Written by: Johnson Babajide, Yinka Oladoyinbo and Ayodele Adesanmi With Agency Report
Sunday, March 13, 2016
EMBOLDENED by their seeming free rein, Fulani herdsmen together with their cattle have taken over Agatu communities in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
The Fulani herdsmen were reported to have invaded the communities about three weeks ago, killing scores and sacking about eight communities.
At Okokolo, one of the worst-hit communities, no single person, apart from the soldiers stationed at the heart of the community, was sighted in the village which used to boast of over 500 buildings.
About 80 per cent of the buildings in Okokolo as well as about 60 per cent of the buildings in another community called Aila had been completely destroyed by the invaders.
A decomposing body was seen at the Government Junior Secondary School, Okokolo, lying face down, suggesting that the person might have been hit by bullet while trying to run from danger.
Social and economic activities were absent, as all schools, health centres, worship centres including police formation were completely razed in the invasion.
What was left of the other hitherto boisterous Agatu communities of Akwu, Adagbo, Okokolo, Ugboju, Odugbeho, Ogbaulu, Egba and Obagaji was debris of the destroyed houses.
On sighting the convoy of a former Senate president, Mr David Mark, the herdsmen and their cattle retreated, only for some of them to fire gunshots at the convoy.
Speaking on the massacre during a seven-hour tour of the affected communities in company with other members of the National and State Assembly from his Benue South Senatorial district, Mark disclosed that those killed by the Fulani herdsmen were in excess of 500, describing the attacks as barbaric, wicked and inhuman.
“I’m shocked beyond words at the extent of destruction I have seen in Agatu today (Friday). This is unbelievable. It is unimaginable. Nothing whatsoever justifies this brazen act of destruction meted out on the people of Agatu. My heart bleeds,” he said.
He remarked that the massacre could not have been accidental, but a suspected planned orchestrated genocide against his people in Agatu communities.
He called on the security operatives to do all that was needed to bring the perpetrators to justice quickly.
The former Senate president urged the villagers not to take law into their own hands but maintain calm, even in the face of unwarranted provocation by the Fulani herdsmen.
At one of the camps for the displaced people, Mark assured them of adequate attention and tasked them not to politicise his visit.
He said the Senate had already begun inquiry into the incident with the scheduled public hearing which he asked them to take advantage of, explaining that his visit was to get first-hand information on the tragic incident.
Meanwhile, the traditional ruler of Ayede Oke-Agi Amuro in Mopamuro Local Government Area of Kogi State, Oba Matthew Obasa, has decried alleged killing of farmers in Amuro communities by herdsmen.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Saturday, the monarch alleged that an ex-councillor in the council, Mr Paul Oluwole, was murdered on Thursday morning on his way to farm by the herdsmen.
Obasa, who described the incident as unfortunate, said the councillor was shot and killed at close range by two herdsmen.
He disclosed that it was not the first time the herdsmen would kill and maim people in the town and neighbouring communities on their farm for no just cause.
“Another woman, who was returning home from farm with her baby on her back was raped and had her hands and breast cut off.
“Our lives and the entire community are not safe from the hand of these evil men, as they go about with guns and other weapons.
“My people can no longer go about their farming activities because of the fear of being attacked by these deadly herdsmen.
“We are calling on government and all security agencies to come to our rescue in Mopamuro as the situation has already gone out of hand,” he cried out.
The monarch urged the Inspector General of Police and the Police Commissioner in Kogi State to ensure that the perpetrators of the crimes were brought to justice.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Williams Anya, said the police were not aware of the incidents but promised that the matter would be investigated.