By Peter Duru- Makurdi
Benue State has been in the eye of the storm since the beginning of the year following the New Year’s Day murder of over 73 persons in Guma and Logo local government areas (LGAs) of the state by suspected militant herdsmen.
Since then, hardly has a day passed without the state recording attacks, killings and sacking of communities in a manner that has left more questions than answers especially in localities where the people are known for their prowess in agricultural production.
The attacks have also left in their wake a huge humanitarian crisis with close to 500,000 local farmers in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps created by the state government in eight locations in Guma and Logo LGAs.
Curiously, while the state government cried for help from the Federal Government to halt the killings, the marauders got emboldened and unleashed further mayhem on the people. The attacks have left over 500 dead, many unaccounted for and scores with life-threatening injuries.
Before Benue turned into a parlour of bloodbath which though dates back to 2010, the state government, after much agitation from the people, had enacted a law proscribing open grazing in Benue but nonetheless prescribed ranching as panacea to the recurrent alleged herdsmen attacks in the rural communities.
Meanwhile, before the law came into effect on November 1, 2017, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Cultural Association had registered its opposition to the law on the grounds that it was intended to frustrate the trade of herdsmen in the state. The group was alleged to have threatened to resist the law and invade the state with its members from across the nation to express their resentment and even went as far as dragging the state government to court over the matter.
Responding to the threat, the Benue government appealed to the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of the group for prosecution. Till date, the appeal seemed to have fallen on deaf ears while top Federal Government functionaries sang discordant tunes on the root cause of the killings.
While the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Idris Abubakar, blamed the killings on communal clashes, the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali, on his part, said they were a reaction to the enactment of the open grazing prohibition law. Meanwhile, similar killings were going on in several parts of the country where such law did not exist. The people were left to bear the brunt of suspected well-armed militant herdsmen and rivers of blood flowed freely in the rural communities of Benue.
A timeline of the killings shows that on January 5, while the outcry that greeted the New Year’s Day was yet to die down, five persons in Ukemberagya/Tswarev ward of Gaambe-Tiev in Logo LGA of the state were murdered in cold blood by marauders.Click to continue reading.