Benue Massacres, More Massacres

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EITHER the official reaction, nor the reasons adduced for the killing of more than 40 students of tertiary institutions in Mubi, Adamawa State, three years ago could excuse another in the series of loss of lives. Many other killings, with the circumstances different, the gruesomeness outstanding and the brutality on women and children have not elicited the reactions and actions that could stop the killings.

Gbajimba, headquarters of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, the most current location, took more than 45 lives. The massacres come with warnings. Last year, Anyii, Governor Gabriel Suswam’s village, was among places some marauders appropriated. Suswam’s entourage was attacked while inspecting attacked villages marauders had attacked, killing many. Some accounts said more than 200 villages were attacked.

Suswam was travelling with a powerful team, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Terhile Ayua, Benue State Commissioner of Police, Adams Audu, soldiers, and other security personnel. The convoy was attacked. Armed herdsmen with thousands of cattle, who had taken over the villages, were evident.

An exchange of gunfire lasted over an hour before the convoy passed. These were herdsmen. Does their profession place them above the law? Is being a herdsman the latest cover for criminality? Why are security agencies ignoring attacks that have been going on for years in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and other States?

Imo, Rivers, Delta, Enugu, Ogun, and Oyo States have similar stories. The only difference is the intensity of the attacks in Benue and the apparent attempt to occupy attacked settlements. They are consistent with attacks on Benue villages since 1989, focused on taking over the settlements.

Elsewhere, cattle minders simply run their livestock through farmlands. All year round, they graze on them and destroy what they cannot eat, consigning farmers and host communities to starvation and poverty.

Attempts by these farmers to protest the activities of these rampaging vandals often end in bloodshed with the cattle rearers who are armed with sophisticated assault rifles such as AK 47 having the upper hand. They have moved from bows, arrows and daggers of a few decades ago.

Environmental factors that have left cattle rearers in search of fresh grazing grounds, and cattle rustlings are only excuses for the attacks. Unless a different law operates for cattle rearers, they should be charged for bearing illegal weapons and their proclivity to destroy others’ farmlands.

The attacks generate a level of insecurity that matches the terrorism attacks in the North East. If villagers arm themselves and retaliate, Nigeria could be a huge war field. We ask governments to tackle these attacks urgently. If they are unchecked, they could degenerate to more serious security breaches.


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