Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
At least three persons have been reportedly killed in a renewed communal clash between Jukun and Tiv people in Jootar, a border settlement between Benue and Taraba States.
Some locals who spoke to our correspondent alleged that some Jukun militia stormed the border community at about 4:00 am Wednesday morning through Wukari and started shooting sporadically in all directions.
One of the locals who simply gave his name as Jerry said the Jukun militia operated unchallenged for about three hours, adding that the latest attack came without any provocation.
While alleging that at least three Tiv farmers lost their lives while over 100 houses, as well as several yam barns, were also burnt in the attack, Jerry said the value of property destroyed during the attack could be estimated to be in the millions.
Jerry maintained that over half of the community was razed down by the militia who unleashed terror, causing the people to desert their homes.
He further alleged that Jukun militia had on Tuesday, before the latest early morning attack, blocked the road and killed four commuters of Tiv origin.
Condemning the attack, Caretaker Chairman of Ukum local Government Tortyokaa Ibellogo who described the development as most unfortunate, wondered why the Jukun militia would cross over to Benue where there is no crisis, insisting that Tiv farmers in Benue were not at war with the Jukun.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is supposed to be a crisis between the Tiv and Jukun in Taraba State and has nothing to do with Benue. In my state Benue, we have Jukun in Abinsi and Wurukum in Guma and Makurdi living peacefully with the Tiv people.
“I’m right now in Jootar. The level of destruction is massive; not less than 100 houses were destroyed. We are still recovering bodies, but so far we have identified three corpses.”
“I want to call on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Chief of Army Staff and President of Nigeria to, as a matter of urgency, intervene in this crisis. Already we are trying to maintain social distance to face the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected Benue, Nigeria and the entire world,” Ibellogo said.
When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) DSP Catherine Anene, who confirmed the incident, disclosed that three corpses had been recovered from the area, adding that investigation was still in progress.
“The incident at Jootar is confirmed. Three unidentified corpses have been recovered. Two officers on duty in the area yet to be found. Investigation is still in progress,” Anene said.
Also commenting on the attack, the Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Maj Gen Adeyemi Yekini, said his troops are already on ground in the area to restore peace and to forestall further breakdown of law and order.