Thousands Pay Last Respect As Benue Buries 73 Victims Of New Year Day Attacks

Omololu Ogunmade, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja, George Okoh in Makurdi and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka

It was a moment of agonising grief and heart-rending emotions Thursday in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, when the bodies of 73 persons killed by suspected herdsmen on new year day were laid to rest.

Before the mass burial organised by the Benue State Government, thousands of people had trooped out as early as 6 a.m. to the IBB Square to participate in the highly emotional requiem mass.

Reflecting the sadness of the occasion, several elders and politicians from the state expressed their bitterness over the slaughter of their people and decried the federal government’s inaction in nipping the herdsmen’s menace in the bud.

The governor of the state, Samuel Ortom, lamented that the state was looking forward to a better year when the herdsmen invaded and murdered in cold blood pregnant women, children and the elderly.

He said the state lost 73 persons to the attack, with many others sustaining various degree of injuries.

“For several years these attackers have turned our beautiful and endowed land into their killing fields and the main reason has been the clashes between herdsmen and farmers, but these attacks have intensified with alarming devastation since 2011,” he said.

He disclosed that since the attacks started in 2011, 13 out of the 23 local government areas in the state had borne the onslaught of the cattle herders, adding that several lives had been lost over the years.

He also used the occasion to reiterate his opposition to the cattle colonies being proposed by the federal government, saying the ranches proposed under the Anti-Open Grazing Act enacted by his state had provided the right incentives to end the conflicts between herders and farmers in the state.

He said the herdsmen had failed woefully if they thought that by killing innocent citizens, his administration would be forced to repeal the law and again called on the federal government to arrest the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a faction of the main cattle dealers’ association.

He maintained that since the state does not have adequate land for farmers, there was insufficient land for colonies that map out grazing routes.

Also speaking, Chairman of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Wantaregh Paul Unongo, said if the federal government continues to fail in its responsibility in protecting the lives and property of Benue citizens, Benue people will be left with no option than to train its own army in the state to defend themselves.

“Benue people have sacrificed enough blood for the unity of this country and would not allow a section of terrorists to come and kill our people in cold blood.

benue gov

“I am begging Nigerians that my people cannot continue to be the canon fodder of this country. If government can’t protect us, we will mobilise and train our people into an army to defend us.

“We are 100 per cent in support of what Governor Ortom has done. I am the spiritual leader and from the ancestry of the Tiv nation, enough is enough,” he said.

Unongo stressed that the entire people of the state were watching President Muhammadu Buhari and have joined in the persistent calls by the governor that the federal government should take drastic steps to urgently address the killings and also arrest the leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who had openly threatened mayhem over the enactment of the Anti-Open Grazing Law in the state.

Another prominent Benue indigene, General Lawrence Onoja (rtd.), who described the killings in the state as a genocidal conspiracy against the Benue people, stressed that the killings must not continue.

“Some of us in 1966 fought the Nigerian civil war. Benue has contributed to the unity of this country. Therefore if the federal government refuses to address the killings in Benue, we would have to defend ourselves,” he said.

He appeal to the federal government to replicate “Operation Python Dance” or “Fulani Dance” and urged the people of the state to rally round the governor for the successful enforcement of the Anti-Open Grazing Law.

A former member of the National Assembly, Senator J.K.N Waku, also said that the Benue people were known to be peace loving, saying that they had endured enough.

According to him, “It is unfortunate that someone would oppose a law that is legally enacted and begin to kill people and the federal government refuses to wade in order to end the carnage. This is enough provocation; nobody has a monopoly on killing. Enough is enough.”
A former governor of the state, Senator George Akume, stated that the primary aim of government is to protect lives of the citizenry and urged the federal government to proscribe the Miyetti Allah faction and declare them terrorists, saying that their actions were treasonable.

He appealed to the Benue communities not to take the law into their hands, but to follow the path of peace and reconciliation, and continue to pray together as one indivisible family, in order to overcome the conflict.

In his remarks, the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, Prof. Jame Ayatse, decried the fact that his people who are residing in Nasarawa and Taraba States were being murdered by the herdsmen on a daily basis since the Benue killings started.
“There is ethnic cleansing agenda going on. We must bring an end to these killings. This is the 47th time that herdsmen have attacked Benue people and killed them mercilessly,” he charged.

He said Buhari must rise as a man of integrity to arrest the situation, adding that the people of Benue voted massively for him and so he must not allow them to be eliminated before his tenure ends.

He thanked those who came from other states to condole with the Benue people and prayed that such mindless and heinous killings should never happen again in the state.

The Tor Tiv enjoined the governor not to be weighed down by the herders’ attacks, counselling that he must continue to do the needful in his bid to bring peace and tranquility to the state.

He assured Ortom that the Benue traditional rulers were solidly behind him.
Also, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Akpe Leva, commended the governor for his charisma and love, adding that the spirit of the departed ones and the God of Benue will rise up to torment the “suspected terrorists” who had brought tears and sorrows to the state.

Narrating his ordeal, one of the survivors of the attacks, Akaatenger Azinga, said he was in his house sleeping with his wife when the attackers came and knocked on his door and his wife went to open it, only for her to be captured and slaughtered by the attackers.
“I heard my wife scream because they came in the dead of the night and when I went to try and rescue my wife, I discovered that they had slaughtered her.

“The next thing, they started chasing me with machetes but I escaped narrowly to a nearby bush,” he said.


Sign up for Updates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of new posts by email.