The death toll in a fresh violence in Benue State has risen to 24 as more corpses were discovered yesterday.
The violence erupted in Idoma speaking Omusu village of Okpokpwu Local Government Area on Monday.
Among the deceased were 14 women and two children.
The Benue State Police Command spokesman, ASP Moses Joel Yamu, had earlier confirmed 16 people dead.
But more bodies were said to have been recovered from bushes and homes after an attack on the community on Monday afternoon, bringing the total at press time to 24.
Our correspondent gathered from locals that those killed also included a man, his pregnant wife and one of their children while the wounded, a seven-year-old boy, Ilom Idoko who lost his mother in the attack and four others had been taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Ugwu-Okpoga for treatment.
Governor Samuel Ortom, who paid on the spot assessment to the troubled area, has called for the arrest and prosecution of the attackers suspected to be herders.
Ortom has since directed that arrangements be made for the mass burial of the deceased by next Friday.
He said the level of destruction, describing the attack as “unfortunate, barbaric act and unacceptable in the 21st century.”
He repeated his call for the arrest of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore leaders whom he said were the sponsors of the herders’ militia and are still moving freely in Abuja and giving directives to the mercenaries.
The governor directed the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to provide relief materials to the displaced persons, as he also appealed to the affected community not to embark on reprisals, stressing that security agents had been mobilised to forestall further attacks on rural communities.
Earlier, the council chairman of Okpokwu, Olofu Ogwuche, said immediately he received a report from the police that some herdsmen lodged a complaint that some people had rustled their cattle in Omusu village, he called all the parties for an amicable resolution of the matter.
Ogwuche said while the meeting was ongoing, he got another report that the herdsmen were already attacking the village and he rushed there with security operatives.
“On getting to the village, we were able to recover 17 corpses on Monday evening. This morning (Tuesday), we recovered six other corpses and just while we are here, a corpse of a seven year-old girl was recovered while some persons are still missing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Fulani leader in Otukpo LG, Ardo Risku, told our correspondent on telephone that he was away in Lokoja when he heard about the incident and contacted the Okpokwu council chairman, promising to get to the root of the matter.
Our correspondent recalled that on January 17, this year, the police in Benue had confirmed that one person was hacked to death in Okpokwu LGA.
The North-Central Zonal Chairman of Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Danladi Chiroma, told Daily Trust on telephone that the deceased was a herder killed by gunmen.
Chiroma said over 25 cattle were killed while others were missing after the gunmen attacked the shepherds, noting that the attack may be a reprisal following the killing of two people in the affected vicinity few months earlier.
The zonal chairman who pleaded for peace to reign between herders and farmers in Benue, said it wasn’t right for both parties to continue in retaliation and reprisals when peace talks were already going on with their host communities’ traditional heads and local farmers on the need to sheath their swords for harmonious living.
Chiroma blamed politicians for escalating the crisis, noting that the herders and farmers understood themselves, especially how to settle their disputes whenever such arises especially when animals stray on to farmlands.
Similarly, on January, 5, 2017, the Police in Benue State had confirmed one person dead in fresh crisis between herdsmen and people of Okpale-Ogege in Edumoga community of Okpokwu LGA.
Police spokesman, Moses Yamu, told our correspondent in Makurdi at the time that three other people were injured in the process of disagreement which ensued among the warring factions.
Locals however alleged that the herdsmen killed at least five people and wounded many others after trouble started when the villagers woke up to discover that their entire farms had been invaded by cattle.
In the same vein, in June 2013, the Police in Benue arrested two suspected herdsmen in Ichama community of Okpokwu local government area after an attack which allegedly left five persons dead.
Meanwhile, the State Police commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, said he would brief the press today on the latest development in the area.