From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
It was a black day of loud lamentation, sorrow and wailing. Last Thursday was a sad day in Benue State, as the 73 caskets bearing the lifeless bodies of those killed by Fulani herdsmen on their ancestral land were buried.
The remains of the victims, some of whom were killed in their sleep, on their farms or in the market, were conveyed in five pall loaders and six ambulances to the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida Square, venue of the requiem in their honour.
Thousands of Benue indigenes, from all walks of life and mostly dressed in black, thronged the venue, even as solemn music softly poured out from loudspeakers around the venue.
A few visitors from other parts of the country, including the All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman, John Oyegun, and a senator from Nasarawa State, also came to identify with the state government during its moment of grief.
The church service went on solemnly as bible readings were taken by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and his deputy, Engr. Benson Abounu, while Bishop William Avenya of Catholic Diocese of Makurdi gave the sermon.
Women who had come in their thousands from across the 23 local government areas of the state could not hold their grief; their tears flowed in torrents. Many wailed loudly as the burial service progressed.
But while the programme was going on, all that kept ringing in the mind of 17-year-old Terkumbu Iorpuu-Ger, whose father, Iorpuu Ger, was also butchered by the herdsmen, was how she would achieve her dream of going to secondary school, which her late father had promised her.
Terkumbu, a primary six pupil of St. Catherine’s Nursery and Primary School, Makurdi, had travelled to the village in Anyii, Logo Local Government Area of Benue State to celebrate the Yuletide with her parents when, suddenly, the messengers of death came calling.
Recounting what happened that day, Terkumbu, who is the first of her parents’ four children, said that, on January 2, there were rumours of an impending attack on their village, which made her father to ask their mother, Ngunaan to take them into hiding while he stayed back.
“We left and went into hiding, but he stayed back with other men in the village. The next morning, about 6am, we heard sounds of gunshots coming from our village. Even where we were, we became so afraid that they might come. After a while, the gunshots subsided and then, a few hours later, one of my father’s friends came and broke the news to us that my father had been killed by the Fulani.”
Terkumbu, who broke into tears, wondered what would be her fate now that her benefactor, who until his death was a member of the Benue State Livestock Guards, had been murdered in cold blood.
“My father promised to put me through secondary school. Now that Fulani herdsmen have killed him, my hope and those of my three younger siblings have been dashed. Will I ever go to secondary school? Who will pay my school fees? Why did Fulani herdsmen choose to kill my father at this time?
“I was staying with my uncle in Makurdi but only went home to celebrate Christmas with my parents when this calamity happened. I am finished! So it’s true that my father is no more,” Terkumbu lamented.
Terkumbu was not alone. Isaac Iordyer, 52, and his wife, Mtsengor, have been inconsolable since their 26-year-old son, Teryem, was also hacked down in cold blood in Tse-Iordyer in Guma Local Government Area of the state.
Speaking to our correspondent at the venue of the burial, Mr. Iordyer said, on January 3, the entire family was in the village when, suddenly, around 3pm, the Fulani came and surrounded their village with machetes and guns, shooting sporadically and killing anyone and anything in sight.
“When the Fulani came, every one of us ran into hiding. Unfortunately, while he was also running away, my son, Teryem, was caught and butchered by the Fulani like a ram.”
On her part, Teryem’s mother, Ngunaan was tense throughout the inteview with Daily Sun. At a point, she noted “I feel so sad right now. In fact, I am inconsolable because Teryem was my first son and I was already looking forward to the day he would come home with a wife. Now, that will never happen.”
She, however, commended the state government for giving all the victims a decent burial.
Charles Iordyer, Teryem’s uncle, noted that this was the sixth time the herdsmen were attacking the village. He urged the federal government to łocate a military base at the border between Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State and Guma Local Government Area of Benue State to end the incessant herdsmen’s attacks.
On January 5, Tsav Kulever Daniel watched helplessly as five of his brothers and Kwaver Baki, their septuagenarian father, were murdered in their sleep by the Fulani herdsmen in their Tombu village in Logo Local Government Area.
“The Fulani killed five of my brothers who were sleeping in their room that fateful day. It was early in the morning and every one of us was still sleeping because we were not expecting any such invasion. Suddenly, they came and while some of us ran for our lives, my brothers were not so lucky,” he said.
First son of Pa Kwaver Baki, Terhemen Silas Kwaver, said he lost his father and younger brother, Suusha, to the Fulani invasion.
He said both his father and Suusha were sleeping in the same room when the Fulani came by 1amm and were shot and then butchered like cows by the invaders.
Similarly, for Mrs. Philomena Ngaana, and Mama Kuher Gwa, the day their brother, Julius Gwa, a civil servant, was hacked to death at Umenger village in Guma by the Fulani will ever remain indelible in their lives.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Udende, the member representing Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, has condemned what he termed the wanton killing of over 73 people by Fulani herdsmen in parts of Logo and Guma councils in Benue State, even as he accused the leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore of masterminding the attacks. He called for their arrest and prosecution.
The federal lawmaker described the unprovoked attacks on his constituents as barbaric and wicked, stressing that the aim of the raids was to dislodge the farming communities from their homes during the time of harvest.
He recounted how Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a splinter body of cattle breeders in the country, had issued threats to sack Benue, if the state government implemented the anti-open grazing law, which seeks to bring to an end incessant cases of herders/farmers’ clashes, Udende, deputy chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs, said that the Benue State Government and other stakeholders had earlier drawn the attention of security agencies and the Federal Government to the impending herders’attack but no security measures were put in place to protect the people.
He said the negligence aided the recent attacks, which went unchecked for days.