Media reports on killings, especially arising from herders and farmers crises have indicated that no fewer than 291 lives were lost in the month of March alone. While most of the killings were due to clashes between herders and farmers; particularly in the North Central states, others were as a result of the activities of criminal elements and armed militia while some culminated from attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents.
The states where these killings were recorded include: Benue, Borno, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Cross River, Edo, Ebonyi and Delta.
Zamfara State located in the North-West region recorded the highest killings as 54 persons were reportedly killed following attacks by armed bandits in Bawan Daji village of Anka Local Government Area on March 27.
The armed bandits were said to have launched the deadly attack on the area after some members of the community held a meeting to discuss measures to be taken against their nefarious activities during the 2018 farming season. The bandits had earlier threatened that there would be no farming activities in the area in this year’s rainy season, the deputy imam of the village and community leader, Liman Umar, was quoted as saying.
Umar reportedly told journalists that the bandits had been harassing people in the area and brandishing sophisticated weapons without talking to anyone. “It was shortly after our local vigilante members held the meeting that the bandits finally struck and killed only men, including those who tried to escape,” Umar said.
Although the Chairman of Anka Local Government, Alhaji Mustapha Gado, initially confirmed that 32 persons were buried, including a woman and her child, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, later confirmed that 54 persons were killed by suspected cattle rustlers in the Bawan Daji attacks. The agency which based its report on on-the-spot assessment conducted by staff, said it recorded 71 persons injured with over 7,000 displaced persons. The head, NEMA Sokoto Operations, Suleiman Muhammad, who led other staff of the agency on the assessment, said government delegations sent to the area had to suspend their visit due to security challenges.
Benue State located in the North Central zone and Ebonyi in the South- East zone recorded the joint second highest killings of 41 deaths each. The highest killings in Benue State during the month in review took place following an attack at Omosu village in Okpokwu Local Government Area on March 5 which resulted in 24 deaths.
Residents of Omusu and two nearby communities in the local government area reportedly said the attackers had entered their villages around 4:00 p.m. on the fateful day and carried out a two-hour deadly assault. Elsewhere in Benue, killings took place during attacks at Umenger (March4), Guma (March14), Umenger, Ologobiudu, Agatu (March25) and Yaav ward (March29).
Like Benue, Ebonyi State also had its fair share of killings within the month of March as 41 deaths were recorded in three separate attacks which took place at Ikwo-Izzi (March 5), Onunwakpu (March 12) and Okpetumor (March 17).
Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi State recorded the killing of 30 persons on March 5, following renewed hostilities between the people of Edda Enyibichiri community in Abakaliki Local Government Area and Nnoyo Echi-Alike in Ikwo Local Government both in Ebonyi State.
The bloodshed which was said to have been reignited as a result of boundary dispute. Police Public Relations Officer, Ebonyi State command, ASP Loveth Odah, who confirmed the incident, added that mobile police men had been deployed to restore peace in the area.
Plateau State located in North-Central Nigeria recorded the fourth highest killing with 35 victims within the month from six separate attacks. The attacks were recorded at: Rotsu (March 2), Rafin Bauna (March5), Adada Manya (March7), Nzharuwo (March8), Zir-Shi Manya (March12) and Dong (March 22).
The highest number of killings recorded in Plateau State took place during an attack on Zir-Shi Maiyanga village near Dudu in Kwal District of Bassa local government area on March 12 where 21 people were reported dead. The attack was said to have occurred a few hours before a scheduled mass burial of victims of previous killing in some villages of Miango District of the same local government area.
The attack which occurred on a Monday night took place between 10pm and 11pm and was alleged to have been carried out by gunmen which the locals claimed were Fulani herders.
Media and Information Officer of Operation Safe Haven, Major Adam Umar reportedly said due to the difficult terrain, personnel of the taskforce had arrived the village after the attackers had fled but admitted that seven corpses were immediately recovered while another person had died in hospital.
Kogi and Taraba States recorded 34 and 35 deaths respectively from two attacks each. While the highest killings in Kogi, which took place at Iyale, Aloko and Abejukolo on March 13 affected 25 lives the highest killings in Taraba within the month in review took place in Leme, Gembu on March 4 where 20 herders were reportedly killed.
No fewer than 300 cows were reportedly stolen during the March 4 attack at Lemme, Gembu which preceded an earlier attack where many lives were also lost.
The killings in Borno State during the month in review where 23 lives were lost took place at the military base at Rann in Kalabalge Local Government Area as well as Muna Dalhti where 3 lives were reportedly lost. In what appeared like daring the Nigerian security chiefs that they were still very much around, the Boko Haram insurgents launched the deadly attack on Rann on March 1, which eventually left 20 people dead. Among those reportedly killed during the Rann attack were 6 soldiers and 4 policemen.
The second incident of killings in Borno which took place at Muna Dalhti area of Jere Local Government Area near Maiduguri on March 5 occurred when a suspected Boko Haram bomber attacked the area. Three people were reportedly killed in the attack while 18 others, mostly women and children, were injured.
In Kaduna State located in the North-West zone, 17 lives were lost in two recorded attacks which took place at Bakin Koki in Jema’a local government as well as the deadly attack at Birnin Gwari which led to the killing of 11 soldiers.
While people were still counting the loss and pains inflicted by the attack on Bakin Kogi armed bandits believed to be loyal to the assassinated gang leader, Buharin Daji, at Nabango area under Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, on March 21 reportedly killed 11 soldiers in what seemed like a daring reprisal attack. The well-armed bandits reportedly stormed a military post at Doka, an area between Funtua and Birnin Gwari where the soldiers were killed on the spot.
While Cross Rivers State recorded 14 deaths from two incidents that occurred between Okwabang and Beebo communities in Boki Local Government Area on March11 and an attack on Odupkan community on March30, Edo and Delta states recorded 5 killings from one incident each while Niger State recorded the lowest death rate of 4 during an attack on Fakpo and Sashi communities.
‘Killings pose national security threat’
Commenting on these killings, terrorism scholar and security analyst, Amaechi Nwaokolo said the conflicts leading to these deaths; especially the herders/farmers conflict poses a serious national security threat.
Noting that tribal and ethnoreligious sentiments were being whipped into the conflict, Nwaokolo said the Nigerian government must be more serious in dealing with salient issues in order to tackle the threats.
“The herders crisis can lead to a serious national threat that can implode the country; our current security architecture is very faulty and needs rejigging, especially in the area of intelligence gathering so as to be more preventive rather than reactive”, Nwaokolo said.