Communities in Benue state under siege by suspected armed herdsmen

Communities in Benue state under siege by suspected armed herdsmen

Chief John Antenyi, the Chairman of Apa Traditional Council in Apa Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue state, has raised an alarm over the killing of many of his subjects and sacking of several communities in his domain by suspected armed herdsmen.

The traditional ruler said that communities such as Ikpobi, Odugbo, Akpanta, Ologba, and Oyiji had been taken over by the invaders in a ceaseless attack on his subjects. He also reported that there had been killings and destruction of farm crops in those communities. As a result of the attacks, some of the villages had been deserted, and inhabitants had relocated to Ugbokpo, the LGA headquarters, and some other communities that had not recorded any attacks.

The former Vice Chairman of Agatu LGA, John Ikwulono, also expressed concern over the sustained unprovoked attacks on communities in the LGA. According to Ikwulono, they had no problem with the Fulanis, and there was no provocation. However, the herders came and attacked a community called Atakpa in Agatu, killing over six people and wounding many. They claimed that the grass in the community was the best for their cattle and kept terrorizing the people to force them to desert their homes so that they could take over the place. After invading Atakpa, they also invaded Okpagabi and injured many people, some of whom are still in the hospital. They then extended the attack to Apa LGA, where they wounded some persons and also killed several people.

Reacting to the situation, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Col. Paul Hemba (retd.), confirmed the development, stating that the State had been witnessing a large influx of armed herders and cattle in the last few weeks. He noted that security personnel were overstretched, particularly during the general elections, but assured that with the elections now over, security surveillance would be intensified in the communities. The Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent, SP, Catherine Anene, also confirmed that attacks were recorded in the Apa and Agatu axis of the state, adding that “herders are always moving to the communities including Guma LGA.”

In response to the situation, a committee was set up by the First Class Chief to work in concert with security agencies to chase the herders out. The state government has also sent some security operatives, and a detachment of Operation Whirl Stroke has been deployed to Apa. They are stationed at Odugbo and Ikobi and have been assisting the community in repelling the attackers. The military has also intervened in the attack on Kwande LGA, and the situation has reduced quite a lot. In the last few days, there have been reports of a large influx of armed herders along the Guma LGA axis, and the military is mobilizing to go on patrol along that axis to get them out.

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