It was all grief yesterday as Governor Samuel Ortom supervised the mass burial of the 73 victims killed by suspected herdsmen in Logo and Guma council areas of Benue State on New Year day.The atmosphere at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida Public Square, Makurdi venue of the exercise was sober as well as somber as families of the departed wore depressing looks while “heroes of Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law”, as they were described by the government, were accorded their last respects.
The governor remarked that the incident was the most heartless killing in the state, noting that the “herdsmen came, killed and destroyed homes and properties.” The 73 persons, excluding the two policemen, were slaughtered between January 1 and 6.Economic activities were disrupted as sympathisers as well as families of the victims, dressed in black attire, trooped out en masse to bid the slain a final farewell.
However, the Convener of Northern Elders Forum, Wantaregh Paul Unongo, says if President Muhammadu Buhari further fails to protect lives and properties in the state, the people would raise and train an army to defend themselves. Speaking at the church service for the departed, he noted that a large number of Benue sons and daughters had contributed immensely to the unity of the country and as such, do not deserve this disdain.“ Benue people sacrifice enough blood for the unity of this country and would not allow a section of Fulani terrorists to continue to come and kill our people in cold blood”
Unongo asked the President to take drastic steps in addressing the killings as well as arrest the leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.
“If the Federal Government fails to stop or arrest those behind the incident in two weeks, we shall raise an army of our own. We cannot allow people to colonise us again. We have all it takes to do that, “ the elder statesman stated.
Corroborating Unongo, General Lawrence Onoja (rtd) described the act as a genocidal conspiracy against the people, warning that if the carnage does not stop, he would head the proposed force.He therefore called on the government to replicate Operation Python Dance or Fulani Dance in the state, just as he urged support for the governor.
To former member of the National Assembly, Senator JKN Waku, the people are known for love and peace, asking the central government to entrench true democratic values in the polity.
On behalf of the House of Assembly, Benjamin Adenyi, saying enough to the massacre, regretted that the Buhari administration was reciprocating the huge support his people gave him at the poll with the oddity.
To erstwhile governor, Senator George Akume, the primary aim of government was to protect lives of the citizens. He urged the President to proscribe the faction of the herders’ association that had allegedly been combatant and uncharitable with words and actions. The representative of the United Nations, Dr. Martins Ejibike, noted that the situation demands international attention.
The paramount ruler of Tiv nation, Professor James Ayatse, alleged that his subjects resident in Nasarawa and Taraba states were being murdered by herdsmen on a daily basis. Also speaking, state Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman, Rev. Akpe Leva, commended the governor for his love for the people.