Gunmen, who attacked Igama, a rural community in Benue state on Sunday morning, killed 37 people, residents of the community told PREMIUM TIMES.
One survivor, Ambrose Adah, said the attackers raided the community as he and his family prepared for mass.
Igama, an agrarian community, located in the local government area of Okpokwu, is 160 kilometers from Makurdi, the capital of Benue State.
“As we were preparing for Sunday morning mass, large numbers of shepherds on motorbikes invaded our community,” Mr Adah said.
“Members of our community, mainly women and young people, were killed in the attack.
“So far 37 bodies have been recovered and are currently being deposited at St Mary’s General Hospital, Okpoga”, the seat of local government in Okpokwu.
“My three-bedroom bungalow and other valuables were destroyed by the shepherds,” Mr Adah revealed in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.
He added: “Dozens of homes have been razed”, while more than 500 residents displaced by the attack seek refuge in the Ojigo neighborhood and other nearby communities.
To prevent further attacks, Mr. Adah called on the federal government to set up a military base in the area.
Corroborating Mr. Adah’s assertion, the Federal Legislator representing the Federal Constituency of Ado, Ogbadibo and Okpokwu, Francis Otta, said Television Channels in a statement that thirty people were killed in the attack on the Igama community.
“Having grown up in Utonkon district of Ado LGA, I knew Igama in Ojigo ward of Okpokwu LGA as one of the most peaceful communities in Benue South until recently when terrorists turned it into a cesspool of blood,” Mr. Ottah reportedly said in the statement.
“I therefore condemn the murder of 30 innocent people, and I still count…I contacted security officers who responded appropriately,” the lawmaker said.
Authorities confirm attack
Amina Audu, chairwoman of Okpokwu local government, confirmed the incident. She said, however, that only 12 bodies had been found.
She said the attackers ravaged the two communities – Igama and Efeche, and hundreds of people were displaced by the attack.
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“The attack caused a humanitarian crisis, not only in Igama but in Opialu, Ojigo and Utonkon, where the survivors fled,” Ms. Audu told this reporter in a telephone interview on Monday.
The head of the local council said security agents comprising the police, army and militiamen were patrolling the affected communities.
Benue state police spokesman Sewuese Anene confirmed the attack but could not provide details of the casualties.
In a text message to this reporter, Ms Sewuese said: “Information has been received about the attack at Okpokwu LGA and more teams have been mobilized to assist the Division on the ground. I have not yet received any details from the team on the ground.
The state has suffered persistent deadly attacks allegedly carried out by herdsmen.
In April, 15 people were killed in an overnight raid on Tior-Tyu, a rural community in Tarka local government. The attack was blamed on the shepherds’ militia.
Clashes between nomadic herders and farming communities are endemic in Benue, a largely agrarian state.
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