Senator Iroegbu, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, George Okoh in Makurdi and Daji Sani in Yola
The House of Representatives and former Senate President, Senator David Mark, have decried the latest attacks carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Atagu Local Government Area in Benue State and have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently mobilise the security agencies to end the senseless bloody siege on the area, which has reportedly led to death of over 100 persons.
Mark, who made the call in a statement by his Special Assistant in charge of his liaison office in Benue, Dr. Adakole Elijah, condemned the incessant attacks on residents in Agatu by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
The attacks started shortly after Mark, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner of the Benue South Senatorial District poll rerun at the weekend.
Since he was declared winner over his rival in the All Progressives Congress (APC), residents in Okokolo, Akwu, Ocholonya, Adagbo, Ugboku and Aila villages have been under heavy bombardments by the marauding herdsmen. The attacks, according to eyewitnesses, have left over 100 people dead.
According to one source, several communities including Obagaji, the local government headquarters of Agatu, where people usually took refuge in previous attacks, were deserted on Thursday owing to the militia herders.
In his reaction, Mark said Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces owed all citizens a duty to protect them.
He said: “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 decried the constant attacks on Agatu people by suspected Fulani herdsmen, and called on all well-meaning Nigerians to stand up in defence of the Agatu people by condemning the carnage in strong terms.
Mark, who asked the federal government to beef up security in Agatu by stationing a detachment of armed soldiers in the area in order to halt the incessant attacks, also called on the governments of Benue and Nasarawa States to ensure adequate security in the area.
Similarly, the House of Representatives yesterday condemned the murder of at least 145 persons in 25 villages in Agatu and called on the federal government to urgently increase 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 its report within the next four weeks.
The House resolution followed a motion brought before it under matters of urgent public importance by Hon. Adamu Entonu (Benue, PDP) who disclosed that the attacks on the communities by the suspected herdsmen, which started on February 22 were still ongoing.
He added that the attacks continued unabated in the last five years without any concrete intervention from government, resulting in the displacement of over 20,000 persons following the destruction and sacking of their villages.
“The people of Agatu may be wiped out completely as a result of these incessant attacks if nothing is done urgently to curtail the excesses of these gunmen,” Entonu said.
In order to stem the attacks, Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, left Makurdi, the state capital, for Abuja yesterday to brief Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the renewed attacks on Agatu farmers by the herdsmen.
Prior to his departure, Ortom held meetings with major stakeholders from the local government area and security agencies at the Government House.
After receiving briefings, he ordered security to be beefed up in the affected communities while efforts were made to restore normalcy.
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.
The governor said his intention was to brief the president, but in his absence he would consult his deputy and dismissed insinuations that he had abandoned the Agatu residents to their fate because they voted for Mark in last Saturday’s rerun election. Ortom is a member of the APC.
Dismissing the charge, the governor said he had no issues with people over whom they chose to vote for and as the chief security officer of the state, he has a duty to secure lives and property in the state irrespective of political affiliations or creed, assuring them that he would never toy with that responsibility.
He described those making such wild allegations as favour seekers and urged the people of the state to ignore them and continue to support peace efforts within the state.
Also briefing State House correspondents after meeting with Osinbajo yesterday, Ortom said: “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.
“We also discussed other issues of interest. I think that the situation in Benue, especially in Agatu, is getting out of hand.
“Right now as I talk to you, several settlements have been razed and an undisclosed number of people have been killed and my people are refugees all over the place. I cannot sit back in Benue State when a such thing is happening.”
Ortom said security agencies in the state had tried to resolve the problem but that there appeared to be no solution in sight.
He said: “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 also advocated measures that would lead to the establishment of modern ranches and grazing areas for cattle that will end the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in his state and other parts of the country.
In another incident, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Thursday confirmed that four persons were killed from an explosion at the police anti-bomb squad office, in Jimeta, Yola, Adamawa State.
Senior Information Officer, NEMA, Mr. Sanni Datti, who confirmed this in a statement, said the injured were rushed to the hospital.
“An accidental explosion occurred at about noon today, at the police anti-bomb squad office, Jimeta, Adamawa State and four persons have been confirmed dead, while a few were injured and evacuated to the Federal Medical Centre, Yola.
“Nearby buildings such as Jimeta Primary School, post office, the old NITEL building and some neighbouring buildings were affected,” Datti said.
Confirming the incident, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ghazali Mohammed, said four policemen were killed as a result of the blast.
The blast, he disclosed, was caused by a bomb recovered from Boko Haram insurgents, adding that it exploded in the store used by the Police Command to warehouse exhibits.
He said that the bomb blast occurred at about 11 am yesterday, killing four police officers.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the bomb blast might have occurred from some impounded vehicles in the police premises or from impounded explosives that had not been properly detonated by the anti-bomb unit.
When THISDAY visited the scene of the blast, members of the Civilian JTF and some bomb disposal officers, who were still combing the area, were also seen picking up body parts of the victims.
A man, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that he had barely entered the police premises to lodge a complaint on a domestic incident with his spouse, when the bomb exploded. He said he narrowly escaped getting hurt by jumping through a window.
Also speaking on the incident, the Adamawa State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ahmed Sajoh, debunked stories that made the rounds immediately after the explosion that some parents lost their children in the neighbouring school.
He said no primary school pupil lost his or her life, but confirmed that some pupils sustained minor injuries caused by broken glass.
The anti-bomb squad unit is situated in the heart of Yola, the state capital. The sound of the explosion led to pandemonium as residents around the police station fled for their lives.