Benue under siege as herdsmen kill over 500 in Agatu, Otukpo, Apa

Benue under siege as herdsmen kill over 500 in Agatu, Otukpo, Apa

Published on February 12, 2024

By Ameh Comrade Godwin

Benue State, the nation’s food basket, is trapped in an endless crisis.

Residents of over 200 villages now find themselves targeted on a daily basis by heavily armed herdsmen, reportedly cloaked in military camouflage.

DAILY POST gathered that over the past three months, the toll has been staggering, with over 500 lives allegedly lost within three local government areas in Benue South Senatorial District, known as Idoma land.

Villages in Otukpo, Apa and Agatu LGAs are bearing the brunt, with reports of marauders butchering several locals, leaving many homes completely burnt down and numerous residents still missing.

The perpetrators, however, remain elusive, with no one claiming responsibility for the heinous attacks, though locals point fingers at ‘Fulani herdsmen.’

Bloodbath returns to Agatu

Agatu, which enjoyed relative peace in recent years, has once again been visited with bloodbath, extending to neighbouring communities and local government areas like Apa and Otukpo.

The latest wave of violence that ravaged Agatu, left communities like Ogwumogbo, Ikpele, Ejima, Okokolo, Olegomakwu, Olegonyilo, Nahem, Ocholonya, Abugbe, Ugboju, Odugbeho and Olegobidu decimated, with numerous lives lost.

What started as a mere flicker of unrest in Agatu has now erupted into a full-blown war, spreading to villages like Umogidi and Entekpa areas of Adoka in Otukpo.

Idoma youths face armed men with limited resources

A local source revealed that over 700 armed men have surrounded Otukpo, Apa and Agatu villages with no security personnel in sight to challenge them at the moment.

Despite the valiant efforts of Idoma youths from Ohimini who volunteered to defend their ancestral homes, they are faced with formidable adversaries armed with highly sophisticated weapons like MG3, Heckler & Koch G3, AK47 and other dangerous arms.

Villagers have also continued to bemoan the scarcity of security personnel in the affected areas.

A local vigilante, who refused to be named, recounted a recent encounter with security personnel, who rather than offering protection, warned against any retaliatory actions.

He told our reporter, “We, the youths from Ohimini and Ugboju, came here to help our brothers and sisters, but things turned out really tough.

“The security people who were supposed to protect us didn’t do a good job.

“When we got here, one of them warned us that if we shoot without caution, they would take away our guns.

“We only have dane guns, also called ‘shakabula’, with 10 rounds of ammunition.

“But when we went into the forest, things were much harder than we thought. The enemies we faced were too difficult to handle, and we had to retreat.”

In a widely circulated video obtained by our reporter, one of the volunteers currently on the battlefield revealed what the villagers were going through.

According to him, the attackers seem to be on a mission to erase the Idoma community from the map of Nigeria.

“We’re about 50 youths from the neighbouring communities, and when we arrived here, the situation was way beyond our expectations. Facing these people with our dane guns is a suicide mission.

“They are fully clad in military uniforms. Unfortunately, we fell into their ambush, and they killed four of us.

“Currently, we are trying to retrieve the bodies from the bush to prevent them from decaying, but we no longer have ammunition. These attackers shoot on sight.

“We urge the government to come to our aid. Idoma leaders, please help us.

“We are under siege, our land is under attack, and they are slaughtering us like chickens.

“Without any provocation, they unleash gunfire on anyone in their line of sight. Our land is besieged, and we’re left bewildered about what led to this,” he lamented.

The military has also not been spared from the ongoing onslaught.

Just last week, Operation Whirl Stroke suffered a significant blow after losing three of its members in a coordinated attack perpetrated by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Agatu.

In a detailed account of the invasion by the marauding herders and the huge cost paid by his troops to secure Agatu, the OPWS Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Sunday Igbinomwanhia, explained that his troops deployed to the Agwu community reacted following the huge number of people fleeing the Okokolo community penultimate Thursday.

According to him, “On inquiry, the troops were informed that terrorists suspected to be armed herdsmen were advancing towards the town to attack it.

“The troops immediately mobilised and proceeded to the community, which is about 15 kilometres from their base.

“The success achieved was, however, at a huge cost, with three of the troops paying the supreme sacrifice to prevent the killing of the inhabitants of Okokolo and the intended sacking of the community.”

A helpless state

The community volunteer guards, established in August 2022 under the leadership of former governor Samuel Ortom to enhance community security, find themselves grappling with helplessness in the face of the escalating war.

A member of the guard, who expressed dissatisfaction, pointed out that the current government is not giving them the necessary support and attention they need.

According to the guard member, Governor Hyacinth Alia should set aside politics and come to the rescue of his people.

He pleaded, “This is not the time for politics. The governor is not really giving us the attention and the necessary support. We expected him to do more because this fight is beyond the police or army alone.

“We are residents of these communities. We know all the corners and can contribute in our own small way to support the other security agencies.

“If this continues, one day, you might wake up to find that Idoma land has been taken over by Fulani herdsmen.”

Worried over the worsening situation, the senator representing Benue South Senatorial District and Senate Minority Leader, Comrade Abba Patrick Moro last week moved a motion on persistent attacks on Benue South communities and called on the senate for quick intervention.

Senator Moro, in his motion decried the persistent attacks on his constituents by armed men suspected to be bandits and without a single arrest by security operatives.

He mentioned the Thursday, January 18, 2024 unprovoked and ruthless attack on Okokolo, Abuge and Ocholonya communities of Agatu Local Government Area, which left in its wake loss of many lives and wanton destruction of several means of livelihood worth hundreds of millions of naira.

Meanwhile, the Idoma Association USA, a socio-cultural organization, has strongly criticized both the state and the federal governments for standing by idly as Idoma land faces turmoil.

During a news conference held recently, the president of the group, Edwin Ochai, called upon the leaders of Idoma land to resist and confront what he described as a war of attrition going on in Benue.

He said, “It is unacceptable that our people are left defenseless, homes destroyed, and farm produce decimated.

“We implore the Federal Government of Nigeria to step in promptly and take decisive action to bring an end to these heartless attacks that have turned our land into a killing field.

“The safety and well-being of our fellow Idoma citizens must be prioritized, and justice must prevail.

“We urge our members to raise awareness, mobilize resources, and engage in advocacy efforts to ensure that the voices of the victims are heard and that lasting solutions are implemented.”

Meanwhile, while reacting to the claim that the security men are not on ground, OPWS Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Sunday Igbinomwanhia, said an operation was already underway to track the marauders.

He said the OPWS will carry out its mandate as directed by the Chief of Defence Staff to ensure the security of lives and properties in the Force Joint Operations Area

Source: https://dailypost.ng/2024/02/12/benue-under-siege-as-herdsmen-kill-over-500-in-agatu-otukpo-apa/?utm_source=operamini&utm_medium=feednews&utm_campaign=operamini_feednews

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