More shock waves swept through Benue State, Wednesday, following a fresh attack that has left nearly 40 dead in three communities in Guma local government area.
Scores were injured and over 100 houses, huts and farmlands in the communities. There were fears that the loss of lives and destruction could be higher, going by media reports monitored in Abuja.
In Abuja, former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, condemned the massacre of two Catholic priests and worshipers at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State Tuesday and urged the security operatives to rise up to the task of protecting lives and property.
Reacting to the gruesome murder of two priests and over 13 worshipers at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Benue State yesterday, Senator Mark said the unabating killings of citizens without limit calls for question the manner of security operation in the State.
He described the killings of defenceless and innocent worshipers as callous, wicked and evil.
Reports in the online version of The Vanguard newspaper said a retired Permanent Secretary in the State confirmed the attack on his village Tse-Umenge.
He said, “in my village Umenge they did not kill anybody because the people had already fled but they raised over 50 houses.
“But in the council ward itself over 15 persons were killed in the attack which commenced late Tuesday till early Wednesday, though the number might increase because the search for more bodies is still ongoing.”
Vanguard reports further: Another Source at Tomanyiin-Mbakpaase, Saghev Council ward who is also a Journalist said the invaders launched an attack on his community on Tuesday around 11pm.
“They came dressed in military fatigue shooting sporadically. They also burnt down several houses and huts numbering over 62 and our food barns. So far we have recovered three bodies in my village and everyone has fled the village because we don’t have even a Police post in the village.”
At Tse-Ali in Mbawa council ward, and indigene of the area said the well armed herdsmen besieged the community around 11pm and spent close to four houses ransacking the community and razing over 70 houses after they had killed over 21 persons whose bodies have been recovered from the bushes.
“It was like a war situation in Tse-Ali, the sound of gunshots were coming from every direction. People were running in all directions, they killed our people like animals who were mostly women and children.
“After the killing of close to 21 persons whose bodies have been recovered so far and injuring many, they burnt 49 houses in the village and carting away whatever food they could carry.”
“As we speak, Tse Ali has been deserted, our people do not know where to run to because every village and community is a potential target and nobody knows where will be the next target.
“We cannot tell why they are doing this to us. These people are killing our women and children and the federal government is watch while our people are being killed and butchered as if we do not have a government in Nigeria.”
When contacted, the Benue State Police Commissioner. Fatai Owoseni said he was yet to get details of the attacks.
All effort to get the Chairman of Guma local Government area, Anthony Shawon was fruitless, though one of his aides who craved anonymity said, “chairman cannot pick any calls now because he is moving to the affected communities with medical personnel to salvage any life they could.”
“You know that several communities were affected in the attack and he is trying to get to the affected places which is obviously not easy,” he added.
Senator Mark reiterated that it has become more expedient for security operatives to protect the citizens so that they will not resort to self-help.
An angry Senator Mark said, “I am saddened by this unabating carnage. The people of Benue State are accommodating and law-abiding but it seems this gesture has been misconstrued to be cowardice.
“Our people are known for their bravery. We are not cowards. Something must be done to stop this carnage. Enough is enough”.
He therefore tasked the security operatives to fish out the perpetrators of these heinous crime, pointing out that “the situation has continued because no serious effort has been made to bring the perpetrators and their sponsors to book”.
Senator Mark canvassed for urgent need on the part of government and security operatives to restore confidence in the people by fishing out the murderers.
He however told clerics and worshipers not to be deterred by this callous and demonic forces but be strengthened in their faith with the Almighty God to defeat them.
Senator Mark prayed that Almighty God give the bereaved families and the people of Benue State the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss even as he reminded them to be security conscious.
Meanwhile, the National President of The Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests, Rev. Father Sylvester Onmoke has condemned in no unmistakable terms the uprising in the Benue valley and wanton destruction of lives and properties by alleged foreign mercenaries masquerading as Fulani herdsmen.
In a statement on behalf of all Catholic Priests of Nigeria and Bishops (who are out in Rome for a meeting with the Pope), Fr. Onmoke bemoaned the killings of Reverend Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha and their parishioners at a morning Mass on Tuesday.
The two priests and over 13 worshipers were murdered in cold blood at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area on Tuesday.
To this end, the National President of Nigerian Catholic Priests called on her members across Nigeria to embark on a nine day Novena prayer starting from today (Wednesday 25th April), for peace and justices in Nigeria.
Novena prayer in the Catholic faith is the recitation of prayers for nine consecutive days to achieve a specific purpose.
Fr. Onmoke also called on the government to put a halt to this assault on holy places of worship, murder of clergymen and worshipers.
According to him, “we are not in a failed state and government should rise up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property in the society”.