Residents of five villages under Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State, North-central Nigeria, have been sheltering in the forest since Friday, May 21, after they came under a series of attacks from criminal herders.
Between Friday, May 21, and Monday, May 24, Mbachir and Utangir Council wards under the local government area have become no go areas after the criminal gang descended on them.
HumAngle learnt that the villagers, including children and infirm aged have been displaced following the four-day attacks with no intervention from security forces.
“We are tired, we didn’t expect that we would be displaced in such a manner, look at our children, where we are now is a strange land. And we don’t know what will happen to us here,” says one of the villagers who did not mention her name for safety reasons.
Kyado Gabriel, a student whose mother and siblings are among the displaced, is shouldering the burden of accommodating them in his hostel room.
At the moment, Gabriel disclosed that some of the displaced persons are still languishing in the bushes around Mbachir council wards. “It is hard how those little children cope running until many of them are saved,” he laments.
Trailed by criminal herders, threatened by hunger
Many of those who ran for cover in the bush are now facing two extremes —starvation and death threat by the criminal herders who are still on their trail.
“If we are not killed by the herders, we would die of hunger and thirst. Our mouth is dried, there is no water for us,” cries a woman who identified herself as Angbiandoo.
They have no food and still have no shelter in the bush where they have been hiding since the attack on Friday.
Som Terlumun, a villager who witnessed the genesis of the attack informed HumAngle that a herder had led his cattle to graze on a farm, which prompted the farmer to confront him. Terlumun alleged that the farmer was killed by the herder following an argument between the two of them.
“Immediately he killed him, the villagers took to their heels but men who could stand, stayed behind. Few cattle were killed because the herder ran away. The remaining were handed over to them with the help of the security men who went with herders to intervene.”
But, the attacks, he said, resumed Monday morning when the herders returned, and this time around, according to him, with sophisticated weapons, shooting at anything on sight.
“At this point, more than 10 persons were killed already. That was how the whole villages scattered round in search of safety,” he recounts, not able to ascertain afterward how many more people were killed.
“About five villages are displaced and the rate of hunger now is even higher than the herders’ attack.”
No hope of returning to villages
The villagers cannot contemplate a return home any time soon, despite their precarious living condition in the bush. They are scared that the attacks will resume once they return.
“With the way they launch their attack, it will be hard for anybody to phantom whether they have gone forever or they are coming back,” Terlumun told HumAngle.
“We have killed just a few cattle and they came in this way, how do we survive now that seven of their men are missing?” he asked rhetorically.
According to him, the action of the villagers was premised on the declaration by Samuel Ortom, Governor of the state during one of the security briefing that citizens should ensure safety measures by fighting their enemies back. This, he said, was because of the recent prevailing insecurity in his state.
Growing population of displaced persons
More than 800,000 persons have been displaced in Benue State in the last four years, including nine out of 23 local governments in the state.
In the last one month, about 1000 persons have been displaced. Villages such as Mbachol, Raav, Babun, Bagbaav, Mbamonde in Agasha council wards have been under threats by the criminal herders.
HumAngle learnt that many villagers were moving to Agasha area town where they hoped to get safety but Agasha was attacked two weeks ago. Other parts of Guma, like Iortyom, Gbajimba, Ikyo, Umenge, Tukura, are places where at least four to five persons are killed weekly.
In Makurdi, the state capital, about 12 persons were killed in Agan on Friday, May 21, leaving about 400 persons displaced. Places like Abagena are no longer safe for villagers.
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