From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Over 100 persons have been reportedly killed in a coordinated attack by gunmen across four council wards of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area in Benue State between Saturday and Sunday.
Daily Sun gathered that the gunmen were suspected to be armed herdsmen who were working in connivance with loyalists of the slain Benue militia warlord, Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana, to unleash terror on the people.
Sources from the area disclosed to newsmen on Monday that many communities had been burnt down while people in the affected areas have continued to run helter skelter for safety.
When contacted, the Chairman of Katsina Ala Local Government Area, Alfred Atera, confirmed the attack and the casualty figure, adding that four council wards were affected by the attack.
Atera listed the affected council wards to include Yoyo, Utange, Mbatyumberev and Mbayongo.
‘Four council wards are under attack by the fulani; they are Yoyo, Utange, Mbatuamberev and Mbayongo. More than 100 people at different places have been killed since the attack on Saturday.’
Aterw also alleged that the attackers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen were operating in a guerilla manner in connivance with gang members of slain Gana.
‘The Gana remnants are conniving with them (suspected herdsmen) to cause havoc and unrest in our area. They (bandits and herders) are killing and dropping the corpses and move on (to attack other places). Some (families) were able to claim the corpses of their relatives for burial.’
Opining that security agencies may have been overwhelmed by the coordinated attacks, Atera said the attackers have now developed a strategy such that they are attacking many places at the same time.
‘If they attack in Kwaghaondo now, the next thing you hear is they were attacking Yoyo and at the same time they were attacking Utange. So, the military are just moving here and there because if they get information of the people attacking a place, before they get there, the attackers have finished and moved to another point. That is the situation in /Katsina-Ala right now.’
Asked if he had formally reported the matter to security agencies, Atera said they were already aware and we’re trying all their best to bring the attack under control.
‘The authorities are aware of all these things. As I’m speaking to you now, I’m in my office in Katsina-Ala and my traditional rulers are here with me to see what we can do at our own level.’
Efforts to speak with the force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Brig Gen Clement Apere, by telephone were unsuccessful as he did not yet respond to calls by our Correspondent at the time of this report.
On her part, State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer PPRO DSP Catherine Anene said she was yet to receive the report from the area.
‘I am yet to receive the report,’ Anene told journalists on the phone.
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom has said that he would no longer announce the death of people killed by herdsmen in the state even as he stressed the need for the people to begin to rise up and defend themselves.
Ortom stated this on Sunday at the interdenominational church service organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at the Chapel of Grace, Government House, Makurdi to mark the end of a seven-day prayer and fasting program for peace in the state.
‘I’ll no longer announce the deaths of those killed by Fulani herdsmen. Rise up and defend yourselves with weapons not prohibited by law, bows and arrows, spears, knives, and similar ones.’
The governor assured those expressing concern for his safety that his life was secured as long as he lived within God’s circle and in obedience to His will.
‘God assured me sometimes back that as long as I lived within the circle of his presence, no weapon fashioned against me shall prosper.’
He enjoined the people of the state to raise prayer altars for God’s intervention against external aggressors and the saboteurs within even as he expressed gratitude to God for preserving his life and those of the people of the state.
He explained that he learned the strategy to seek God’s face from King David in the Bible, adding that in the face of confusion arising from sustained bloodletting in the state in recent times, he had to resort to prayer and fasting program in collaboration with the Christian Association of Nigeria.
On his part, Bishop Mike Angou gave an exhortation on ‘declare to be justified.’
Also speaking, state Chairman of CAN, Rev Akpen Leva, assured the governor of the support of the Church in the state in his efforts to secure the lives of the people and for always rising up in their defence.
The CAN chairman commended the southern governors on their recent decision to prohibit open grazing in their states stressing that it was a step in the right direction.