”The warnings pile up, the distress signals have turned into a prolonged howl of despair and rage. The answer is not to be found in pietistic appeals to victims to avoid ‘hate language’ and divisive attributions. The sustained, killing monologue of the herdsmen is what is at issue. It must be curbed, decisively and without further evasiveness…Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka on killings.
In July 2017, the governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom gave Nigerians a chilling account of how 1,878 lives were lost to the lingering clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the state, between 2013 and 2016 alone.
Mr. Ortom, who said this (according to a report on Premium Times) while receiving Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator, who led a UN delegation on a courtesy visit to his office, said the killings cut across all the 12 local governments in the state.
Quoting a report from a research conducted by the State Emergency Management Agency and Benue Planning Commission, in collaboration with NGOs, he said that 750 persons were ”seriously wounded while 200 others were still missing.”
The embattled governor also noted that 99,427 households were affected, while property worth billions of naira were destroyed.
He was quoted by the report as saying that, “A 2014 survey, conducted by the Benue Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, found out that the destruction by herdsmen exceeded N95 billion in 10 local governments in that year alone.”
Another report, this time by the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, says about 80,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, are present, across four camps located in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state.
Guma and Logo were the local governments affected most by the latest gruesome murder of over 50 people by suspected herdsmen. Scores more have lost their lives in such skirmishes in Nassarawa and Plateau states.
An anti-open grazing law to curb the perceived excesses of the herders came into effect in the state last November which many attribute to the real cause of the latest carnage. The governor had reportedly alleged that the herdsmen, who were not comfortable with the legislation had threatened to ‘react’. A cry for help to the presidency and security operatives to avert the carnage reportedly made Mr. Ortom was ignored.
The law was the state’s response to repeated attacks against its residents, including a February 2016 massacre of over 500 villagers in Agatu.