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Published On: Tue, Mar 13th, 2018

Herders, farmers’ clashes: 145 suspects in Police custody

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By Lawrence Olaoye

About 145 suspects have so far been arrested by the Nigeria Police following recent herdsmen/farmers clashes in some parts of the country especially in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
President Muhammadu Buhari who had given instructions to security agencies to fish out perpetrators of the violence, has been visiting some of the troubled spots and is expected in Benue State today.
Investigations reveal that out of this number, 124 have been charged to court, while 21 suspects are currently under investigation and waiting to be charged to court.
About 106 suspects were arrested for criminal conspiracy and inciting disturbance of public peace in Wadata, Makurdi, Benue State.
It would be recalled that on March 5, at least 24 persons were killed and 20 others feared missing in two communities in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State following fresh attacks by suspected herdsmen.
Our correspondent gathered that early in the year, three suspects with Ak-47 rifles were also apprehended by the Police Intelligence Team in Benue, nine members of untrained Civilian JTF/Livestock guards with prohibited firearms were arrested by the military in Arufa, a boundary town between Benue and Taraba with five AK-47 rifles who confessed that they were employed as Livestock guards by a state government on a N150,000 monthly salary.
Similarly, 16 suspects were arrested in Gboko LGA and investigations are ongoing, while several members of armed militia and unknown gunmen were killed or apprehended by the police.
Other arrested include 6 suspects on January 1, 2018 following the police response to the killings in Akor Village in Guma LGA on December 31, 2017.
Exhibits recovered from the suspect include 3 cutlasses, charms and other items. All the suspects were charged to court for culpable homicide.
Concerted efforts are being made by the police to apprehend all culprits in the conflict, a police source said.
The Nigerian Police have had their fair share of attacks while trying to fish out the culprits, our correspondent gathered.
On January 25 this year, two visiting Police Mobile Force (PMF) from 20 and 32 led by their respective unit commanders were ambushed by a group suspected to be pastoralists while they were on patrol at Sati village in Guma LGA of Benue State.
During the ambush, one inspector Abdullahi Isiaka was shot and wounded, while one Sergeant Solomon Dung was reported missing.
“We are doing our job diligently to ensure safety of lives and property in these flashpoint areas. So it is unfair when some people say we are being partial in how we are handling the conflict,” another police source said.
Further findings reveal that the Police has lost several of its officers, while one is still missing in action in the course on restoring peace in Benue state.
“About 30 of our colleagues have been killed in the line of duty, while Sergeant Dung is still missing in action,” the source said.
Also, our correspondent gathered that the disbandment and disarming of the livestock guards and militia groups in the state are ongoing so as to forestall further violence.
Early in the year, the IGP team commenced an on-the-spot assessment of situations in Benue with a visit to the flashpoints of the crisis, places such as Logo and Guma LGAs in Benue and Tunga in Awe LGA in Nasarawa State.
Security analysts say that one of the root causes of the crisis in Benue has been the implementation of the Anti-Open grazing law by the state government.
On January 4, the IGP met with Benue State governor and the state’s religious leaders, traditional rulers, CSOs, and other stakeholders, where the open grazing and establishment of ranches were mooted.
It would be recalled that following several clashes between herdsmen and farmers in some parts of the country, the Federal Government deployed mobile police forces, the army and Air Force to troubled areas.
Security has also reportedly been beefed up in affected communities in Benue State and in other states affected by herdsmen/farmers clashes.
Our correspondent gathered that to support the Police in restoring peace, Army formations and units in Benue State are said to be maintaining Forward Operating Bases in flash areas covering Guma, Logo, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas of Benue state in an operation nicknamed Operation Zenda.
Similarly, the Nigerian Army recently deployed troops flashpoints in Nasarawa State, to forestall further attacks in routes where armed herdsmen reportedly use to attack communities in Benue State.
Also, recently, the Nigerian Army kicked off Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA, to checkmate the activities of armed bandits and militias in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and its environs.

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