Benue lawmakers slam Buhari says reaction was suspect
Agatu people have accused Fulani herdsmen of embarking on genocidal rampage aimed at decimating them from the map of Nigeria, following incessant attacks which have led to the massacre of hundreds of persons and the mindless destruction of sundry communities.
Spokesman for Agatu communities, Mr Akpa Iduh claimed that the herdsmen had repeatedly carried out unprovoked attacks on their communities destroying farmlands, houses and other institutions, while the Federal Government has paid deaf ears to their entreaties for succour.
However, the claim was rebuffed by Ado Boderi, who represented the Fulani community in a recent meeting between both communities, adducing that criminal elements from both sides have taken advantage of the situation to escalate the crisis.
Boderi said the recent attacks were merely reprisal following the deliberate killing of 10,000 cattle belonging to the Fulani herdsmen whom he described as peaceful and solely focused on their main occupation of cattle rearing.
The attacks, which the former Senate President David Mark, said were deliberate efforts to erase Agatu people from the map of Nigeria, have so far elicited mild reaction from President Muhammadu Buhari who only recent urged the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, to look into the matter.
Dependable sources said Fulani herdsmen allegedly external assistance employing the services of mercenaries to wreck havoc on their hosts’ communities. These mercenaries, who are mostly non-Nigerians, are always armed with sophisticated weapons like AK-47 and other deadly assault rifles.
“I shed tears when I saw old women running from their ancestral homes seeking refuge. It’s pathetic,” said Very Rev Fr John Attah of Justice, Development and Peace of Otukpo Catholic Diocese when asked to comment on the recent massacre of Agatu farmers by suspected Fulani herders.
Attah, who spoke to Nigerian Pilot Saturday at the IDPs camp at the Ochidoma Square Otukpo, said he learnt that those who were not strong enough to run from the marauders were cut down with swords.
Although some pegged the most recent casualty figures at 300, many claimed it was far more since most people in the various communities under siege were displaced and unable to locate their loved ones, most of whom are said to be missing.
Corpses littered most communities of Agatu as are burnt houses and secular institutions like schools, churches, hospitals, police stations etc.
From Ayila to Okokolo, Odugbo, Egba, Aku, Omeikwidi, among other Agatu communities, the rampaging herdsmen turned the serene atmosphere in Agatu into a theatre of war. Corpses lying unburied on the streets could be seen.
The pathetic situation was aptly captured by the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN in the state, Reverend Augustine Akpen Leva during the recent visit of the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase who disclosed he was in the state at the behest of the President, Muhammadu Buhari to assess the situation.
Leva, decried the massacre of children and pregnant women in a most inhuman manner, warning that the crisis would escalate to other parts of the country if the lawlessness is not checked.
“This is war in Benue State. The border between Nasarawa and Benue must be checked. What is happening in Agatu now and other Benue communities is a calculated attempt to stop people from farming.
“Benue is sitting on a time bomb. If it is not checked, it will escalate. The killing of small children and pregnant women is inhuman. What have they done? Do they also pursue their cattle?”
According to Elder Sani Echioda, father of 17 children and one of the displaced persons who hail from Ayila told Nigerian Pilot Saturday at the Otukpo IDP camp: “I saw people falling down as the Fulanis fired their guns at different directions. It was a terrible sight. They also set some houses ablaze, used dynamite to blow up others,” Echioda said.
He said they fled to Otukpo, the headquarters of Idoma land, to seek refuge because the fulanis were using helicopter from Nasarawa Sate.
“They used two helicopters from Nasarawa State to reinforce the marauders. The helicopter landed at Abogbe and Okokolo. They destroyed so many villages like Aku, Egba, Adagbo and Ayila, which they burnt down.
“We have been forced to suspect that it is the government of Nasarawa state that is fighting us, the steps Gov Almakura claims he is taking to restore peace in Benue is a fluke. He is believed to be behind two helicopters which flew in from Abogbe and Okokolo to provide ammunitions to the Fulanis,” Echioda claimed.
The Inspector General, Mr Arase, is alleged to have corroborated the use of helicopters to supply arms to the herders. According to him, unconfirmed reports said the Fulani herdsmen were aided by some persons who dropped sophisticated arms from helicopters, weapons which it was claimed were used to attack, maim and destroy houses and institutions in various Agatu communities.
But the Force Public Relations Officer, an assistant commissioner of police, ACP Olabisi Kolawole, has exonerated the Inspector General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase from statement credited to him that choppers were dropping arms and ammunition at the night in the area.
ACP Kolawole told Nigerian Pilot Saturday that the IGP never made such statement instead it were the villagers who alleged so, and that the IGP monitoring team has found the information to be untrue.
The Force PRO said investigation is still on to fish out the culprits of the gruesome murder of Agatu people by the herdsmen.
Just last week, the federal government, through the minister of interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau, ordered the IGP to ensure that the murderers are apprehended and prosecuted.
Household effects and farm produce like yam and grains were also set ablaze by the marauders who cattle numbering thousands have taken over the homesteads and farmlands. Even churches and business places were not spared.
Helen Musa, a widow from Ayila who said she feeds her ten children through petty trading said her shop all the goods inside were destroyed by the Fulanis.
“I don’t know how I’ll feed my children now that my shop has been set on fire. I did not do anything to any Fulani man yet they came from nowhere and destroyed our source of survival,” Helen lamented
A resident of Okokolo, Joseph Ikwulono, who said he wandered in the bush for several days before arriving in Makurdi, said they were feeding on raw farm produce as they could not cook
Ikwulono who said two of his sons were killed by the suspected Fulani gunmen said: “We heard gun shots from different directions on the fateful Sunday the Fulanis attacked and people started running in search of cover.
“Before I knew what was happening my house was already in flames. But I managed to escape with my wife and children and we wandered in the bush for days until when we got to a neighbouring town from where we were transported to Makurdi”
Meanwhile, members of the Benue parliamentary caucus in the House of Representatives have slammed President Muhammadu Buhari for downplaying what they described as the genocide happening to the Agatu people in the state.
Briefing journalists, the eleven members said it decried the lukewarm attitude of the Federal government towards the ‘jihad’ being waged against Benue people by Fulani herdsmen.
“A genocide that is typical of the Nigerian state has been downplayed or ignored until it spirals out of control. After the Agatu mass massacre, a few headlines were recorded, a few sympathetic comments in high places but concrete moves to stop the killings have not been made.
“ We decry the lukewarm attitude of the Federal government towards this ‘jihad’ being waged against our people by the herdsmen. We condemn the belated reaction of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau (rtd), who broke their unholy silence a week after over 500 people were killed and 10 villages razed in Agatu area of the state’
They wondered why the Federal government has not made public the purported Investigative panel report it set up and has not inaugurated it in the first instance.
According to the lawmakers; “It’s disturbing that every planting season is heralded by serial attacks by these Fulani herdsmen. They also return during the harvesting season.”