By Umar Muhammad Puma
Members of the House of Representatives from Benue state has described as suspicious, condemnable and ill-advised, the withdrawal of military troops on Operation Cat Race from the state, while herdsmen attacks have not abated.
Briefing journalists yesterday in Abuja, leader of the group Rep John Dyegh said it is the right of every Nigerian to defend self against attacks as reinstated by former Defence Minister, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), they would not encourage the people of Benue to embark on self help capable of leading to a state of anachy.
The lawmakers wondered if preferential treatment was given to Taraba State by the Federal government based on Gen. Danjuma (rtd) factor while Benue was ignored because there was no such voice to present their situation.
As it was with the New Year attacks, the herdsmen have been on rampage in several communities in Guma, Gwer-west and Logo Local Government Areas (LGAs) since the day after Easter killing and maiming women and children and destroying homes and farmland without any intervention by security operatives even though the federal governments exercise Cat Race or “Ayem A Kpatema” is supposed to be in place.
“We are very seriously concerned and alarmed at the withdrawal of Personnel of exercise Cat Race from Benue when the herdsmen menace has not been curbed and the reasons for their continued deployment to other states in the region which has left Benue even more vulnerable and has paved the way for the recent despicable and premeditated attacks by the herdsmen in our communities.
“We view this decision as very suspicious, condemnable and ill-advised and leaves one to wonder about the military’s strategy or lack of it in the fight against the killer herdsmen”.
The caucus expressed concern that the intervention of the Federal government have not yielded the expected result with open breach of anti open grazing law and killings as recent as Easter period.
“We are worried that there is still no evidence of the disarming of these killer herdsmen by the Military, Police or any other security agency and the apparent refusal by the Police to enforce The Open grazing prohibition law constitutionally enacted by the Benue state House of Assembly which has emboldened the flagrant disregard of the law by the herdsmen who continue to openly graze cattle in several communities of the state with impunity.
“These latest attacks have occurred in Ikyon and Agasha on 3rd and 4th April; in Semaka, Asom , Babanruwa on 3rd April and in Udei and Umenger on 2nd April.
“They are right now stationed at Nzorov Council ward ready to attack Gbajimba in Guma Local Government Area. There are others in Nasarawa mready to attack Udei and Daudu with over 14 people killed in the last 4 days.
“Similarly, Sengev, Mbakyondo and Mbapa areas of Gwer-West Local Government Area are currently under siege by armed herdsmen. In Tsegaase, two people have been killed; one person is missing in Zwatema, two killed in Tse Adeke, one killed inTse Adudu with one missing in Tsekelefu. So far, we are yet to confirm the casualty level in Enger. On 3rd April, four people were killed in Anyebe and 1 person at Mbavihi both in Tonbo ward of Logo LGA”.
The Federal lawmakers said though Benue has no voice to present its case at the highest level, Nigerians were however utged to help prevail on the Federal government to take a closer look at the situation of the people of Benue.
“We are calling on the Federal government to immediately explain to Benue indigenes and the Nigerian people why the Cat Race exercise has already been terminated in Benue without a resolution of the issue and want to demand that the Federal Government deploy a proper military operation to Benue State and station military units in restive communities in Benue until the herdsmen menace has been dealt with.
“We urge the Federal government to immediately declare these deadly herdsmen as terrorists in view of their inhuman, volatile and destructive activities and the international community to pay more attention to this ongoing pogrom of Benue people and appeal for their intervention in the provision of aid to the over 190,000 IDP’S at different camps in Benue State.
“We believe it is only when these criminal and vicious elements are properly designated and treated as terrorists that the spate of killings would be put to rest,” Dyegh added.