Herders kill 145 in Nigeria's Benue state as residents flee

Map of Nigeria. Benue state is shaded red. 

Many residents of Nigeria’s Benue state have fled their homes following the killing of over 145 people by suspected Fulani marauders in a week-long attack.

Reports say the herdsmen attacked 25 villages in Agatu local government area, prompting the state governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, to travel to Abuja to confer with Presidency.

The militias were reported to have started their attacks on Monday this week; by Thursday, the casualty figures and the general destruction of property had become staggering.

The herdsmen have persistently attacked villages in the area, but the current mayhem has caused a mass exodus of people fleeing villages.

The attacks started shortly after the former president of the Nigerian Senate, Mr David Mark, who is a member of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP), was declared winner of the Benue South senatorial district in an election re-run.

The state governor, Mr Ortom, left the state capital Makurdi on February 25 for Abuja to brief Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the renewed attacks.

Prior to his departure, the governor held meetings with major stakeholders from the local government area and security agencies at his official residence.

He expressed concern that in spite of his efforts and those of his Nasarawa state counterpart, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, peace had not returned to the area, hence the need to consult with the Presidency on the issue.

Military presence

After the emergency meeting with the vice-president, the governor issued a statement saying: “While we are making our own efforts to ensure that we maintain law and order, I thought it was necessary to also brief the Presidency....I think the situation in Benue, especially in Agatu, is getting out of hand."

Mr Ortom said security agencies in the state had tried to resolve the problem but there appeared to be no solution in sight.

"The security agencies are trying their best, that is the police, army, civil defence corps, and the Department of State Services (DSS), but the state and federal governments need to come together and do something because of the peculiarity of the problem in the state,” he added.

In his reaction, Senator Mark decried the constant attacks on the Agatu people and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene directly to protect the people against the marauders.

"It is the responsibility of the government to protect lives and property. Government should ensure that this carnage is brought to an early end to let my people have their rest," he said

The House of Representatives has also condemned the killings and urged  the government to urgently increase its military presence in the area to restore order.

It also mandated its committees on National Intelligence, Emergency, Public Safety, Army and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to collaborate on the matter and submit a report within the next four weeks.

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