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Wave of murders after presidential elections forces Catholic diocese staff to evacuate Benue State

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Dozens of people reportedly were killed in post-election attacks on villages in Benue State Wednesday, according to a diocesan official.

“We keep wondering how ordinary herders can lay their hands on military gear. The only possible scenario is that they are getting help from the authorities,” Reverend Father Remigius Ihyula, the director of Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi,said.

In an exclusive interview with ACI Africa, Father Remigius Ihyula, revealed that staff members at the diocese have been evacuated by the military. He also disclosed that the perpetrators wore military gear .

“As I speak to you, there are ongoing attacks in several places. An eyewitness called me on the day of the elections [Feb. 25] informing me that people were being slaughtered in Tyopav village. Then more attacks were reported from Anwase village. The reports of attacks kept coming,” the Nigerian priest said.

Ihyula said that his colleagues were helping to resettle villagers that had been displaced from their homes by armed men on separate dates between Feb. 23 and March 1.

He added, “The villages under attack are close to Agagbe camp where our staff works to support the IDPs [internally displaced people]. On March 1, our staff couldn’t leave the camp because the armed attackers were so close by. They had to be escorted out by the military.”

“The attacks are many. Yesterday, I was sent lists of people who had been killed, and others displaced. I am yet to compile it,” Ihyula told ACI Africa. The priest has been compiling monthly updates of attacks in the area served by the Diocese of Markuda. He said initial reports indicated some 30 or more people were killed.

According to the priest, several villages, including Ityuluv, Ugbe, Iyon, Tyopav, Kendev, Anwase, and Maav, all in Kwande Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State, had fallen under attack by militants on Feb. 23 and 25. He said that militants were advancing to more villages in the State, displacing locals.

Attacks are also ongoing in Gwer West LGA where many have been killed and others are still missing, he said. He said that locals in Makurdi are protesting after being displaced from their villages.

Ihyula said that the staff at the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi working at Agagbe camp face the danger of attacks every day and that all of them are living with trauma after witnessing many killings.

“On Feb. 9, our staff witnessed killings near the camp as they were coming from work. On Jan. 21, they ran into another attack. They are all traumatized, and some stay away from work for several days,” the member of the clergy of Makurdi Diocese said, adding that the Nigerian Episcopal See was rallying for funds to start a psychosocial support program for its staff.

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