Governor Ortom of Benue State, said the death toll in last Friday night’s attack on Tarfi village, Binnev Ward in Buruku Local Government area of the state by suspected herdsmen had risen to over 60, lamenting that Benue was a state under siege.
According to him, his government was helpless and could not contain the activities of the herdsmen who he said were killing, maiming and raping women in Benue villages.
Ortom said, “after committing the atrocities they sacked the locals from their abode after which they occupy the ‘captured territory’.”
The Governor, who fought back his emotions, urged the herdsmen to either live in peace with their hosts communities or vacate the state immediately in the interest of peace.
He said he had continually restrained the people from carrying out reprisal attacks on the marauders, but cautioned that the people might resort to self help if security agencies could not prevent the massacre of the innocent farmers.
He said: “It is a bad situation, everyday you hear how my people are being killed, raped and maimed by these mercenaries. They do not have respect for the rule of law or security personnel. The situation has gotten to a point where we contain the crisis in one community, they move quickly to another to massacre the people just like the Buruku case where over 60 innocent persons have been killed. These are wicked mercenaries under the guise of herdsmen attacking us and taking over our farmland. I have said it several times that we do not have land for grazing in the state, let them move out of the state if they cannot respect the rule of law and the sanctity of human lives. There is a limit to which I can appeal to my people to restrain themselves from reprisal attacks, if all of them are killed then I might be the next target. I will have to represent the matter to the President because we are helpless and if nothing urgent is done we might have a major crisis in our hands.”
The Governor, who debunked allegations that the crisis was sparked by rustlers in the affected communities said, “those behind cow rustling are the herdsmen themselves because they are the only ones that speak the language that cows understand. For instance, even at my village in Gums they claimed that my people rustled their cows and they went ahead to kill 50 of my people and took over the land. This is genocide. Enough of these killings.”
The Governor wondered why security operatives stationed in these areas were unable to arrest the herdsmen who perpetrated the heinous crime. He accused them of failing in their responsibilities.