The Vanguard Against Tiv Massacre (VATIM) has said over 500 persons have been brutally killed across Benue state in the renewed attacks on communities by the Fulani herdsmen.
The group made this public during a protest match to the National Assembly in Abuja.
The vanguard said it suspected a conspiracy of silence against Benue state.
“The recent crisis has so far resulted in over 500 reported cases of deaths in several communities in Buruku, Kwande, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Guma and Gboko, the worst hit been Buruku and Kwande local government areas with over 30,000 persons displaced and properties and livelihoods worth billions of Naira destroyed”, VATIM stated.
Members of the group dressed in black attire, carried placards of various inscriptions and marched from the Unity Fountain located in Maitama to the National Assembly complex, singing sorrowful songs.
In a letter to the Senate President Bukola Saraki, the group said it observed with dismay and great disappointment the continual failure of security agencies to prevent attacks by armed herdsmen which have led to loss of lives, livelihoods and property in Benue State.
”These attacks have been incessant, predictable and preventable. In the last two weeks, the following villages have been attacked by herdsmen: Mkovur, Ortese in Gboko just as Jingir, Agwabi, Gbanyam, and Tyogbenda are as well as Gbodi, Nzaav, Mbaav and Anyiase in Gboko, Buruku and Kwande local government areas respectively.
“In all cases, however, security agencies have been lackadaisical, and slow to respond. Despite the conspicuous nature of these attacks, not one person has been apprehended by the security agencies.
“In the last 5 years, no single person has been investigated or prosecuted for the attacks and killings carried out by the herdsmen in affected communities even where some persons have come forward claiming prior knowledge and presumed responsibility for such attacks (for example, the head of herdsmen in the Agatu community in March 2016)”, the group emphasised.
VATIM said that the inaction by the government with regards to the attempted genocide on the Tiv, Idoma and other ethnic groups living in Benue State, directly contravenes the primary responsibility of the government which is to protect lives and properties of its citizens as enshrined in Section 14 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.
The group wondered why the government of Nigeria which has ratified several international laws and treaties such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Paris 1948) assented to by the government in July 29, 2009, has turned the other way now that atrocities are being perpetrated against innocent and peace loving people.
The group further alleged that the perpetrators of these heinous acts are suspected criminal herders who roam about the state freely with their herds of cattle destroying farms, properties and the livelihoods of thousands of villagers in the state.
“These attackers are heavily armed with highly sophisticated weapons and have been found in some instances to include not only Nigerians but also mercenaries from neighbouring countries moving around with the criminal herdsmen in the state, many of them suspected to have gained access into the country through porous borders” the group further stated.
The group stated that Benue, and Nigeria in general, is already experiencing food crises as a result of the criminal activities of these herdsmen which have led to disruption of farming activities. The group wondered how the federal government intends to implement its agricultural policy without addressing this crisis.
The group called for urgent humanitarian relief and action, immediate enactment and implementation of appropriate legislation, urgent investigation and prosecution of parties behind the “suspected genocide”.
The group also called for the immediate provision of appropriate security, compensation for farmers and displaced persons.
“The federal government of Nigeria must harness all the resources within its disposal to prevent further loss of lives property and livelihood in the Benue valley.
“It must also ensure that the perpetrators of this evil are apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law.
“The government will be judged in the years to come by how it responds to this genocide under its watch”, VATIM concluded.
Meanwhile Senators Jeremiah Useni, Thompson Sekibo and Saban Lafiagi who attempted to deliver a message from the National Assembly leadership were turned back as they insisted on addressing Senate President Bukola Saraki or Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives.