From Uche Nnorom, Makurdi
Over 3,641 deaths have been recorded between 2016 and 2018 following suspected herdsmen invasion of Benue communities while more than 180,000 persons were displaced.
A group known as MINDA Strategic Contact Group, MPSCG disclosed while citing statistics by Amnesty International at a press conference tagged to “Remember is to resist” held in Makurdi.
Co-chairman of the group, Prof. Tor Iorapuu explained that the essence of the press briefing is draw the art nation of the international community to the ugly incident of 2018 January killings of over 73 persons in the State by suspected herdsmen.
Prof. Tor Iorapuu also, raised the alarm of the sudden high influx of herdsmen and cattle into the State including the recently arrested herdsmen within the State capital and therefore urged Benue people, government of the State, the Federal Government, all security agencies as well as the international community to note.
He made reference to an online publication, Nigerian Concord of 29th December, 2018 which reported the endorsement of the President Buhari and Emmanuel Jime by Miyetti Allah, averring that such newspaper report is to the effect that ‘Harvest of death’ looms in Benue.
“Benue State is in a state of fear and sober mood. The event of 1st January 2018 and several other ugly events that followed thereafter will remain unforgettable in the minds of our people, our government and the entire world.
“Until the condemnation of the Nigerian public, civil society organizations and international agencies of the massacre of January 2018 dictated otherwise, the Nigerian Government remained uncharacteristically silent.
“In recognition of the global outcry, the federal government responded with the initial ‘Operation Cat Race’ that yielded minimal results.
The government and the people of Benue persistently cried for justice.
This compelled the inauguration of “Operation Whirl Stroke.” It is significant at this point to acknowledge that with the efforts of ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’ Benue State noticed some measure of relative peace and quiet in terms of attacks for many months.
“However, while we commend the military for the relative success and restoration of peace in some of our communities, we want to put on record that over one hundred and eighty thousand, (180,000), people across the state are still living in IDP camps in dehumanized conditions. This include children who are missing education; many of them have become orphans, the same way many women have become widows, and much disheartening, is that many children have been forced into parenthood because they lost both parents.
“These IDPs have no source of livelihood as they remain deprived of their farmlands and ancestral homes. The human and economic dislocation of the scourge to Benue is unquantifiable. The short statistics below will help our understanding of the magnitude of what we have explained above and the purpose of this press conference.
“That from 1st January to 31st January 2018 the number killed across Benue were over 100 persons including the 73 on New Year’s Day 2018;
“In April 2018, Benue again recorded 154 deaths including two priests and 17 worshipers at Ayar, Mbalom in Gwer East Local Government; Only on the 17th December 2018, Amnesty International released a report, which captured 3,641 deaths from 2016 to December 2018”, he said.
“There is palpable anxiety in the State that the sudden influx of such a large number of herdsmen into Benue State on the eve of the 2019 general elections is a design to breach the peace and instigate the postponement of the 2019 general elections in Benue State and call for declaration of a state of emergency”.
The group lamented over the utterances of certain political elites within and outside the state regarding the attacks on the people of Benue aimed at securing political capital and undermining the cultural sensibilities of the people as unfortunate.
While rejecting the proposed Python Dance to be embarked upon by the military on the orders of the President, the socio political group said it is a way of depleting the armed forces to tackle insurgency in the North- eastern region of the country.