There was an outburst of anger and outrage in Benue State few days ago when news of the slaughter of two teenage girls by a 20-year-old Fulani herdsman at Zongo village, Mabala Council Ward in Makurdi, the state capital, filtered into town.
The unprovoked killing which generated palpable tension in Makurdi town in particular, would have snowballed into another round of bloodbath between Benue farmers and Herdsmen in the state but for the quick intervention of the newly posted Police Commissioner, Mr. Hyacinth Dagala and Governor Gabriel Suswam which calmed frayed nerves.
The swift action of the duo also led to the arrest of the suspected principal suspect who after intense interrogation by the police, gave vivid account of what transpired and how he also inflicted serious injuries on another female member of the family.
The only survivor of the attack, 14-year-old Jirgba Nyeshilea, who is currently in intensive care at a public hospital in Makurdi, also gave account of her ordeal and how her sisters were slaughtered .
HOW IT HAPPENED
As Nyeshilea wept uncontrollably, she narrated how she accompanied her two sisters aged 15 and 18 to fetch firewood at Zongo village in Mabala Council Ward of Makurdi five days ago. According to her, while in the bush,we met the suspect, a Fulani herdsman who asked if we saw any man passing by. “We told him that we did not see anybody, he then asked us to follow him. We were forced to follow him out of fear, we trekked with him to a point where we saw another two of his colleagues. That was where they all asked us to lie down. But we were scared.
“They eventually forced my two sisters down and two of the men raped them, but they did not rape me. After raping them, they started cutting them with their knives until they killed them. At that point, I started running and shouting for help, but one of them came after me and cut me with a knife and I fell down.
“I passed out for sometime and in my pool of blood, they thought I was dead, but luckily, when they left, I gathered myself and managed to escape back to the village. That was how I found myself at the hospital.”
Narrating his own side of the story, the prime suspect, 20-year-old Adamu Ibrahim, who confessed that he was under the influence of a drug, Tramol 200, when he committed the heinous crime said he killed the girls out of provocation.
Hear him, “I was in the bush grazing my cow when a Tiv man approached me claiming that I damaged his farm. I told him I was not the one and he insisted I was the one. In the midst of the argument and confusion, my herds scattered in the bush. I started chasing after them in order to gather them. On my way, I met three girls whom I asked if they knew the man that was accusing me of destroying his farm and they said yes.
“They, however, refused to disclose the man’s residence, claiming that they did not know his house. The eldest amongst the girls started insulting me and she came and held my cutlass. I told her to get off my cutlass. She continued pulling the cutlass. The second one came and started taunting me and pulling my dagger and in the process, the knife cut her hand.
“I withdrew from them and asked if they can face me and they said yes. That was why I pulled out my knife and cut the eldest. The other one that had a cut on her hand ran and moved away and was watching from a distance, but I also caught up with her and cut her down. I also did the same thing to the third.”
DENIES RAPING VICTIMS
Adamu who was arrested while he was about to flee the community on a motorbike to Rukubi in Nasarawa State, swore that he did not rape the girls explaining further that he was the only herdsman in the bush at the time of the incident.
“No other Fulani herdsman was there, I did it alone. I swear that I did not rape them. They pushed me into what I did because I was pleading and asking that they left me alone. I feel very sorry for what I did, because it is a crime. I was actually under the influence of Tramol 200. I normally buy the tablet from one Tiv man in the village. I take it to feel high and for energy because whenever I take it, I hardly get tired of moving about with my cow.”
When asked of his parents, Adamu said he was told that shortly after his birth, his father died and his mother whom he hardly knew gave him out to one Alhaji Kawo Ibrahim who brought him up as a herdsman.
“We reside here in Benue near Agatu, that is where some of us move our cow for grazing,” he said.
Reacting to the unfortunate incident, a member of the Benue State House of Assembly, representing Makurdi North in whose constituency the killing happened, Mr. Avine Gbom, lamented that Mballagh Council ward had remained a conquered territory since 2011 when Fulani herdsmen first invaded the community, killing and maiming the inhabitants.
“The farmers and owners of the community are now at the mercy of the Fulanis. The Police are presently not there even though there was an instruction to that effect by the state government While the Fulanis have also refused to vacate the village for over three years now. At a point, the locals had to leave the area for them. In fact, they all fled to Makurdi town until the peace and re-conciliatory committee was set up and some went back; but till date, the Fulanis are completely in charge of the place.”
The lawmaker appealed to the federal and state governments to intervene by providing a police post for the community. “The military can be deployed to the area to stem further crisis so that the people can go back and reclaim their land. As far as I am concerned, the peace arrangement by the state government and the Fulanis in that community is certainly not working. The people are living like slaves in their own father land at the moment.
“The most unfortunate thing in this matter is the fact that the people who were displaced by the Tiv/Fulani crisis have as at today, not received any relief materials from the state or Federal Government. One then begins to wonder why after much materials came to the state, nothing has been given to the people who were directly affected by the crisis. My appeal is to the state government. They should give the people relief materials to alleviate their sufferings and start their lives again,” Gbom emphasized.
Speaking on the matter, newly posted Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hyacinth Dagala, expressed deep shock over the killing adding, “I feel bad about this because it is absurd and unfounded for women who are ordinarily non-violent to be killed in such violent manner. I was personally shocked when I heard about the incident and got particularly worried when I discovered the manner these young girls were killed.
“I must point out that though the problem of natives and Fulanis have been with us in the country for several years, government would not be able to address it overnight, but it would certainly be addressed. Some persons are currently agitating that the Fulanis should move to other states, others feel that since they are Nigerians, they should not be restricted. We all hope that this problem will soon be resolved especially, if all the stakeholders are able to harmonise their thoughts and views.”
As a prelude to peace, Dagala urged leaders of the Herdsmen and the host communities to make it a priority to educate their people on the need to live in peace with one another in the collective interest of all. The Police boss who promised that the police would thoroughly investigate the killing in order to stem any spill over assured that the law will take its course in the matter.
“I also want to urge members of the public to help the Police by availing us with information that would help in our responsibilities to the society. The truth is that the job of policing should not be left in the hands of police alone. The public should be part of the police project.
“I would also advise that we should all be conscious of strangers around us and report to law enforcement agencies when necessary. This is part of the ways we can effectively police the society and check crimes and criminality in our country,” Dagala stated.