- Ortom alleges murder of 60 more people in Benue
Mohammed Munirat Nasir, Gusau; Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Bandits struck again, yesterday, in Birane village of Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, killing at least 33 people and injuring several others.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has also disclosed that 60 more people, including policemen and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), have been killed by herdsmen in the state since the mass burial of 73 victims on January 11 this year.
Confirming the Zamfara attack, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Muhammad Shehu, said the command was yet to ascertain the exact causality figure but report available indicated that many people were feared dead and many injured.
He said the police were on top of the situation as a team has been deployed to the area to restore peace in the area.
“Unfortunately, when the community received a message from the bandits that they would soon attack them, no one informed security agencies and the local hunters went to their hideout inside the nearby bush and confronted the bandits,” he said.
According a resident of the area, Muhammad Bello Zurmi, the bandits besieged Birane market and began shooting, which led to the death of the over 33 people on the spot and several others sustaining injuries.
Zurmi, who spoke on phone, said it might be a reprisal attack by the armed bandits as they had promised when two of their members were killed by hunters in the area about two weeks ago.
He said the bandits also attacked a truck and killed all the passengers and set the truck ablaze.
The deceased have been buried according to Islamic injunctions, while those injured are receiving treatment in hospital.
Ortom disclosed the killing of 60 more people when he hosted some Benue State-born musicians, led by Zaaki Azzay, in Makurdi, the capital of the state, yesterday. He lamented that, rather than the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, taking proactive measures to bring the killings to an end, he had decided to take sides.
Ortom noted that the IGP’s relocation to Benue at the height of the attacks further heightened tension as the invading herdsmen became more daring in their attacks, killing even security operatives yet the IGP refused to arrest anyone.
Ortom said: “The IGP has failed us but we are grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for sending the army to come and perform Operation Cat Race in Benue. We hope that the cat will be able to catch all the rats.
“All we are asking for is justice, because a situation where you favour a particular section and are biased in your judgment against the other is not fair. That is why we are asking the IGP to resign his appointment to give way to another person who can perform better.”
The governor noted that the anti-open grazing law enacted in the state came as a necessity, stressing that even before the law was enacted, the herdsmen had been killing Benue residents with reckless abandon in many local government areas of the state.
“That was why we decided to put an end to these wanton killings, by enacting the law. The law emanated from the Benue people and they own it. The law protects everyone residing in Benue, including the Fulani. But staying in Benue, you must obey the laws of the land. We are not intimidated by the killings but all we ask for is let there be justice,” he said.
Earlier, Azzay, who described the Benue massacre as uncalled for, said they were in the state to complement the efforts of the governor through a song that was composed by another Benue-born musician, OD Woods, titled “Our Benue.”
Azzay said the song, which features him and Rapizo, alongside other renowned musicians, was aimed at further drawing the attention of the whole world to the unfortunate killings in the state, which had reduced many families to tenants at IDP camps scattered across the state.
The group, thereafter, caught the attention of everyone as they presented the song at the government House as well as at the IDP camp located near Agan Toll Gate.