Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, who were accused of killing about 17 people in the state on New Year day, have explained why they attacked their host villagers.
The President of the Benue State branch of Myetii Allah Breeders Association, Garus Gololo, told a correspondent of BBC News (Pidgin) that problem started when some people tried to rustle their cows, while they were emigrating from the state to some neighbouring states.
Gololo said, “While we were trying to relocate to Taraba State, through Nassarawa State to the border town of Nengere, some rustlers came and stole about 1000 cows from us and we have to fight back.”
The communities affected by the bloodletting include Gaambe-Tiv, Ayilamo, Turan. Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomaater, near Tse-Aabi in Logo and Guma local Government areas.
Gololo claimed the attacks by the herdsmen, were in self-defense against cattle rustlers, who stole into their camp in the night to steal their cows.
Reports said that there has been an uneasy calm in the area since Benue State Government enacted the anti-grazing law in the state, without allocating a definite area for grazing for the herdsmen.
Two days after the incident, some youths stormed the major streets of Makurdi, the state capital to protest the New Year attacks. They burnt tyres and blocked all the major roads in the state capital.
The youths threatened to remain on the streets in continued protest until President Muhammadu Buhari takes steps to address the situation or resign from his office.
They also said that the funds and strategies employed by the government to fight against the Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, should also be used in redressing the situation in Benue state.
Speaking on the situation, the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Government, Terve Akase, explained that the herdsmen started the attacks on 9 pm of the new year day until about 4 am on Tuesday, the next day.
He added that the attacks were a reaction by the herdsmen against the anti-open grazing law enacted by the state government, to prevent incessant clashes between the villagers and the herdsmen in the state.
“After the government established the law, the herdsmen told the press that they would not abide by the law,” Akase said.
He added that “So far, about 20 people have been reported dead by the communities, while Myetti Allah said that seven of their members are missing”
The Police Public Relations Officer for the state Police Command, Moses Yamu, however, confirmed that 17 people died in the violence orgy and that police investigation into the matter is still ongoing, even as 8 herdsmen have been arrested.