Fresh attacks by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State has allegedly claimed twenty-six lives.
The herders stormed Omusu community in Okpokwu Local Government Area around 3:30 p.m. on Monday and opened fire on the residents. Most of the victims were women, children and the aged.
“The herdsmen came from Ado Local Government Area, through River Ogege. We were holding a meeting when suddenly we began to hear gunshots behind the LGEA Primary School in Idumoga. I ran towards my father’s place but I could not save him because the herdsmen had entered the house. Villagers were running in all directions,” said Peter Ojobo, a survivor.
Another survivor claims “The herdsmen were over 50. They came and started shooting and killing people. They did not even spare women and children. I ran into my house and hid myself when I saw them coming. They went about killing. It was only God that saved me.”
Governor Samuel Ortom visited the community yesterday. He described the killings as unacceptable and regrettable, coming barely hours after the chairman of Okpokwu Local Government Area had held a meeting with the residents and herdsmen following an altercation.
He called for the perpetrators to be brought to book.
He said: “This is the highest level of injustice to our people. How can anyone just wake up and kill 26 persons in one day? What have seven and eleven-year-old children done to warrant this treatment? How can a seventy-year-old man rustle cattle? Rustling of cattle is done by professional herders who, in this case, are still herdsmen.
“This law (anti-grazing) was meant to protect both herdsmen and farmers and is the only solution to the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis. When Zamfara enacted Sharia law, those who could not obey it left the place without causing any problems. Why is the Benue case different?
The Benue State police command on Monday had released a statement saying only 15 persons were killed. It said the attack was a reprisal by the herdsmen who claimed youths in the area had maimed their cows.