GUNMEN on motorbikes in Katsina State killed at least 69 people in attacks on four villages, a local lawmaker told AFP Thursday, amid rising communal tension in the region.
The state’s police chief, Hurdi Mohammed, who gave a lower toll of 30 dead, told AFP the violence was perpetrated by ethnic Fulani herdsmen who have been blamed for scores of deadly raids.
“So far, 69 bodies have been recovered from the attacks carried out by a large group of gunmen riding on motorcycles,” said Katsina lawmaker, Abbas Abdullahi Michika of the violence which first broke out late Tuesday.
“The victims include men, women and children. Rescue teams are still combing nearby bushes in search for more bodies,” he told AFP.
He specified that 47 people were killed in the village of Mararrabar Maigora while seven deaths were recorded in both Kura Mota and Unguwar Rimi.
Another eight people were killed in Maigora, according to Michika.
Fulani leaders have for years complained about the loss of grazing land which is crucial to their livelihood, with resentment between the herdsmen and their agrarian neighbours rising over the past decade.
While there is no religious element to the conflict in Katsina, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, tension between the Fulani and Hausa farmers has worsened in recent months. Residents have blamed the Fulani for several violent robberies this year.
A member of the House of Representatives representing Faskari/Kankara/Sabuwa Federal Constituency of Katsina State, Hon. Abbas Abdullahi Machika has said that many family members were still searching for the bodies of their loved ones who were killed by gunmen.
Machika who spoke in an interview with the BBC Hausa monitored in Kaduna on Thursday, said that “as I speak to you we are still searching for dead bodies, and there are still dead bodies in the bush. The attackers are not thieves but just killers and this is what they are doing. They did not steal anything but killing people. They look like Fulani herdsmen and had killed 69 villagers and burnt scores of houses between Tuesday andWednesday,” he said.
He said “this morning we picked dead bodies in Faskari forest, again, this morning in Mararaban Maigoro, we buried 47 people. In Goran Mota we buried seven people and Ungwan Rimi we buried seven people. And in Maigora we buried eight people, like I told you we are still searching. They attacked our communities in the broad day light.
“For over one year we are talking, people are saying it is about stealing and I am telling you it is not so but purely killings. It is almost the same thing that started in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, there is no response from the police authorities as they are busy with President Goodluck Jonathan’s state visit.”
Fulani herdsmen slaughter 22 in Benue gov’s village
Reprieve is yet to come the way of the people of Benue State as Fulani herdsmen, yesterday, attacked Anyii, the country home of Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam.
Consequently, all the governor’s kinsmen, extended family members, elders, women and children have been sacked from their ancestral homes by the marauders, leaving the entire village deserted.
The invaders also slaughtered over 22 persons, whose corpses the Nigerian Tribune gathered, were still trapped in the farms at Anyii and Ayilamo where the mercenaries are believed to have set up their camps.
In this connection, Governor Suswam yesterday led journalists, the Benue State Police Commissioner, Mr Adams Audu and a team of police officers and men on an assessment tour of his village and neighbouring communities.
It was discovered that from Anyii, Suswam’s ancestral home, to Ayilamo, a stretch of about 25 kilometers, all the inhabitants of the close to 29 villages had been sacked by the rampaging herdsmen who struck less than 24 hours before the governor’s visit.
One of the fleeing locals who gave his name as James Terzungwe, told the Nigerian Tribune that the invaders came to their communities from neighbouring Nasarawa State.
“They came from Nasarawa State after crossing River Benue which separates the bordering communities of Benue and Nasarawa states.
“They stormed our communities in their hundreds, when people were already in the farms. That was why many of the people were killed. They were caught up in the farms where it was very difficult for them to escape or jointly defend themselves.
“The attack left over 22 of our people dead, those are the ones we have seen.Many are still missing and nobody knows their condition.We gathered that so many corpses are still in the farms and bushes near the river, but no one can go near there for now because the Fulanis have completely taken over these areas,” he said.
While addressing the displaced persons who came out of their hiding at Ayilamo, Governor Suswam urged them to be security conscious. He assured them that the state government was partnering the Federal Government to ensure that the crisis was brought to an end.
The governor also promised to establish displaced persons camps in parts of the state to cater for Internally Displaced Person (IDPs), in areas affected by the crisis.
No one is safe in Nigeria —ACF
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has raised the alarm that no one is safe in Nigeria when even the governor of Benue State was not spared by gunmen in spite of his security arrangement.
The National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Muhammad Ibrahim, who made this known in Kaduna on Thursday, noted that in a recent missive addressed to the 19 Northern States Governors, and delivered to the Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF), ACF expressed dismay at the pervading security challenges in the North.
“We described the situation in Benue as boiling because in the last two weeks or so, Benue State had experienced intense and vicious ethnic/communal clashes between Tiv farmers and suspected Fulani herdsmen which had resulted in huge loss of life and property, farm crops and herds of cattle,” ACF said.
“The recent attack on the convoy of the Benue State governor, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam, while on assessment tour of villages destroyed as a result of clashes between the Tiv and some suspected herdsmen in Guma Local Government Area, was most shocking and unfortunate. If the convoy of a state governor with all the paraphernalia of security detail could be so attacked by some bandits, what hope does the common man have in the government that is primarily responsible for his security and welfare?”
“The ACF once more wishes to urge the Federal and all the northern states governments on the need to re- double their efforts and be proactive in tackling security challenges in their domains. Communities must also be vigilant and monitor suspicious people within their midst, get involved in intelligence gathering and alertsSecurity agencies in good time,”the group declared.
“The call by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar lll, that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry be instituted to unravel the causes of frequent clashes between the farmers and herdsmen in several states including Benue state is most welcome and should be seriously considered by Government.
“ACF calls on the two communities to urgently sheath their swords, stop reprisal attacks and embrace peace. Community leaders should also refrain from making inflammatory remarks capable of destroying the peace being brokered by various leaders.ACF commends the Benue State government’s effort in providing rehabilitation facilities to alleviate the sufferings of the displaced persons and the bereaved families.”
ACF commiserated with Governor Suswam on the unfortunate incident and extended its condolences to the bereaved families who had lost their loved ones in the ethnic/ communal strife.