At least 36 persons were, yesterday, feared killed while seven villages were overrun by suspected Fulani herdsmen in an outbreak of fighting between the invaders and native farmers in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
Seven farmers had been killed and over 6,000 inhabitants displayed barely two days ago when some assailants attacked Ikpele and Okpopolo communities in the state.
Narrating his ordeal, a native of one of the affected communities, who escaped the assault said, “they (Fulani herdsmen) took us unawares this time; they invaded our villages from Loco in Nasarawa State and Omola Local Government Area of Kogi State.
“But as I speak to you, well over 36 persons must have been killed on our own side while many are still missing; the situation on ground is horrible because fighting is still going on while women, children and the elderly are fleeing to safety.”
Confirming the bloodletting, Benue State Commissioner for Works and Transport, John Ngbede, who is an indigene of the area said, “Heavy fighting is still going on in Agatu. The attackers are burning down houses, farmlands, economic trees and many are also being killed but i cannot confirm the number of deaths. All I can say is that Agatu is boiling”.
Also confirming the massacre, member representing Agatu Constituency at the Benue State House of Assembly, Sule Audu said, seven villages had been attacked while many were killed and several persons missing.
According to him, the villages under siege include Ello, Okpagabi, Ogwule-Ankpa, Ogbangede, Ekwo, Enogaje and Okpanchenyi.
Audu lamented inadequate security presence on ground in the affected communities, saying, “As I speak to you, only few soldiers are on ground who don’t even have mobility to match the strength of the invaders.
“The attackers are over 5,000 spread across all the communities and unleashing terror on my people without resistance.
“They are moving towards Oshugbudu now and I ask, what can less than 40 soldiers on ground do to stop armed invaders numbering up to 5,000?”
In his confirmation, Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Deputy Superintendent, Daniel Ezeala, said, “Five Agatu villages are currently under heavy attack. We can’t confirm the exact number of causalities or deaths for now, but I can assure you that a combined team of the police and army personnel have already been drafted to the affected communities to arrest the situation, and the situation is under control.”