No day passes without reports of killings by armed herdsmen. That is not the only worry as horrendous as the act is. What is benumbing is the apparent helplessness of the security agencies. The reports claim that the attacks are carried out at night when the target victims must have dropped their guards and retired for the night.
A typical incident took place in Nkiedonwhro village in Plateau State, recently, resulting in the death of over 29 defenceless citizens. This attack happened just as the government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the area. It is one thing to impose a curfew and another to make it effective. Because when there is curfew, the tendency on the part of the people is to assume that if they obey the law, their lives are safe. By extension, it also means that law enforcement officers will be about their duty of protecting lives and property. That was not the case in that remote Plateau State village.
The intriguing aspect of the report is that the killings are attributed to attacks by unknown gunmen who move into any community and start shooting sporadically. In similar cases, no arrests are ever made because it is believed that the killers are not only faceless but also ghosts from outer space. We know that there is a Police jingle that insists that “armed robbers are not spirits” which means that these killers are human and can be apprehended and brought to justice if the political will is there.
They have assumed a boldness that is blood-chilling because they know that it is only the harmless media that they have to worry about. Eye witness accounts claim that they are not hooded which means they don’t mind being identified. And yet the world is made to believe that they are faceless and unknown. That these attacks have been going on unchallenged calls to question the capability of the security agencies to stand up to be counted when the people’s lives are under such threats. In some places, these attacks take place in the day time which means the people’s lifestyle is circumscribed as they can no longer go about their daily chores without let or hindrance. The women cannot go to the farm for fear of being kidnapped and raped. They children are afraid to play in the open field.
Recently, leaders of the three major ethnic groups in Benue State raised an alarm over alleged herdsmen build-up in and around the borders of the State in anticipation of the implementation of the anti-grazing law by the State government. The intention of these herdsmen is to forcibly resist that law. The communities’ leaders are concerned that a breakdown of law and order is imminent especially as these herdsmen are armed with automatic weapons which they have formed the habit and willingness to use at the slightest opportunity. They don’t usually wait to be provoked.
We recall that what happened in Agatu Benue State, Nsukka, Enugu State and more recently in Nkiedonwhro village in Plateau State could have been avoided under a more security conscious environment. That they happened and till date no one has been arrested let alone prosecuted leaves many questions unanswered. If the simmering anxiety in Benue State is allowed to boil over and the unthinkable happens, then it will be very unfortunate and the argument that the perpetrators are unknown gunmen or that the attack has an element of surprise to it will no longer be tenable.
Those Benue communities have carried out their patriotic duty of calling the attention of the appropriate authorities to what they perceive as a security threat. It is now the duty of the Governor, in his capacity as the chief security officer of the state, to do the needful to prevent an impending calamity.
It is worrisome, in our considered view, that deaths, the kind that are being reported on a regular basis, no longer elicit shock feelings. There is an emerging uncanny attitude of shrugging it off as one of those things that happen. That, in our opinion, cannot be acceptable. When 29 people are killed in one single attack, not in a war situation, it is really something to shout about.
And we are shouting to the governments at all levels to put machinery in motion to ensure that it never happens again. We are convinced that the condition is ripe for the military to embark on another of its code-named operations in a show of force that will deter whoever the trouble-makers are. The Police, in particular its mobile wing, should mobilise immediately relying on intelligence reports of the relevant units. By all means, the bloodletting must end.