Omusu and two nearby communities in Okpokwu Local Government Area told Premium Times on Tuesday night that the attackers entered their villages around 4:00 p.m. Monday and carried out a two-hour deadly assault.
“They killed people to their satisfaction before they left,” said Attah Alexander, a resident of Omosu community. “It was deliberate and there were no policemen around to stop them.”
The killings come as the state prepares to receive President Muhammadu Buhari, who finally caved in to those calling on him to pay condolence visits to victims of deadly attacks that had left hundreds dead since he assumed office in 2015.
The attackers also struck despite the presence of Nigerian troops in the ongoing peace-keeping exercise named ‘Ayem Akpatuma’ or ‘Cat Race’.
Many of those killed were identified as women and children.
Mr. Alexander, who later joined in emergency efforts, said he was amongst those who counted 24 bodies and moved the injured to the hospital.
“Ten people were taken to the hospital with several injuries from gunshots and cutlasses,” he said. “We’re still looking for 20 people that we’re not sure if they’re dead in the bush or still alive but missing.”
The three villages that were attacked include Omusu, Okana and Okpilikpo, according to residents.
Benue police commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, did not immediately respond to Premium Times’ enquiries about the attack Tuesday night, but Daily Trust quoted the police spokesperson in the state as saying that 16 persons were killed.
Governor Samuel Ortom paid an emergency visit to the area on Tuesday afternoon, railing against the impunity of the killer herdsmen who were said to be on a reprisal attack.
The governor met with the locals in Okpoga, seat of Okpokwu LGA about 155 kilometres southeast of Makurdi, the state capital.
Paul Onuh, a legal practitioner and resident of Okana, told the online newspaper there was an altercation between some herdsmen and villagers on Sunday evening.
Some herdsmen were said to have been brutalised and scores of cows rustled allegedly by some thugs around the communities.
“They came to complain that they were attacked and their cows were rustled during the incident,” Mr. Onuh said. “But no one in this community could carry out such attack.”
The lawyer said he wondered how the herdsmen were able to openly graze across the state during the day despite an absolute ban on their activities.
“It is unfortunate that the herdsmen are still grazing illegally across the state and killing people in the process,” he added
A mass burial for the dead is planned for Friday in the communities.
“The governor has mandated me to respond immediately by providing emergency relief materials to the displaced persons,” said Emmanuel Shior, executive secretary of Benue State Emergency Management Authority.
Mr. Shior feared that the latest disaster would complicate situation for his agency, which is already managing dozens of camps for the internally displaced in the ongoing attacks linked to herdsmen.
Thousands in the IDP camps are complaining of acute food shortages.
via Premium Times