• Man loses two wives , three children
• Killings, reprisals over maimed cows, say police
Twenty- six people have been allegedly killed in the latest attack by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.
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, Paul Abba , told The Guardian: “ 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 . ”
One farmer , Godwin Igoche, lost his two wives and three children in the attack .
Three women and five children who had locked themselves up in a room were found slaughtered. One Eric Attah , who with his wife had gone to the stream to fetch water , was also killed .
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?
“If we go by what the Minister of Defence, Dan Ali Mansur , said that these are foreign herdsmen , why should we leave our borders open to allow herdsmen come into the country and kill our people .
“This is not right . The law must be respected . In Benue , we believe in the rule of law and that is why , instead of taking laws into our hands , we enacted the law prohibiting open grazing, which also provides for the establishment of ranches. ”
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 .
The statement added that following the alleged maiming, a peace meeting was held between the two factions before the killings few hours later.