EDITORIAL: Perpetrators of Benue killings must be arrested and prosecuted

EDITORIAL: Perpetrators of Benue killings must be arrested and prosecuted

On New Year day, some suspected herdsmen invaded five communities in Benue State, killing no fewer than 50 of the villagers who were returning from the New Year eve service. The Benue killings have continued in what is fast becoming a premeditated genocide that can only breed reprisal attacks and an endless spiral of bloodletting. Reports about the gruesome killings of innocent people in Benue State by suspected herdsmen is unwarranted, to say the least.

This is the second time in one week that these terrorists will be unleashing mayhem on the people of Tswarev community. The other day was Tuesday 2/1/18 of the night and Friday 5/1/18 in the daytime. Farmers have been killed in their homes, their homes have been razed, and thousands of poor villagers have been displaced and dispossessed.

The killings started in Rivers, just a few minutes after the new year was ushered in, when some gunmen in Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas of the state went on a shooting spree at the end of which no fewer than 14 persons, said to be returning home from their various places of worships, were mown down. At about the same time, scores of gunmen also invaded Arak village in Sango local government of Kaduna State, killing the traditional ruler, Dr Gambo Makama, and his pregnant wife. In Ilorin, Kwara State, several persons were injured following an attack on both Christian and Muslim worshippers who were marking the New Year. They were attacked at the Christ Apostolic Church, CAC, Oke-Isegun, the Methodist Cathedral and the St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral, all located within the Ibrahim Taiwo Road in Ilorin, the state capital. The Tiv community of Nasarawa State also confirmed losing 16 persons to fleeing herdsmen in Awe, Keana, and Obi LGAs respectively.

Worrisome is the utter in-humaneness of the attacks: hacking children with machetes; slaughtering peoples like animals; molesting and desecrating corpses; killing pregnant women and removing the fetuses to butcher and display etc.

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Similarly, herdsmen attacked six villages of Tambo, Tambo Jumo, Luru, Bakule, Jifan, and Bakopi in Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Friday night, killing 10 persons, while several others were injured and houses. Valuables were destroyed. These were people who would have thanked God for sparing their lives to witness the new year at the cross-over service, only to be killed few days later.

It is disheartening that Nigeria, which had once known relative peace, has now degenerated into what could be likened to a war zone.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has revealed that no fewer than 1,900 lives had been lost to the lingering clashes between farmers and the herdsmen in Benue State alone in 2017. There has been tension in the state since the passage of the Anti-open Grazing Bill into law last November. The law is meant to encourage ranching and check the menace of herders and their cattle, which often destroy farmlands in Benue State and has led to bloody clashes and attacks in the past, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people in the state. However, since the enactment of the law, the cattle breeders association — Miyetti Allah — have vowed to resist the law and were accused of threatening to carry out attacks against citizens in the state.

Against this background, AljazirahNigeria strongly condemns the actions of the gunmen and Fulani herdsmen; the inability of the security agencies to bring the situation under control; and the failure of President Buhari to roll out measures in tackling terrorism in the country.

It is regrettable that the security agents have not been able to arrest the ugly trend. Nigerian authorities have taken no meaningful steps to address underlying grievances or bring to justice those responsible for the bloodshed.

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Security agencies should not be carried away by cheap political propaganda. Rather, they should investigate the dishonorable incident professionally and without fear or favour. This is one incident that the Federal Government must show sufficient interest in. The authorities must, therefore, see the tragedies as a challenge not only to our corporate existence but also to the future of the country. Nigerian authorities can and should take urgent steps to ensure that the perpetrators of communal violence, including mass murder, are investigated and prosecuted, and that victims are provided restitution or compensation for their enormous losses,

While we condemn in the strongest terms the growing brutality targeted at innocent Nigerians, we are worried that these incessant attacks can only worsen the general feeling of insecurity. We urge the federal government to ensure that mass killings are swiftly investigated; shun discriminatory policies that would help fuel ethnic tensions and treat inter-communal violence as a criminal —  rather than political problem.

We call on President Buhari to begin to fashion out long-term solutions to the challenge that is generating violence in several theatres at enormous cost to the nation.

We, at AljazirahNigeria, therefore, call all relevant stakeholders: states/federal government, legislatures, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, security agencies and communities on the urgent need to frontally tackle these deadly and criminal conflicts, which are spreading to other states in the federation and threatening the brittle peace. This must be nipped in the bud now so as not to have a replica of Boko Haram insurgents.

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