Saturday, 24 September 2016

Herdsmen Attacks: Imminent Hunger In Nasarawa/Benue Communities

The effects of heinous attacks on agrarian communities of Benue and Nasarawa states by armed men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have caused shortage of food, sparking fear of an imminent hunger. Solomon Ayado was there and captured the enveloping fear in the two communities of Agatu and Yelwata.

Scores of persons who were displaced by the herdsmen attacks are yet to return to their homes, even as they are unable to engage in farming activities in this year’s cropping season. This is because of lack of adequate security in the affected areas.

There are widespread cries over the imminent hunger and poverty that has inflicted the agrarian communities that were damaged by herdsmen attacks in Benue and Nasarawa states. The people lost their homes and other personal belongings, and are yet to find their feet.

The Ter Nagi, Chief Daniel Abomtse, a second class chief in Benue State, whose brethren were gruesomely murdered by the herdsmen, has attributed lack of food and hunger to the destruction of farmlands by the marauders.

“Our homes and farmlands were destroyed by the herdsmen and till now, silent killings are ongoing in some places. In some of our villages, our people cannot return to their homes because of the massive destruction that went on which will take several years to rebuild. And some of the places are still volatile, not safe for the people to move because there is no adequate security of lives,” Abomtse lamented.

This is the cry of the people whose villages were completely destroyed by the herdsmen. The people cannot forget the ugly incidents that visited them which claimed scores of lives. Even if they forget, they cannot easily or never at all, forgive the terrorists that unleashed terror on the communities, without any justifiable reason.

Several local government areas of Benue State including Agatu, Buruku, Kwande, Logo, Guma, Makurdi, Ukum, Gwer West and Tarka were hit by the herdsmen attacks leading to the complete destruction of the villages belonging to farmers. Schools and churches, as well as markets and government outfits were similarly, not spared. At the moment, there is no hope that the ravaged places will quickly be reconstructed.

In Nasarawa State, the situation was not different as Yelwata, Keana and Awe towns have had varied bitter taste of the gruesome attacks. Scores were displaced, just as nursing mothers would back children and trek for miles in the trenches to survive.

In many of the attacked areas, the suffering condition has overwhelmed many persons. Children have lost their lives midway into the journey while struggling to flee the traumatised areas.

The invasion of the herdsmen, in their large numbers, has led to suspicion that the attacks were more than mere act of terror. The terrible way and manner women and children were butchered, beheaded and many of their vital body organs carted away, obviously point to the fact that what propelled the herdsmen to carry out the attacks was better imagined.

Although, the ongoing silent killings in some of the attacked communities has further worsened fear leading to the inhabitants staying away from their homes for the fear of the unknown.

It was gathered that some of the destroyed villages cannot be visited at the moment because they have become shadows of themselves, without any inhabitant occupying them.

LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that some of the council wards including Moon in Kwande and Okokolo in Agatu local government areas are currently occupied by the herdsmen. It was further gathered that in some villages, burials of indigenes are no longer holding due to the volatile nature of the places.

Findings revealed further that the incessant attacks have claimed hundreds of lives in Nasarawa and Benue areas. For instance, in the affected areas of Benue, since February 2016, reports said 12 persons were killed in Aila community of Agatu; 14 killed in Egba, Okoklo communities and three in Mbanyagbe and Mbaanyo in Tsendev, Tarka LGA. While five people were killed in Agwabi community in Binev council ward of Buruku, 15 lives were claimed in Tse-Aondo, Tse-anikyol and Igbogum areas in Tsaav council ward of Ukum LGA.

In Dusa and Jun villages of Turan and Gabo in Nenzev council ward of Logo LGA, 10 were gruesomely murdered, just as 11 were killed in Anyiin in Logo LGA and Vaase, Gov, Uzer, Gbeji and Jootar communities of Ukum LGA respectively. The attacks and killings are endless and even ongoing silently.

While the silent killings continue and the displaced persons are still on the run for their lives, a looming hunger stares the communities in the face due to the total destruction of farmlands and agricultural produce.

Lamenting the destruction, district head of Binev in Buruku LGA, Zaki Dennis Nyitse told LEADERSHIP Friday in Agwabi village that “Several of our people are killed. The Fulani herdsmen carry heavy weapons including AK 47. All my subjects have fled the area for fear of the unknown.”

“The crises is taking a deadly dimension because, the assailants were planning to revisit the area and destroy everything. There is no food because our people cannot go to their farms. We want the state and federal government to quickly intervene and provide adequate security,” he stated.

The Ada Agatu, Chief Godwin Onah said that despite efforts of both state and federal government to restore peace in the affected localities, the communities at the borderline with Nasarawa State are still being occupied by the herders.

“Deserted towns such as, Okokolo, Odugbeho, Akwu and Ugboju, as well as adjourning villages, need the presence of soldiers to return to their homes. While some other communities which share border with neighbouring Nasarawa State and Tiv speaking Guma local government area of Benue around the riverine, are still under siege. The Fulani people are still occupying the communities, the people can’t go home and there is need to establish military barracks here.” he said.

Mr. Akor Jimin is a farmer from Yelwata in Nasarawa State. According to him, he relocated from his interior village to Yelwata after the herdsmen destroyed his home and farmland. He said some of his family members were killed and that he has not returned to his village because the place is not secured.

“The hunger is alarming and more so that our farmlands were destroyed, many of our people could not farm this year because they cannot access their homes. Silent killings are still going on and many of the villages are not secured. Now that the economy has crashed, the situation is worse,”Jimin stated.

For John Ikulono, an indigene of Okokolo in Agatu LGA of Benue State who was displaced, he is yet to recover from the shock because his entire village has been burnt down by the herdsmen. He said farmlands and economic trees were also damaged.

Ikulono, a former director of press to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the agrarian state said, the damage caused to lives of the people of his area cannot be forgotten in a hurry. He noted that unless government intensifies security in the area to enable the people return home and continue their farming activities it will take long for normalcy to return to the area.

“Since my village was burnt down, I am yet to recover from it because the destruction was massive and it has contributed to lack of food in the land. When people’s villages were taken by the herdsmen, there was no way they could reach the places and farm. You can see displaced persons everywhere without shelter and food.”

“Sadly, the people are sleeping under trees and in some classrooms that were partly burnt. Some of them cannot relocate to their villages because the places are not safe. If something is not urgently done, the situation will soon degenerate. We are appealing for government to provide security for our village and we need food too,” he said.

Many people thought that if the herdsmen are ordered to suspend their grazing activities and vacate the agrarian communities, there will be lasting peace. But the assailants who are grazing with their cows have, at varied intervals agreed to vacate the places to foster peace, unfortunately, they are still residing in the areas.

Retrospectively, during a peace meeting held at Gwer West LGA between the herdsmen, police and Benue State government, the Fulani herdsmen had unanimously agreed to shelve their weapons and voluntarily leave the farmlands of the affected areas.

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has assured that his administration will not abandon the displaced persons to their fate. He said agriculture is among the cardinal points of his administration and that government will not relax in making food available to the people.

At the moment, the agrarian communities ravaged by dastardly activities of herdsmen are yet to be reconstructed. The displaced are faced with the major challenge of lack of food and it is left to be seen whether the situation will be quickly arrested by the authorities.

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