The federal government has sent a combined contingent of soldiers and policemen to Benue State to stop rampaging Fulani herdsmen who have been on a killing spree in the state in the last few days.
Force Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr. Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), told reporters yesterday in Abuja that the massive deployment security forces to the state was aimed at checking what has turned into an ethnic clash between Tivs and the herdsmen.
Mba, while fielding questions from the reporters at a press briefing by the Joint Security Information Committee, said a security team under the leadership of the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Mike Zoukome, had been set up to restore peace in the area.
He spoke at the forum where the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, also warned against attempts by some people to undermine the morale of troops engaged in anti-terror campaign in the North-east.
The announcement on the deployment of troops in Benue State came on a day marauding herdsmen, in another attacks, killed over 22 people in Uza, Ayillamo and Ayinbe in Logo Local Government Area of the state.
The spate of killings in the state drew condemnation from the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), which called for an urgent end to the bloodletting in Benue State.
Mba assured Nigerians that the federal government was doing all it could to end the killings in Benue State.
He said: “We want to reassure the nation and good people of Benue State that the federal government is doing everything possible to bring the situation under control.
“There is massive deployment of security forces, including the military, and also massive intelligence gathering. We want to assure the nation that very soon everything will be brought under control.”
Also speaking at the joint security committee briefing Olukolade warned against attempts by some individuals to undermine the morale of troops fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east.
According to him, the ultimate intention of those disparaging the efforts of the security forces in the ongoing war against insurgents in is to kill the troops’ morale and invite mutiny.
He accused some “set of Nigerians” and media of being in the habit of belittling the efforts of the military.
Olukolade said it had become obvious that some people by their actions and utterances, had become spokespersons for the outlawed Boko Haram sect.
He warned those who have made it their pastime to ridicule the security forces in order to weaken their resolve to desist or be ready to face the consequences of their actions.
He said: “This committee has also noted with great concern the orchestrated attack on the morale of the Nigerian security forces engaged in the fight against terrorism by a section of the political elite.
“They make frivolous and unfounded claims and allegations on welfare of soldiers under the pretext of being more caring for the welfare and condition of Nigerian soldiers but their intention is to encourage indiscipline and ultimately mutiny.”
He reassured Nigerians that the military and security agencies will not be deterred from the commitment to defend and protect the country from any form of insecurity or aggression.
On the anti-terror war in the North-east, the defence spokesman said the ongoing onslaught in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States against the terrorists would be sustained.
Meanwhile, Fulani herdsmen yesterday attacked more settlements in Benue State, killing over 22 people in Uza, Ayillamo and Ayinbe in Logo Local Government Area.
The attacks came a few days after the state Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, escaped death when his convoy ran into an ambushed by suspected Fulani mercenaries at Tse-Akanyi in Guma Local Government Area.
Suswam who yesterday led journalists, the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Adams Audu and a team of police officers and men on an assessment tour of Ayillamo, his village and the neighbouring communities, was moved to tears when he saw that his village had been sacked.
It was discovered that from Anyii, Suswam’s ancestral home, to Ayillamo, a stretch of about 15 kilometres, all the inhabitants of the about 29 villages in the area had been sacked by the rampaging herdsmen who struck less than 24 hours before the governor’s visit.
According to one of the villagers, James Terngu, the herdsmen came into their communities from the neighbouring Nasarawa State.
“They came from Nasarawa State after crossing River Benue which separates the bordering communities of Benue and Nasarawa States.
“They came with over 300 mercenaries when people were already in the farms. That was why many of the people were killed because they were caught up in the farms where it was very difficult for them to escape or jointly defend themselves.
“That attack left over 22 of our people dead. Those are the ones we have seen; many are still missing and nobody knows about their condition because we gathered that so many corpses are still in the farms and bushes near the river, but no one can go near there for now because the Fulanis have completely taken over those areas,” he said.
While addressing the displaced persons who came out their hiding at Ayilamo, Suswam urged them to be security conscious and assured them that the state government was partnering the federal government to end the crisis.
The attacks in the state have attracted the attention of ACF, which condemned what it described as “intense and vicious ethnic clashes” between Tiv farmers and suspected Fulani herdsmen.
The forum also expressed shock over the recent attack on the convoy of the governor, noting that if the governor’s convoy, with all the paraphernalia of security, could be attacked by bandits, then the people are not safe.
The ACF in a statement in Kaduna by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammed Ibrahim, called on the federal government and the Northern state governors to redouble their efforts and be proactive in tackling the security challenges facing the country.
The statement urged community leaders to refrain from making inflammatory remarks capable of destroying the peace being brokered by various leaders and appealed to the two communities to urgently sheathe their swords and embrace peace .