THE Benue State government and the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are trading blames over the killing of residents by herdsmen.
Earlier, The Voice Newspaper, owned by the state government had reported how gunmen attacked Abagana, killing an entire family of six and two other Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).
Abagena is a community located close to the IDP Camp in Makurdi, the state capital.
Reacting on January 24, the state chairman of the APC, Austin Agada, described attacks by the armed herdsmen as “a prevailing atmosphere of politically induced insecurity that calls for the urgent attention of all Benue patriots”.
Agada accused Governor Samuel Ortom of using the Community Volunteer Guards to rustle cattle in Gwer-West, Makurdi and Guma, the areas most affected by herdsmen attacks in the state.
He noted that cattle rustling has come “with attendant consequences of spontaneous Fulani militia killing of one person in Mbapa Ward of Gwer-West LGA, eight persons in Makurdi on the January 19, 2023 and eight persons in Guma LGA on the January 20, 2023, all within the Ihyarev dominated communities”.
Agada also said “available information indicates that on Wednesday 18 January, 2023, over 600 herds of cattle were rustled in Sengev Ward of Gwer-West LGA and kept at the Local Government Guest House at Naka, the objective was to trigger reprisal attacks against Gwer-West people by the herders. We roundly condemn this development and urge Governor Ortom to desist from spilling more blood”.
However, while restating his administration’s commitment to end open grazing in the state, Ortom on January 25 accused the APC in the state of colluding with herdsmen to terrorise Benue communities.
“The Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law and the Livestock Guards which the APC and their herder allies desperately want to see scrapped have come to stay. Anyone who wants to rear cattle in Benue State must do so within the confines of ranches and be prepared to face the long arm of the law in the event of any breaches”, he said in a statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Terver Akase.
The statement added: “The APC in Benue State has left no one in doubt that they are working closely with those who invade communities of the state and attack innocent people. This is not the first time that leaders of the party have come out to take sides with killer herders.
“The APC in Benue State has often accused Benue people of attacking and killing themselves. Not too long ago, the sacked governorship candidate (Hyacinth Alia) of the party re-echoed the accusation which the party’s leader (Sen.George Akume) first made four years ago absolving herdsmen of any responsibility in the series of attacks on Benue people.”
Meanwhile, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) report, Benue topped the states in Nigeria with most violent herder-farmer attacks.
The report which covered 2005 to 2021, put the number of killings in Benue at 2, 539 from 303 attacks.