Since the dawn of the New Year Fulani herdsmen have been on rampage in Benue and Taraba states where many Nigerians have been killed, with the federal being deliberately clueless in stopping the carnage
- Olu Ojewale
NO. Nigeria is not in a state of war. The world can also attest to that. But that seems to be the message being passed as Fulani herdsmen took laws into their hands and brazenly attacked innocent Nigerians in a guerrilla faction, killing many of them and rendered thousands of others homeless.
From the eve to the dawn of the New Year, reports of violent attacks of innocent Nigerians in Benue, Taraba and adjourning states have continued and still remain the lead stories in the media. The attacks have left several homes in Benue and Taraba states mourning, scattered and moaning their losses.
But the security agencies have been unable to protect the people and arrest the Fulani herdsmen behind the devastating and wanton killings unlike the despatch with which they handled security threats in the South East and South South to quell the Indigenous People of Biafra whose members do not carry arms, and Niger Delta militant crisis. This has caused a great debate in the country whether Nigeria is united and whether the government is favouring one ethnic group against the majority of others primarily because President Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani and a patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association before he was elected into office.
Amidst the outcry from Nigerians about the ineptitude of government in checking the wanton killings of the Fulani herdsmen, both Benue and Taraba states in the Middle Belt of Nigeria buried corpses of their loved ones. The burial saw the outpouring of outrage and calls by prominent Nigerians to declare Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
The grief felt by the affected communities was driven home on Tuesday, January 9 and Thursday, January 11, when Taraba and Benue states conducted mass burials for the fallen victims of Fulani herdsmen.
In Taraba State, killer-herdsmen attacked Donadda, Lavoro, Katibu, Didango and Maku communities on Monday through Tuesday, January 9, and set the entire communities ablaze after killing anyone in sight. More than 200 homes and huge piles of foodstuff were also destroyed, while hundreds of people deserted their homes.
Of about 55 victims killed during the attacks, mass burial was conducted for 25 recovered bodies. The mass burial which attracted government officials, family members and sympathisers was also witnessed by policemen and soldiers who cordoned off the area as the burial was hurriedly done by angry youths amid fear of the attackers coming for them.
Even then, there was an outpouring of grief as relatives of the victims and sympathisers who witnessed the burial wept uncontrollably. In their annoyance, they rained curses on the federal government for failing to secure the lives of the citizenry across the country.
They debunked insinuations that the attacks were a fall out of the crisis between Bachama farmers and the Fulani militia in Adamawa State, insisting that they were attacked without provocation.
Narrating her ordeal, Paulina Haila, a mother of four who lost her husband in the attack, alleged: “My husband was slaughtered like a goat in my presence by the Fulani people. They razed our community and in my village alone 35 persons were killed. Are the Fulani herdsmen fighting a war with Christian communities in Taraba State? Why are they killing us for no reason?” she asked.
Titus Makovini, a pastor, another victim who spoke to newsmen, said the attackers entered the community church and slaughtered some worshipers, as well as some of those who ran into the church for refuge while others fled into the bush.
He claimed that for the two days that the attacks lasted, there was no security reinforcement in the various communities which were currently deserted as most people had moved into the internally displaced persons, IDP, camp in Jalingo, the state capital.
According to reports, most of the bodies mainly of children, women and elderly, were recovered from burnt houses, bush paths and farmlands. Some of the bodies had swollen. Victims were said to have tried to escape from the marauders, but were hacked down by another set of herdsmen who ambushed them in large numbers.
Their attackers used mostly “sophisticated guns and poisoned knives” to carry out the massacre, described by many as “genocide.”
Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State accused the elite of masterminding the killings based on their territorial ambition for political and economical control of the state. He, therefore, urged Nigerians to pray for the country.
David Akinremi, Taraba State commissioner of Police, on Tuesday visited the affected area to see things for himself. Although no arrest were made. The police chief alleged that “the attackers came from neighbouring Adamawa State, where they are already at war with the Bachama ethnic group.”
Some victims lamented their ordeals to this medium. David Jonathan, a cleric from Katebu tribe, in an emotion-laden voice, said: “We don’t deserve this, because we didn’t provoke anyone.”
In a similar and more elaborate faction, Makurdi, the Benue State capital Thursday, wore a sombre look as the burial of 71 persons massacred by Fulani herdsmen took place. The burial ceremony was organised by state government for the victims after three-days of mourning period for the dead. Governor Samuel Ortom, who led the proceeding, had ordered three days of mourning that started on Tuesday, January 9.
At the conclusion of the period of mourning on Thursday, the government held a memorial service in honour of all the victims at the IBB Square in Makurdi, the state capital.
Families of the victims and hundreds of mourners, with most donning black attires, attended the memorial service amid outpouring of tears and anger at the attacks.
The memorial service was attended by Ortom, state government officials and other dignitaries such as John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the All Progressives’ Congress, APC; Gelorge Akume, former Benue State governor, and Michael Aondoaka, a former minister of Justice.