Another 16 reportedly killed in Benue, 49 corpses for mass burial
Six days after suspected herdsmen struck in six communities in Benue State, leaving about 50 persons dead, Governor Samuel Ortom, yesterday, announced that unclaimed bodies of about 49 victims of the massacre, kept in morgues across the state, would be given mass burial. According to Ortom, the authorities was taking the step because the bodies were already decomposing. The governor, who spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting, held at the Government House, Makurdi, said three days of mourning would be observed in the state ahead of the mass burial. Meanwhile, a community head and 15 others have been reportedly killed by suspected herdsmen in fresh attacks on Tse Akombo, Tse Vii and Tse Agule communities in Logo local government area of the state. Ortom told the stakeholders that the attack on communities in the state had made him to reconcile with former Governor Gabriel Suswam in his quest to finding solution. He further stated that he has decided to withdraw from all political activities pending when the attacks on Benue by herdsmen were over and normalcy returned to every nook and cranny of the state. According to him, for the first time after his election in 2015, he had to pick his phone and put calls across to Suswam and former Senate President David Mark to seek their inputs on how to solve the problem of herdsmen invasion. ‘’I saw this problem as a problem for all Benue sons and daughters beyond party lines, which is why l decided to put sentiment aside, reconciled with relevant stakeholders and sit with them to brainstorm with a view to find lasting solution”, he said. ‘’I cannot be a leader over dead people. 2019 is in God’s hand. This time, there is need for synergy, cooperation and unity among every Benue people across party lines. Therefore, I have reconcile with them, let them join me to push this fight away from Benue’’, Ortom. He appealed to all Benue sons and daughters to team up with his administration irrespective of their tribe, religion and political affiliation to bring to an end the incessant attacks on Benue communities and gruesome killings of Benue people by herdsmen. Ortom stated that additional securitymen had been deployed to Benue even as the Deputy Inspector General of Police ((DIG) Habila Joshak had also arrived the state with a chopper for surveillance, adding that a special anti-terrorist force of the police whose operation would be beyond the shores of Benue would be arriving the state yesterday. In the latest attack,in the state, which reportedly killed 16, invaders, who, it was learnt, also razed the affected communities, left many with injuries while scores were missing or unaccounted for. However, the state Police Command, in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, ASP, Moses Yamu, confirmed the death of 10 persons in the fresh attack. Sunday Vanguard gathered from a resident that “the communities came under heavy attack by well armed herdsmen who stormed the communities late Friday night and operated till the early hours of yesterday. “No fewer than 16 persons have been killed in this attack including the village head of Tse village Elder Mlahaga and Terhile Tyozho a prominent farmer in the area”, the eye witness said. “Another young man from Turan Ward who was displaced by the previous attack among others was also killed while Mr Tyozho’s younger brother and many others are still missing as I speak with you. “At the moment, there is mass movement of the people in the affected communities including women and children. The situation is quite pathetic because the entire area is like a war zone. “So far the corpses of some persons including that of the community head have been retrieved by the fleeing community members. “The fact is that much more must have been killed but we will confirm that in the coming days as more bodies are recovered from the affected communities.” The police, in its statement, indicated that among those killed in the attack were 70-year-old Kwaghve Baki and seven-year-old Suushater Kwaghve. “As we speak a Mobile Police detachment led by the Area Commander in Katsina-Ala local government has been deployed to Logo to forestall further attacks.” “The state government will make coffins for the about 49 dead bodies, 39 from Guma and 10 from Logo LGAs, which have been deposited at various mortuaries”, he stated. Northern Elders Forum disowns Unongo on Atiku In a related development, some northern elders, yesterday, disowned their Chairman, Chief Paul Unongo, on his position that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the chief financier of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, frontally opposed to anti-open grazing legislation in Benue. A member of the NEF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, told Sunday Vanguard, in a telephone interview, that the forum of northern leaders had not met for a long time and had never taken any position on the killings in Benue and many other parts of Nigeria. Yerima, who heads in the youth wing of the northern group, said it was wrong for Unongo to speak on crucial national issues without seeking the position of the apex body, saying that his latest position on Atiku was strictly his personal opinion and had nothing to do whatsoever with NEF. “Our position is that wherever people have committed criminal activity such as the killings in Benue, Rivers, Kaduna and Kwara, it should be given the proper name of criminality and reduced to religious or tribal thing,” Yerima cautioned. “Criminality has no colouration and nobody should change pure criminality to the colouration of ‘Fulani herdsmen’ or religious inclination. The NEF Chairman, Unongo, had accused Atiku of being the chief financier and most influential member of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, the apex body of herdsmen in Nigeria.