21st June, 2011
Barely one month after Fulani herdsmen invaded Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, they have struck again, killing twenty-five persons including an Army Officer identified as Lieutenant Chinedu Anyanwu.
It has been three days of sustained invasion Â by the armed herdsmen of villages and towns in the border communities of Guma. Â
In addition, over 6,000 persons have been rendered homeless,Â most of them taking refuge in camps far away from their homes to avoid being attacked by the herdsmen who strike at night. Â
The invading herdsmen have also burnt down more than 1,000 homesteads in close to 100 compounds in the affected area close to Udei town, the largest settlement in the area.Â
Hundreds of displaced persons are now quartered in camps situated in Ortese, Daudu and Yelwetta, where the Benue State Emergency Management Agency has provided relief materials and healthcare service for them.Â
An eye witness, Maureen Tar, who fled with her children to Makurdi to stay with relatives said that the herdsmen first invaded Udei area in the early hours of Sunday morning, overpowering the soldiers and mobile policemen deployed to the area.Â
According to her, the invading herdsmen were close to 100 and travelled on horse-back and foot to get to the villages in the area.
Already, Benue State Deputy Governor, Steven Lawani on Tuesday visited displaced persons’ camps in Daudu and Yelwetta, where he assured the people that the state government would not abandon them at this moment of grief.Â Â
The deputy governor said Â that the State Government would liaise with the Nasarawa State Government to find a lasting solution to the border crises which have led to loss of lives and property.
Confirming the incident , the Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Ejembi Ogwuche said Â that the government was aware of the death of the army officer and the case of another missing soldier.Â
Contacted, the Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Alaribe Ejike confirmed the conflict in the Benue-Nasarawa border between herdsmen and farmers, but added that the area of fighting was not within the jurisdiction of the State Police Command.Â
He said that people on the Benue side of the border have fled their homes because of the fear of attacks from neighbouring Nassarawa State.Â
The invasion are believed to be reprisal attacks by the herdsmen after armed farmers killed the herdsmen’s traditional ruler, Ardo of Kardarko, Alhaji Habibu Dono and four others last month during the armed conflict.
Soldiers were drafted to assist mobile policemen restore peace to the area.Â The herdsmen were said to have served notice of reprisal attacks to the communities around Udei thereafter.Â
The attack started early in the year and more than 100 persons have lost their lives in four Benue State local areas of Guma , Gwer West, Gwer and Makurdi Â since the herdsmen started invading the four council areas inÂ January in the wake of the conflicts between the herdsmen and farmers.
By Ubong George/Makurdi