By Soni Daniel, Peter Duru and John Mkom
No fewer than 66 persons were on Wednesday night killed in Benue and Taraba states by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen, with the attacks continuing yesterday.
Scores of others were also killed in Zamfara communities, following a midnight attack by suspected herdsmen.
While 41, according to residents, were reportedly killed in separate attacks on communities in Logo and Ukum local government areas of Benue State, 25 were slaughtered at Jandeikyula village in Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba State.
The killings in Taraba prompted the governor, Darius Ishaku, to align with former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister, Lt. General T.Y. Danjuma, asking the people to rise and defend themselves.
The residents in the Benue communities also said the death toll may rise sharply in the coming hours, as more bodies were still being removed from nearby bushes.
Among the injured victims of the latest attack was 70-year-old Mama Uhaen Ndiisaa, mother of a former chairman of Logo Local Government Area, Mr. Terhemen Ndiisaa, of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The latest attacks came a day after 15 people were killed by gunmen said to be wearing military uniform.
“The first attack happened in Tse Hwer in Ukemberyge/Tsweray Council Ward in Logo Local Government around 6:30 p.m. to this morning,” said a senior state government official who did not want to be named.
He said he had been warned by federal authorities for talking to the media in the past.
“Some people are saying their families are missing, but we haven’t been able to confirm how many exactly,” he said.
“When they arrived at about 6:00 p.m. in Jande-Ikyura in Ukum Local Government Area, the gunmen appeared determined to wipe out the entire community, said another resident of the area who said he had been to the village yesterday morning to witness the aftermath.
Jande-Ikyura is a border community between Ukum LGA in Benue and Wukari Local Government Area in Taraba State.
“It was like they wanted to be sure that all the villagers were killed before they would run back to their hideouts. They killed 22 people who were living there,” said 48-year-old Isaac Ihiev.
Mr Ihiev said three of the attackers who were killed when some youth responded to the assault were found in military uniform.
“Three of them were killed and they dressed like soldiers when their bodies were moved out from the bush,” Mr Ihiev said, adding that he lives in a nearby village that falls under Wukari LGA in Taraba State.
He said efforts were underway to find the missing people.
In his account, Terhemen Ndiisaa told Vanguard on phone: “The herdsmen attacked my community, Igboughur Mbavuur, in Logo Local Government, last night around 10pm, killing two persons.
“This time, they did not burn down houses but resorted to breaking into people’s houses but luckily many were able to flee and escape after they heard the sporadic gunshots in the community.
“Unfortunately, my mother was shot while she was fleeing but she is still alive and many others also sustained injuries.
“As we speak, our people are packing out of our villages and communities and fleeing to any safe place but the truth is that nowhere is safe for now because we cannot tell the next target.”
Also speaking, a former aide of the former governor of the state, whose community was affected in the latest attack, said the group which attacked Igbougher Mbavuur also struck at Tse-Wadr, killing three persons.
“We suspect that the same gang which attacked Igbougher Mbavuur were responsible for the early morning attack on Tse-Wadr in the same Logo local government where they sacked the community and killed three persons, leaving scores with injuries around 5am today (yesterday).
“As we speak, there is palpable fear and tension in several communities of Logo local government, especially those bordering River Benue and Nasarawa State, from where the invaders come to attack our communities.
“Usually, they cross River Benue from Nasarawa State to attack, after which they beat a retreat in a guerrilla fashion.
‘On Danjuma I stand’
“With this development, I am adding my voice and actually toeing the lines of the call by the former Army Chief, Theophilus Danjuma and Governor Samuel Ortom that the people should resort to self-defence.
“I want to affirm to you that as from the 10th of this month till today, there have been continuous attacks everyday in our communities and how long will we watch helplessly while our people are killed like animals? It is, indeed, a source of worry to us all.”
Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to the Acting Governor of the state, Mr. Ogaba Edeh, said the continued killings in the state by herdsmen was saddening.
Edeh said: “It is sad that the killings have continued, despite the presence of security personnel in some of these areas.
“The development stands condemned and its a pointer to the fact that the federal government has to do more to stop these ceaseless killings in the state by herdsmen.”
When contacted the State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, said he was yet to get the report.
“I do not have a record of that, I have mobile police men in those areas and if anything happens and they have not reported it, it means nothing has happened,.” he said.
Also yesterday, the village of Agboughul in Makurdi town was attacked, leading to the death of two persons while several persons were injured.
A resident in the area told Vanguard that the herdsmen stormed the community that is located close to River Benue yesterday afternoon.
“They came this afternoon (yesterday) and started shooting and killed a man who went to the area to dig a well on a plot of land and another.
“The remains of the dead were moved on a motorbike to the ‘D’ Division Police station in Makurdi by angry youths who almost went on rampage.
“Several persons are at the moment moving out of the community, though the Police have moved into the area to ensure that the herdsmen were pushed out of the besieged community.”
Police confirm killings
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent Moses, ASP, Moses Yamu, who confirmed the development, said the State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, also led his personnel to the community.
He said: “I can confirm that two persons were killed in Agboughul community this afternoon by suspected herdsmen.
“The Commissioner of Police has already visited there and he has also deployed a unit of our Mobile Police personnel to the community to ensure the restoration of peace in the area.”
Killer herdsmen defy IGP”s presence
In Taraba State, the herdsmen killed 25 persons at Jandeikyula village in Wukari Local Government area of the state, despite the presence of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who had been on a three-day visit to the state.
Special Adviser to Governor Darius Ishaku on Students’ Affairs, Engr. Samson Tor-Musa, who hails from the area, confirmed the killing in a telephone interview with Vanguard.
He lamented that despite efforts by Governor Darius Ishaku to ensure peaceful coexistence in the state, some people were bent on frustrating his efforts and called for the reinforcement of security in the area.
Also, a former Special Adviser to late Governor Danbaba Suntai, Orbee Uchiv, who hails from Jandeikyula, told journalists that the armed herdsmen invaded the village at about 6pm, opening fire on innocent villagers.
Uchiv said the number of deaths would have been more but for the quick intervention of soldiers on patrol around the area who were coming from Gbeji, a neighbouring town in Benue State where four people were killed on Tuesday.
An eyewitness, who narrowly escaped death in the attack, Mr. Victor Iortim, told Vanguard that the attackers launched attack on the village, killing anybody in sight and burning houses.
“They were numbered close to 200. I went to a neighbouring village and I was on my way back to Jandeikyula when I sighted them.
“I quickly hid in the bush. They were well armed with sophisticated weapons. There was no way I could call home because there was no network on my phone where I hid,” he said.
Wukari Council Chairman, Daniel Adi, confirmed the attack, saying many people were killed.
“Many people were killed in the attack, but I don’t have the casualty figure now. I am on my way to the village now and will give details of the casualty figure and the wounded when I am back from the village.
Police Public Relations Officer, ASP. David Missal, also confirmed the attack, but said details were still sketchy.
The attack came barley 48 hours after the Inspector General of Police IGP. Ibrahim Idris, commissioned a mobile police base in Takum and confirmed reinforcement of three additional units of police personnel to Taraba State to curb attacks in the state.
The IGP, who is on a three-day official visit to Taraba, is still in the state, even as the Army Operation, Ayem Akpatuma, had been extended in Taraba.
Military still aiding wanton killings in Taraba–Gov Ishaku
Meanwhile, Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku of Taraba State, yesterday, cried out against what he called continued military collusion with militias to kill innocent persons in various parts of the state.
The governor spoke when he received the Special Military Panel set up by the Chief of Army Staff to probe the alleged connivance of the military with herdsmen to kill farmers in the state, led by its President, Major General James Nimyel, retd.
The chairman and members of the panel were on a courtesy visit to the Governor at Government House Jalingo at the commencement of their job.
The governor said it was at the height of the wanton killings that the former Defence Minister spoke against the military, saying that the people of the state were solidly behind Danjuma on the statement he made.
According to him, Danjuma spoke the minds of most citizens of the state and Nigeria, describing him as being bold, courageous and that his statement came to all of them as a surprise.
He said considering the reputation of Danjuma, both locally and internationally, his views should not only be respected but should also be commended.
The governor cited the recent development in Takum, where military personnel deployed to the area went into houses and dispossessed them of the their cutlasses, kitchen knives and even took away monies in some houses, while the holders of Ak47 were left to continue with the killings.
He said the killings which had become a daily affair pose a huge challenge to our unity as a country and do not support our desire to remain as one country, especially now that Nigeria is battling to remain united as one country.
Governor Ishaku maintained that nobody in this country would want the repeat of the civil war in this country considering the trauma and hardship that the people experienced within the period the war lasted. ‘Nobody in his right senses would ask for a repeat of those tragic days in our history.’
Governor Ishaku lamented that what he has seen since he became the Governor of the state for about three years is humiliating and disturbing, stating that the killing in the state has been a daily affair, resulting in whole family members being wiped out in some cases.
Ishaku said: “I didn’t sleep yesterday. At 1 o’clock this morning, I was woken up and told that herdsmen militia had attacked again in Tsondi. They fought a fierce battle against the military, but fortunately the Military in Takum came early enough but not less than 14 people were killed.
“The same thing happened again this morning at 3am, the Military in Takum went around beating up youths arresting them from their houses, charging them with some allegations and packed them to the barrack. The citizens are not protected, the citizens are scared to death, the citizens are afraid and yet they are being terrorized.
‘We already have Boko Haram that has not been completely defeated. The herdsmen killing has joined. Who says there could not be a third one?
“As Governor, I was sworn in to protect the lives of my people. I have sworn that what is right should be done, therefore, I will not fear, I will not relent to tell the truth as raw as it may be.”
Governor Ishaku expressed support for the idea of state police to enable state governors deal will urgent security challenges.
Speaking earlier, the chairman of the investigation Panel, Major General James Nimyel (retd) said the panel was in the state to investigate the allegation made against the Nigerian Army during the course of operations in Taraba State with a view to making appropriate recommendations that will assist relevant authorities in making appropriate decisions.
The Military Investigating Panel said the statement made by General TY Danjuma on military collusion with herdsmen killing innocent people in Nigeria should rather be taken seriously and looked into instead of being criticized.
“The activities of the Nigerian Army in the recent past, Military operation, particularly in Taraba State have come under criticism by individuals, interest groups from different sectors of the society, particularly Taraba State Government and Non-governmental organizations.”
“Statements of this nature could and have indeed questioned the reputation of the Armed forces of Nigeria and thus cannot be ignored if the Nigerian Army is to continue to earn the trust and respect of the people of Taraba State in particular and Nigeria at large,” he remarked.
Scores killed in fresh attack on Zamfara villages
Meanwhile, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen on Wednesday attacked two villages in Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara, killing several people.
The bandits attacked a mining site at Kuru-kuru village and also ambushed some people from the neighbouring Jarkuka village as they mobilised to bring help to Kuru-kuru.
A witness, Sadi Musa, said scores of people were killed at the mining site on Wednesday evening which forced the miners to flee for safety.
He said when residents from the nearby Jarkuka came later to join the Kuru-kuru survivors in burying the dead, the gunmen attacked again, and killed more people.
Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in the state, DSP Mohammed Shehu, said “we are aware of the attack but I cannot give you details now until my commissioner is fully briefed.”