Olusola Fabiyi, Olaleye Aluko and John Charles
The Defence Headquarters, Abuja, said on Thursday that the fresh rounds of killings in Benue State were being sponsored.
It added that the military would, however, soon apprehend both the killer herdsmen and their sponsors.
The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. John Agim, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, insisting that the military would not support any side in the violence that had been going on in Benue State.
Recalled that herdsmen, who blocked Gbeji-Anyinn Road in the Logo Local Government Area of Benue State, killed a soldier and a passerby on Monday.
On Tuesday, suspected herdsmen invaded a church in Mbalon in Gwer-East Local Area of the state and killed two Catholic priests and 17 other worshippers.
On Wednesday, there was a report that 22 people were killed when herdsmen attacked Daudu, in the Guma area of the state.
Also, on Thursday, herdsmen invaded Africa Church in Mbamondo clan of Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev, in the Logo Local Government Area, and killed seven internally displaced persons.
Since the killings had become a daily affair, The PUNCH asked the Defence spokesman if troops in Benue State were overwhelmed and whether the military would deploy additional troops in the state.
Agim said, “The military is strategising on how to go after the herdsmen and their sponsors. We will get both the herdsmen and their sponsors.
“We want to say this to the killers and their sponsors that the military is coming for them. We are going to get both the killers and their sponsors very soon.
“The military is continuing with all its operations in the areas. Nigerians will soon see a change of approach in our operations.”
The Defence’s spokesman said the military had been recovering guns and other weapons from herdsmen and locals in several areas of Benue and Taraba states, adding that the military would not take sides.
Agim said, “Some of the weapons we recovered were seized from the herdsmen. Others are not from the herdsmen. The Dane guns we seized were not from the herdsmen. The military cannot go into an environment to support any side.
“We seized weapons from everyone who had weapons. Some of the weapons were also obtained during engagements with these criminals.
The PUNCH gathered that the IDPs, who were killed on Thursday morning, took refuge in the African Church in Mbamondo clan of Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev.
One of our correspondents gathered that some herdsmen invaded the area and attacked those who slept inside the church.
Seven people were reportedly killed, while several others were injured in the attack.
A community leader and a former Special Assistant to a former governor of the state, Joseph Anawah, said, “The terrorists arrived at the area about 12.22am and started shooting continuously at refugees, who were sleeping in the church and primary school buildings.
“By the time they left, many buildings had been burnt down while scores sustained gunshot and machete injuries.”
“The marauders after they killed the people, proceeded to Zaki Biam-Wukari Road, mounted roadblocks and began to collect motorcycles and other valuables from travellers,” Anawah said.
The Chairman of the Logo Local Government Area, Richard Nyajor, confirmed the attack by the herdsmen on the Mbamondo clan.
He said, “The casualties may be high, but we have recovered about seven corpses so far and we are searching for more. These killers have taken over our areas and now we are now living at the mercy of God.
“The Federal Government should intensify efforts and bring these mindless killings to an end.”
Efforts to get the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, on the telephone, proved abortive as the calls rang out.
Secondus faults President’s Bauchi visit
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, on Thursday, condemned President Muhammadu Buhari for not visiting Benue State to commiserate with the people and the Catholic Church that lost two priests and 17 other worshippers to an attack by herdsmen.
He described the President’s decision to embark on a two-day visit to Bauchi State instead as the height of insensitivity.
Secondus said while the nation and the Christian community globally mourned the death of the two priests, the President decided to jump into an aircraft to Bauchi State on a two-day visit without going to the venue of the murder in Benue State to see things for himself as the Commander-in-Chief.
Secondus said the action portrayed the Presidents as lacking emotion.
The PDP boss said in a statement signed by his Media Adviser, Mr Ike Abonyi, on Thursday that the President’s action was a clear show of arrogance, wondering why the needless bloodletting in Benue State should not attract any feeling from him.
He said, “There is no time the people need a show of empathy and concern more than when they are in mourning mood as is the case with the people of Benue State.
“It is this show of insensitivity by the President that, perhaps, influenced the behaviour of military operatives and other security agencies, who have not made any appreciable impact to stem the ugly situation in Benue State. They may have been interpreting the President’s indifference as lack of interest in the callous bloodletting in the state.
“This lack of concern perhaps explains why there has been no arrest and prosecution of these hoodlums since January 2018, when the latest onslaught on the people of Benue began.”
Secondus reminded the President that as a leader, he should see himself as the father of all by giving equal treatment to all matters affecting the people irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political inclinations.
The PDP leader urged the President to eschew nepotism. (Punch)