Some persons suspected to be Nigerian soldiers invaded the phase two communities in Naka, the headquarters of Gwer West local government area of Benue state and set many houses ablaze.
This was as Fulani herdsmen in the early hours of Thursday launched an attack on Agasha, a community near Governor Samuel Ortom’s district.
Chairman of the local government, Mr Francis Ayagah told journalists that the said soldiers stormed the area at about 11:00 am and began burning houses to the apprehension of residents.
Mr Ayagah could not immediately confirm casualty figures, if there were any said the ‘soldiers’ were on a reprisal attack over the killing of one of their colleagues near the community on Wednesday.
“A soldier was allegedly killed by hoodlums yesterday (Wednesday), but I met with the Brigade Commander around 4:30 am today” (yesterday) Mr Ayagah said, adding that over 300 houses were burnt.
“He gave me a list of suspects and we arrested five of them overnight. It was while we were trying to take them to the brigade that soldiers stormed the town and started burning houses”.
“A whole part of the town has been completely burnt down and we are appealing for help and understanding from the soldiers”, he said adding that homes of citizens were mostly affected rather than those of the suspected killers of the slain soldier.
Information Officer of the local government, Mr Francis Ugbede, told New Telegraph that a 65-year-old man who was sick and could not be carried when the soldiers invaded was burnt inside one of the buildings.
The operation lasted for over two hours within which more than 300 houses and property worth billions of naira were destroyed.
Naka is about 45 kilometres from Makurdi, the state capital. Gwer West was attacked a little over a week ago with over 25 people reportedly killed.
When contacted, the Assistant Director of Army Public Relations, officer, 707 Special Forces Battalion Makurdi, Major Olabisi Ayeni confirmed the incident.
Major Ayeni said at about 3:30 pm on “Wednesday troops of 707 Special Forces Brigade deployed at Naka in Gwer West local government area of Benue State observed the absence of PTE Danlami Gambo from duty post, the soldier’s rifle was however found at the location”.
“It was gathered that the soldier was last seen receiving a phone call but left in search of network and did not return. Troops immediately conducted patrols to search for the missing soldier. During the search at about 6:10 pm troops observed blood stains along with a footpath leading to a newly dug grave”.
“Troops immediately dug out the grave and the dead body of the missing soldier was found butchered”.
Major Ayeni said the corpse of the deceased soldier had been exhumed and deposited at the Nigerian Air Force morgue in Makurdi, adding that preliminary revealed that some locals were involved in the killing of the soldier which has led to the arrest of some suspects by a team dispatched from the unit to the scene of the incident.
He added that investigation was ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to the death of the soldier and to also arrest all the culprits involved.
Meanwhile, the Tiv Youth Organisation (TYO) has condemned the massive destruction of property in Naka by men of the Nigerian Army.
President of the organisation, Mr Timothy Hembaor who spoke to New Telegraph in an interview wondered why the soldiers failed to go after Fulani herdsmen who murdered two soldiers in Tyulen and also claimed responsibility but preferred to visit mayhem on Tiv villages that had been deserted long ago and taken over by the Fulani insurgents.
“Fulani herdsmen had already chased the people in Naka and occupied the place. The action of the soldiers is condemnable”.
“What has happened has already given us the impression that this is what President Muhammadu Buhari had been looking for; if not Fulani had killed about two soldiers at Tyulen and they even admitted responsibility for the killing and there is no iota of hostility against Fulani herdsmen that are occupying Tyulen and other parts of Guma local government area where those soldiers were killed”.
“So why are they afraid to go after Fulani militia that killed their men and they are just burning and ransacking Tiv villages because a soldier was killed around the place without investigating to know exactly who is responsible for it”?
At least six people were yesterday killed by armed Fulani herdsmen at Agasha in Guma local government area of the state. Thousands of local inhabitants including women and children were yesterday seen leaving their homes in droves to areas considered safe to avoid being killed.