“My five brothers were sleeping in the room and the Fulani herdsmen came and knocked on the door. When it was opened, they sprayed bullets and killed all of them and drove off.” That was the lamentation of Mr. Joseph Gem, a 55-year-old farmer from Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
Gem, who is one of the survivors of the New Year day bloody attacks on Benue State communities now taking refuge in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp, told our correspondent that one of his brothers was a member of the Livestock Guards deployed to the area for peace-keeping operations.
The Livestock Guard, he said, had five children from two wives. The victims are at the RCM Primary School, Daudu in Guma as well as at the LGEA NKST Primary School, Ugba in Guma and Logo local government areas. Gem said: “I am strongly in support of the Anti-Open Grazing law because it is the only way to end the protracted crisis between Fulani cattle rearers and crop farmers in the state.
“We do not eat cows to live but we eat the crops harvested from our farms, sell them to pay school fees for our children and do other things. So, the law is good and I will wish other states of the federation would borrow a leaf from Benue State.”
Others victims also narrated their experiences and how they escaped death as well as their predicament in the camps. A 75-year-old woman, Mama Agbinda Kwaghngu, who hails from Duger village in Guma Local Government Area, said when the Fulani herdsmen attacked the community, everybody including her children ran and left her. According to her, she slept in the bush for three days and was found last Sunday by some relations.
She said she did not know the whereabouts of her children as at the time our correspondent visited the camp. Kwaghngu disclosed that her house was set ablaze, crops harvested from the farm destroyed by the Fulani herdsmen.
She appealed to spirited individuals to come to her aid to save her life. Also, a 25-year-old mother of five children, Mrs. Ngodoo Gondo, who hails from Umenger in Guma Local Government Area, said the killer herdsmen made incursion into her community about 2a.m. on the New Year day and started shooting sporadically while she was sleeping with her husband and children in the house.
She said: “We were sleeping when they came and suddenly I saw people running with luggage on their heads. I then woke up my children and started running to save our lives. As we were running, I saw many fresh corpses of other people killed by Fulani herdsmen littered the ground.
A stray bullet almost hit me but with the help of God Almighty, I escaped. In fact it was God that saved me, my husband and children. “I have lost about two people in the gruesome attack; they were among the 73 victims that were given mass burial recently by the Benue State government.
I am appealing to the state government and the Federal Government to come to the assistance of the victims in this camp by ensuring an end to the attacks so that we can return to our ancestral homes.”
Another victim, Mrs. Mkavga Ikperen, a mother of seven, who lives in Mkuma in Mbagwen District of Guma Local Government Area, said her husband was killed on Tuesday by the armed Fulani herdsmen. Ikperen, who could not hold back her tears while speaking with our correspondent in the camp, said that when her husband heard about the invasion of the area by the killers, he told her to pack the children and leave while he evacuated some belongings including foodstuffs.
She explained that hours later, as she waited for so long and did not see her husband, she was told he was killed by Fulani herdsmen while trying to escape. But the problem she is facing in the camp now, according to her, is lack of food and medication for the children left behind by her husband.
She said: “The harmattan weather is very harsh and it has brought serious catarrh for my children. We do not even have treated mosquito nets to use at night because of mosquitoes are not allowing people to sleep more so that windows are thrown open all day long.
“As you can see for yourself, there are also no toilet facilities and everyone is carrying out open defecation which can give room for diseases like diarrhoea. I am appealing to state and federal governments to expedite action to permanently end the killings for the return of enduring peace in our land.
”The first woman to be delivered of a baby in the camp, Mrs. Joy Joseph, said when her village at Uikpiam in Guma Local Government Area came under attack, she was still carrying her ninth month pregnancy. According to her, she was delivered of a baby girl, who happens to be her first child, in the camp on Wednesday.
Joseph told New Telegraph that when she started feeling labour pangs, she alerted her husband who informed the camp officials about her condition. According to her, she was rushed to a nearby local government clinic where she delivered safely.
She said: “On New Year day, a group of Fulani herdsmen invaded our area, killing the Tiv people. But I was pregnant then. They butchered three people in our house. I thank God for sparing my life. What I saw, I had never seen it in my life before then.
“Although I was pregnant, I trekked from Uikpiam, a journey of many kilometres, to this camp. I was very tired when I finally arrived here. I thank God for the successful delivery; my baby is strong and healthy. “Our home is still a no-go area, because the herdsmen are still in the bush and are also grazing on people’s farms and destroying crops.
Only God knows what we will eat by the time we return to our respective homes. We heard that soldiers and other security operatives deployed by the Federal Government are in some areas but they are not helping matters at all.
“The greatest challenge we are facing in the camp is that there is no food to eat. I don’t have soap and detergents. We get water from the borehole to drink, bathe and wash clothes. At the moment, there are no drugs and treated mosquito nets to enable us sleep well too. These are some of the problems facing us for now.”
On her part, Mrs. Iveren Ger, who also hails from Logo Local Government Area, disclosed that she lost five relations in the attack by the herdsmen. She said: “I travelled to my husband’s village in Otukpo in Ogbadibo Local Government Area.
On New Year day, I was coming back and heard that Fulani herdsmen invaded our area and were killing people. As I speak with you, some of my relations are still in the bush; we don’t know their whereabouts.” But their situation is like they might have run from the frying pan to fire.
There is present danger of possible outbreak of diarrhoea, cerebrospinal meningitis and catarrh, etc, because of lack of basic amenities to meet their immediate needs at the camp. When our correspondent visited the camps, it was observed that the victims were wearing forlorn faces over the killing of their loved ones as well as those still missing whose whereabouts were not known almost three weeks after the attack.
Although the state government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have donated some relief materials to address the plight of the victims, the IDPs still complain of insufficient food supply, poor medical care, among others. Most of the displaced persons, including children, were sleeping on bare floors, particularly in squalid environment.
Several families are crammed in one room thereby causing discomfort, predisposing them to diarrhoea, malaria, cerebrospinal meningitis and other communicable diseases.
The Manager of Daudu Camp, Mrs. Erdoo Anongo, said the IDPs were confronted with inadequate medical facilities and absence of toilet facilities giving room for open defecation. According to her, this exposes the people to diarrhoea.