Nigeria’s killing fields get bloodier
With the grim news of organised massacres popping up in many parts of the country, and the gory sights of decapitated bodies, which are now commonplace, many no longer believe, or take President Muhammadu Buhari, seriously when he claims his government has the capacity to protect them from harm.
The cold-blooded murder of nearly 100 Nigerians by Nigerians in the last five days, especially the killings in Rivers, Kaduna and Benue states, when there is no ongoing civil war in the country, further worsens the fear of many that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, is grossly incapable of protecting law-abiding citizens from savages within.
Be that as it may, whether these mindless killings are as a result of the failure of the country’s security agencies to be alert to their responsibilities, or the failure of intelligence, or as a result of lack of the political will to nip them in the bud, is now in the realms of conjecture.
However, one thing remains glaring, and that is the fact that citizens are gradually coming to the conclusion that it is time to begin to prepare for self-help with government’s apparent incapacity to protect them.
This perhaps informed the decision of the Youth Wing of the Middle Belt Forum to conclude that the unabated killing of their kith and kin was a declaration of war hence the need for their kinsmen to defend themselves against any attack.
The youths who were responding to the latest bloodbath in their state, which was unleashed by suspected Fulani herdsmen, confessed that they had lost trust in the Federal Government to protect their people, even as they accused Mr. Buhari of “sleeping on duty.”
A statement issued in Jos, Plateau State, by the national leader of the wing, Comrade Emma Zopmal, read in part: “We should not make mistakes thinking that Nigerian government will stop this situation. Every part of the country is defending its territory now.
“The Fulani terrorists will leave no part of the Middle Belt region untouched. Then they will finally face the southern part of the country with war. Despite the calls on the Federal Government by Middle Belt people to stop this genocide, it has deliberately allowed Fulani terrorists to kill our people on a daily basis and there’s no end of it in sight.
“We now call on the Middle Belt people to rise up to the occasion, while being law-abiding, to defend themselves with any means available when the situation arises. Our goodness should not be taken for granted. We do not have trust in the Nigerian government to protect us anymore. The ugly tactics of the Nigerian government in Numan (Adamawa State), Plateau State, Benue State and Southern Kaduna of recent are proofs that our government is not doing its best to protect us.”
Zopmal lamented that the Nigerian government had launched special military operations and cracked down on civilians in different parts of the country, but treated the Fulani terrorists with kid gloves even when they fired at the Nigerian Air Force jet in Numan, Adamawa State.
“It is evident that very soon they will defy Nigerian government authorities openly. It’s very unfortunate that our leaders, who have served this country in the highest capacities, have not said or done anything about these killings. The so-called Northern Elders Forum led by Paul Unongo, who defected from the Middle Belt, has become a toothless bulldog that cannot do anything about these killings in his own state, Benue. General Yakubu Gowon, who recently opposed the restructuring of Nigeria, has never said or done anything against the killings of his fellow Middle Belters. Where are our retired officers, who made names in the defence of this country? Can’t you see war on us?”
As matters stand, Nigerians are not only fed up with a commander-in-chief, who only commiserates with families of the bereaved families and urges them not to avenge the loss of their loved ones, they are worried about a president, who has displayed seeming bias in tackling members of a group that has terrorised, maimed and raped non-Fulani with brazen arrogance since this administration came into office.
Since the government of the day appears to be pampering the rampaging herdsmen, many Nigerians have taken umbrage at it over the latest gale of mindless killings by the herdsmen.
For instance, former Education Minister, Oby Ezekewsili, in a series of tweets over the latest killings wrote on her Twitter handle @obyezeks, “Kaduna. Benue. Rivers. Killings. Not just killings but butchery done in manners that question the existence of security and intelligence in our country. It is a new year. Our Federal Government @AsoRock has to do everything to stem this rising tide of gruesome acts in the land, Pres @MBuhari.
“I do agree with our President @MBuhari what he said in his Tuesday statement reacting to the heinous killings across the country: ‘I have always maintained that nothing justifies the taking of the life of an innocent person.’ Question is: what action follows @AsoRock?
“In his (@MBuhari ‘s) statement, ‘he appealed to the communities affected not to embark on reprisal attacks, but to allow security agencies to carry out comprehensive investigations to properly punish the culprits.’ Citizens have never seen culprits punished. End that now.”
On his part, former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode elected to come down hard on Buhari over the Benue massacre.
In a series of tweets on his Twitter handle @realFFK, Fani-Kayode made reference to the Benue APC chairman’s remarks, who questioned, “How can you kill a pregnant woman, remove the unborn child and slaughter it?”
He added: “That is their way. In 1966 during the pogroms in the North they did it to 100, 000 Igbo. They targetted pregnant Igbo women, cut out their babies and smashed their heads open! Boko Haram bombs its victims whilst the Fulani herdsmen cut theirs into pieces. Don’t be fooled: the same hidden hand controls the two. Who refuses to arrest Fulani herdsmen? Who said ‘an attack on Boko Haram is an attack on the North?’ Who said it was wrong to proscribe Boko Haram?
Fani-Kayode continued: “In the past year Nigeria has experienced the greatest increase in deaths from terrorism, with 7, 512 deaths reported – an increase of over 300 per cent– UK’s Independent Newspaper. It is far higher than 7, 512 in the past year. It is at least 50, 000. Buhari clap for yourself.”
He added: “Lai Mohammed told @BBCWorld that IPOB are terrorists who pose a much greater threat to national unity than the Fulani herdsmen. He is sick and depraved. Both he and Buhari will answer to God and the Nigerian people for the innocent blood that their herdsmen have shed.”
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shares the sentiments of many, who have condemned the Federal Government for its stark failure to act upon early danger signs and threats, a development the party said would have averted the killings, especially in Benue State.
While accusing the APC of incompetence, it equally lashed out at the party for being insensitive and reacting to the ugly incidents after it was called out by it and well-meaning Nigerians.
PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the height of insensitivity of the APC Presidency became glaring in its reaction, wherein a media aide issued some apathetic and indifferent lines without any definite commitment to bringing the perpetrators to book, or any assurances of adequate security to forestall a reoccurrence.
The PDP also called on the Presidency to have some soul-searching with regard to its silence and loud indifference whenever citizens fall under such horrifying attacks.
Endless Killings Of Innocent Persons In Benue State
Many had thought that there won’t ever be anything close to the Agatu massacre, which happened not long ago, but the latest round of attacks on New Year’s Day, which spilled over to Tuesday, in which gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen invaded Guma and Logo local councils of the state left a sour taste in the mouth.
The attack, which was on the heels of the implementation of the anti-open grazing law, which the Fulani herdsmen deplored right from the start, led to the killing of over 50 people in communities including Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District of Guma Local Council, as well as Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan all in Logo Local Council.
Governor Samuel Ortom, who spoke on the killings on January 2, knocked security agents for failing to take decisive steps to guard against them.
In an interview with The Guardian, the governor maintained that the herdsmen were not just concerned about grazing, but were actually interested in occupying Benue as their plan “is to come and kill the people, destroy everything and then settle there.
He stressed that, “Herdsmen and everyone should know that cattle rearing is a business, and so they have to invest before they can make profit. Herdsmen are the only ones who move from North to South without paying anything. They drink free water, eat free grass and sell their cattle, but that is not the way to do business. We who are farmers pay for tractors and people to cultivate the land; we pay for everything. Why should you do business that destroys other people’s businesses and make profit alone? It is not right.”
He added that currently, the state has enough security operatives “to contain the challenge, but when you hear threats from this people that they will come and attack and so on, then as a leader you have to be pro-active and not just wait for them to carry out their threat because it is said that prevention is better than cure.”
Ortom, while also speaking after a state security meeting in Makurdi, insisted that no matter the level of intimidation and killings carried out by the herdsmen, the anti-open grazing law would not be repealed or reversed.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, who is also an indigene of the state, while deploring the rising deaths from farmers-herdsmen clashes in the country described the trend as “extremely disturbing.”
In a statement issued by Oluwakemi Ogunmakinwa, on behalf of the Director of Information in the ministry, Ogbeh said, “The killings are extremely disturbing and we do not know how a country can hope to enjoy happiness and fruits of God’s blessings when people engage so violently in hurting each other… I express condolences to those who have lost their beloved ones.’’
While Ogbeh expressed optimism that current efforts made by the Federal Government to grow the economy would help to reduce the clashes, the state chairman of the ruling APC, Comrade Abba Yaro has warned that the killings were invitations for a civil war.
In a statement in Abuja, which he signed, Yaro maintained that the recent killings were an attempt to spark a second civil war in the country, adding that it is a clear case of ethnic cleansing around the Benue Valley, which must be stopped immediately.
In calling on all Benue sons and daughters, irrespective of party affiliations to rise in defence of their state, Yaro said, “This is above party politics, it is human lives. How can you kill a pregnant woman and remove the unborn child and slaughter it? It is barbaric, unspeakable and generally unpalatable.”
South West Feeling The Pains, As Ogun Records 12 Cases Of Herdsmen Attacks In 2017
With the Thursday’s murder of a middle-aged woman, Patience Salami, by suspected herdsmen, who invaded Arodoye Community in Akure South Local Council of Ondo State, and the destruction of over 200 acres of farmland, the rampaging herdsmen are making steady progress in their incursion into the South West.
Apart from former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Olu Falae, who was abducted and ransom paid for his release, many other farmers have been raped, maimed or killed by the herdsmen in the South West.
For instance, in Ogun State, herdsmen struck at least 12 times in the outgone 2017. On each of this occasion, they either matcheted, raped or killed their victims in the process.
In the last incident, which was recorded on December 13, 2017, three herders who attempted to graze their cattle on a farm in Oke Odo, Ketu Local Council Development Area, were confronted by the farm owner, Ige Orisade. Infuriated by the challenge, the herdsmen allegedly assaulted the victim, who sustained serious injuries.
Following a tip-off, the trio of Mohammed Bello, 40; Mohammed Momoh, 30, and Yisau Umoru, 18, were later arrested by men of the state police command.
The Ogun police spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed that the herdsmen dealt several machete cuts on their victim before fleeing. “On the strength of the information, the Area Commander, ACP Titus Musa, dispatched a team of policemen to the scene. The surrounding bush was thoroughly combed, in conjunction with a local vigilance group, at the end of which the three suspects were arrested.
“We recovered from them one AK 49 rifle with serial number 513, 49, 0.8mm live ammunition, 26 live cartridges and two cutlasses. Efforts are on to apprehend other suspects and recover arms from them.”
The state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Iliyasu, equally directed his men to fish out fleeing members of the gang and also ordered their immediate transfer to the Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad for a thorough investigation, Oyeyemi added.
The Commander, Vigilance Service of Ogun State (VSO), Mr. Soji Ganzallo, said: “The herdsmen have been attacking our farmers. Most times, they invade farms and destroy crops, leading to skirmishes between them and the farmers. The attacks on our people are always serious. The herdsmen always stage reprisals whenever they have any face-off with farmers.
“They even attack farmers at night. We have always been rising to the occasion by getting them arrested. They have also been involved in armed robbery. Even women that go to their farms are raped, and sometimes killed.”
Ganzallo added: “As a grassroots security outfit, we will continue to monitor all flashpoints where the herdsmen attack our people. For now, Igbo Ora Road and Yewa axis are the flashpoints. Our officers are always alert. We have been arresting them and transferring them to the police. We are committed to the safety of our people and we will redouble our efforts.”
President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), Dr. Ona Ekhomu, wants the Federal Government to urgently address the herdsmen killings before they spiral into a conflagration.
He added that it was an unfortunate situation for herdsmen to attack people on their farms and inflict injuries on them, even if there was provocation or loss of assets by the herdsmen.
He said herdsmen found to be in possession of weapons have violated laws of the land and should be decisively dealt with.
“The machetes used which caused serious bodily harm constitute weapons as much as the firearms. Nobody in this country, not even the president is above the law. Whether they are herdsmen or not, they don’t have the right to be in possession of firearms or to destroy peoples’ farms.”
SOKAPU, Civil Societies Tackle Govt Over Serial Bloodletting In Southern Kaduna
The highly reprehensible killings, unabated attacks by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in the southern part of Kaduna State has continued to fester largely due to the failure to deploy strategies to tackle the problem, and by extension, a lack of the political will by the government to put an end to it, according to the people.
Indeed, the perennial lip service paid the ugly development has emboldened the bloodthirsty dramatis personae to continue performing their grim art knowing too well that the chances of seeking them are slim.
Of late, attacks have been recorded in Kajuru Local Council and Chikun Local Council, where so many lost their lives in unprovoked attacks. On December 22nd, 2017 Nindem Village, in Godogodo chiefdom was attacked and thereafter Ungwan Mailafiya in Gwong chiefdom was attacked on Christmas Eve.
Only last Wednesday, the state Police Command confirmed the abduction of the paramount ruler of Ikulu in Zango-Kataf Local Council, Chief Yohanna Kukah. The monarch, who is the younger brother to Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Kukah, was whisked away by gunmen, who stormed the palace.
This incident was barely 48 hours after the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, ASP Mukhtar Hussaini Aliyu, disclosed that gunmen had killed the Chief of Numana in Sanga Local Council of the state, Malam Gambo Makama, and his pregnant wife, while one of the chief’s sons was also injured and his residence burnt to ashes.
These uncontrollable attacks and killings by gunmen in various communities in the area forced the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) to pass a vote of no confidence in Buhari, and el-Rufai.
According to SOKAPU, the prolonged momentum of insecurity in the area and the inability of government to arrest the unknown gunmen responsible for the attacks and killings have shown that government’s intelligence gathering mechanism in apprehending those behind the heinous crimes has failed.
The people therefore, urged the government to be proactive in deploying its security apparatus, and intelligence gathering mechanism in a manner that would lead to the arrest of the culprits.
A statement by SOKAPU’s National Public Relations Officer, Mr. Yakubu Kuzamani said: “With so much sadness and concern, the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU) is constrained again to point out to the general public that the ominous signs coming out from the renewed attacks on our people, which have shattered the relative peace we have been enjoying, call for serious concern.
“SOKAPU is actually wondering why the government continues to adopt the same strategy with regard to security in Southern Kaduna when such a strategy has not translated into stopping these attacks and killings. Issuing press statements after each attack with intent to show empathy, and even announce the redeployment of more troops also looks good, but has not stopped the attacks. Rather these approaches, good and commendable as they look, have not curbed the killings because they are all reactionary in strategy.”
Besides, in order to apprehend the culprits in the attacks and killings in affected communities, Kuzamani explained, “what is needed is more proactiveness, more sincerity, and more determination to stop the attacks that have been occurring for a long time.”
The group said that the lack of arrest of perpetrators of the heinous acts “has simply emboldened these terrorists to keep attacking and killing at will, while the government is left to issue flowery press statements after each attack and deploy security operatives to already destroyed communities. In view of all these killings of our people, SOKAPU is urging the government to show more determination, willingness and sincerity in being more proactive in curbing these killings, rather than the reactionary method it’s been deploying that hasn’t stopped the killings.”
One-time governor of the state and opposition leader, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, agrees with the people that Buhari has failed woefully in tackling the menace caused by herdsmen in the country.
According to him, “Buhari has not lived up to expectation in combating attacks and killings by gunmen in the country, and Nigerians expect more from him to reassure them of security in the country.”
He continued: “Let me tell you, it is not only in Southern Kaduna that the attacks, killings and kidnapping can be seen today, it is all over Nigeria. See what is happening in Birni Gwari, Zamfara, Benue and other parts of the country. The government has the constitutional responsibility to protect all Nigerians against any form of attack. So, this administration has not been able to offer much in this regard, and intelligence gathering in the country’s military has totally failed in as much as they have not been able to arrest and prosecute gunmen that are behind the attacks and kidnappings in the country.”
Meanwhile, human rights activists in the state are urging the government to find a permanent solution to the recurring deaths caused by gunmen.
The rights activists, under the aegis of Centrum Initiative For Development and Fundamental Rights Advocacy (CEDRA), criticised Buhari and el-Rufai for their inability to put an end to the communal attacks and killings by gunmen in the area, saying that the lack of proactive measures by government in addressing the problem has continued to threaten lives and property.
According to its chairman, Dr. John Danfulani, government’s inability to address the recurring attacks is simply insensitive and amounts to a gross neglect of the plight of inhabitants of the area.
He therefore urged both Buhari and el-Rufai to put the appropriate security machinery on ground in the area to stop the constant invasion by gunmen and Fulani herdsmen.
However, while commiserating with the victims of recent Southern Kaduna kidnap and killings, Governor el-Rufai assured them of government’s protection against further attacks and kidnaps, pointing out that more detachments of troops have been sent to secure the troubled areas.
According to him, “The state government has been working with security agencies to fortify the general area, in order to deter escalation and reassure citizens of their safety. Accordingly, the Commander of Operation Safe Haven, who has temporarily moved to Kafanchan to coordinate the operation, has confirmed that more assets are being deployed in the southern Kaduna area.”
Troubled Rivers State Still In The Grip Of Cultists, Militants
While Fulani herdsmen run riot in the North, a different set of daredevil gunmen were also spilling innocent blood in Omoku, Rivers State in the wee hours of January 1st. By the time their atrocious shooting was over, 21 persons lay dead and scores wounded in what has become one of the worst mass shootings in the state’s history.
Locals have blamed the attack on the foot soldiers of a wanted gang leader, Ejima Igwedibia, alias Don Wanny, and sources in Omoku told The Guardian a few hours before the attack, the Ogba/-Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) Security Planning and Advisory Committee (OSPAC), a local vigilance group, had warned security personnel of a possible invasion of the area by Don Wanny’s men, but they were told not to bother. So OSPAC retreated from the area, and a few hours later, the gunmen struck.
The gunmen, who ambushed their unsuspecting victims at D.M Jaja Junction, along Kregani Road and other locations in Omoku, shoot sporadically at any one in sight.
A shell-shocked Mrs. Comfort Ordu, said the gunmen invaded her residence, and shot her husband, Augustine Ordu and their two children, Precious and Wisdom.
Along Kregani Road, the gunmen shot dead one Oyi Ogadinma and her daughter, Nwakaego Ogadinma. The deceased seven-year-old daughter identified as, Mercy Ogadinma, sustained gunshot injuries.
The gunmen also killed Jennifer Ohia with her son, Innocent Ohia, a 14-year-old. Her little daughter, identified as Success, survived the attack but sustained injuries.
Mrs. Joy Nwokocha was shot dead and left in her pool of blood, where her husband, Bright Nwokocha found her.
Grief-stricken Nwokocha narrated that his wife, who was still conscious when he arrived the scene of the attack would have survived if soldiers, whom he beckoned to assist him rush her to the hospital had heeded his pleas.
He explained that his wife, who was returning home with their three children on a bike, was gunned down a few meters away from their residence.
According to him, he called his wife on phone shortly after midnight and she responded that they were on their way back home. Upon hearing sporadic gunshots, Nwokocha again placed a call to his wife’s cell phone. Several times the phone rang out until his second daughter dashed in to inform him that her mother had been shot and he rushed to the scene.
Other victims of the New Year’s Day massacre included Favour Odili, Saviour Amirinze, Reuben Idogu, Baby Idogu, Ngozi Ogbuanukwu and Uche Onige.
Don Wanny, whom the military had declared wanted in November 2017, was among the 22, 430 militants and cultists that accepted the Rivers State government amnesty offer and surrendered 911 assorted arms, and a total of 7, 661 ammunition.
In a bid to curb gun violence and associated bloodletting among rival gangs and self-styled militants, the state government initiated the amnesty programme, which offered blanket amnesty to anyone, who renounces violence and surrenders his arms.
Gang members in communities such as Omoku, who once went on house-to-house rampage shooting, hacking and decapitating defenceless men, women and children embraced the amnesty offer.
At the expiration of the amnesty deadline, Governor Nyesom Wike, in line with the recommendation of the amnesty committee announced the disbandment of all vigilance groups in the state, and directed security agencies to make sure they don’t exist until members have been duly profiled and found not to belong to any militant or cult group.
Wike also warned those who embraced the amnesty to remain faithful to their commitment and not resort to crime, adding that, “If you are involved in any criminal activity, amnesty will not cover you.”
But barely a year after accepting the amnesty offer, security forces and OSPAC stormed Don Wanny’s residence in November 2017, killing six of his gang members in Aligwu Community, and he was subsequently declared wanted. The alleged killing of some persons by his group at Okposi, Omoku and Obrikom necessitated the attack. Some of the victims were said to be members of OSPAC.
After the raid, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Enobong Udoh, led soldiers and OSPAC volunteers to a forest in Aligwu allegedly used as a shrine and a camp by Don Wanny and his cohorts, where they exhumed several decomposed bodies, skulls, bones and other human parts.
The general belief in Omoku is that the New Year’s Day attack by the gunmen was in retaliation of the military and OSCAP’s offensive against Don Wanny.
Even though there have been previous mass shootings in Omoku and other parts of the state, none of these has had the magnitude of the one that has happened in recent times.
The state government has already set aside a N200million bounty for relevant information that would lead to the arrest of all those involved in the killings.
The State Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, who hails from Omoku, and who lost six persons including his in-law, Augustine Ordu, condemned the killings describing it as “barbarous, callous and a monumental loss to the ONELGA people, and Rivers State.”
He called on security agents in the state to ensure that the perpetrators of the heinous crime were promptly apprehended and brought to justice.
An APC chieftain and Chairman, Platform Petroleum, Mr. Dumo Lulu-Briggs, lamented that the senseless and unprovoked act of brazen bestiality has highlighted the very precarious nature of existence in the state.
“Those Rivers sons and daughters; our friends and relatives, who lost their lives to those ugly occurrences do not deserve to die in such a barbaric manner, and by this horrific experience, we should be reminded once more of the greater task of ensuring a saner society that is safe and conducive for all. The 2018 New Year eve killings further justify the call by well-meaning people for the Federal Government to beef up its security architecture in Rivers State in order to protect and secure the lives of Rivers people and ensure that these orchestrated atrocities are brought to a decisive end,” said Lulu- Briggs
The Executive Director, Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Mr. Anyankwee Nsirimovu, said these latest killings should inspire the state and federal governments to action to urgently end the senseless spilling of innocent blood.
“The Federal Government should immediately demolish all buildings associated with the terrorists in the area as a mark of seriousness and as an example to others. Don Wanny should be chased to the farthest end of Omoku Forest and beyond. If the Nigerian State can deal with and subdue Boko Haram terrorists in Sambisa Forest, Don Wanny and his group would not be a serious matter, for an effectively and efficiently assessed small force in ONELGA and its surroundings,” he said.
Nsirimovu blamed politicians in the state for nurturing and arming these “terrorists and torturers,” and also accused the police of aiding the proliferation of these groups as they have consistently failed to enforce the law, thereby leaving “these terrorists free to prey upon communities and citizens as they just did on January 1st 2018.”
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