How 10 Benue vigilantes were killed by armed bikers
On Sunday, January 15, 2017, members of the Police Civilian Joint Task Force (PCJTF) converged at the residence of one Terfa Tor Abaji, a commander of the taskforce in Tse-Igber Village of Abaji, a settlement east of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State, for a meeting.
As the meeting progressed, some armed men stormed the venue and opened fire on them, killing 10 on the spot while one escaped with gunshot wounds.
The state police command, through their spokesman, Moses Joel Yamu, identified those killed as Aondofa Zuai, Terpase Kundu, Bondu Matagari, Sonta Ature, Kpam Terkura, Mvendagar Abuur, Tersoo Igbaver, Ternungwa Angwe, Tyolanga Dura, and Kenneth Chime. Those injured include Samuel Abundega and Mvendagar Ajam.
Since then, the community members have been in great fear, suspecting every movement, especially by strangers.
Any visitor would notice the uneasy calm in the area, but even before the incident, there had been reports of a militia group that operates in the village and nearby communities, terrorizing residents.
The local government area is home to the wanted militia kingpin, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as “Ghana” on whom the state Joint Security Council had placed a ransom of N5m for any information that could lead to his arrest. Ghana is alleged to be behind many murders, kidnappings, armed robbery and cattle rustling cases in the area.
Besides the recent killing of the PCJTF members, there had been high profile killings in Kastina Ala, including that of a Second Republic state lawmaker, Chief Atodza Hindan, one Douglas Begha, also a former state lawmaker from Ukum and the crucifixion of an Ukum prominent farmer, Anyam Tswam, for allegedly exposing criminals as well as that of a police task force commander drafted to the area from Abuja to investigate cases of cattle rustling, among others.
The slain police officer who was identified as ASP Baba Ibrahim and a civilian, Gombo Muhammed, believed to be a cattle owner, were on the verge of recovering some missing cattle from a town in Taraba State when they were cut down in Kastina-Ala.
The killing of the 10 has sent jitters down the spines of not only Abaji residents, but the entire local government area, as the people now prefer to remain silent over the matter, since they no longer trust anyone.
No one is bold enough to speak on the matter, let alone give their names to news men. In fact, people of the area are now hostile to not only strangers but also to journalists.
Our correspondent gathered that for several years now, members of the Ghana gang have been terrorizing residents of Katsina-Ala/Ukum/Logo Federal Constituency.
The Sole Administrator of the council, Mrs. Vera Akua, who said she couldn’t precisely tell the motive of the killers, deeply agonized over the situation, saying she was working with security agencies on how to arrange the bodies of the slain PCJTF members for burial.
She however expressed hope that with sustained prayers and efforts of security agencies, the area would once again regain peace.
Our correspondent was advised to leave the community as quickly as possible, as most respondents declined comment on the matter. Just a few were quick to say that no one knew whether the next person was an informant for Ghana and his gang, so they wouldn’t speak.
A top member of the PCJTF said: “I am here because I now consider myself as a walking corpse, otherwise I would have also left the town as most of my colleagues have. We only heard about this kind of killing in other places. Now, it is here with us and for 10 members of the PCJTF to be killed in a single incident is not a child’s play.”
He charged the authorities on the need for enhanced security of lives and property. “Some people want to use force to get what they want. If you are against it, you become a potential target,” he said.
He expressed concern over the rising drug use by teenagers in the area. According to him, secondary school students take drugs like Tramol, Codeine and other drugs, a situation he said demands immediate attention.
A health practitioner in Abaji in whose hospital one of the victims of the attack was taken for medical attention, said: “We have over five secondary schools here but the students are afraid to resume. Remember that the incident occurred in the first week of resumption and most students are yet to resume.
“Most of the people you see here will not spend the night in this village. We are living in fear. It’s hard to comment on this issue because no one knows what would be his fate, you don’t know what may provoke the killers,” he added.
Diverse views have been raised over the killings. Some blame politicians for arming the youths while others say it was a mere defense. Yet, some assert that those killed, presumably on Ghana’s instruction, were criminals.
Many suspect Ghana’s men to be responsible for the killings, but Ghana himself remains elusive, with arrays of informants who are said to be feeding him information wherever his name or matters concerning him are mentioned.
It was gathered that Ghana had served traditional rulers in his area notices of invasion. The District Head of his ward, Tyoor Awuha Alev, was murdered at night when he was said to have sneaked into his house from refuge in Gboko to attend to a matter of public concern in his domain.
The leader of the CJTF in Benue State and Senior Special Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom on Security, Alhaji Tashaku Oradi, announced the suspension of CJTF activities in the state. Oradi, who blamed Ghana for the killings, said the intention of forming the CJTF was not for members to be killed at random, as he lamented that before the latest killing, five other members were killed in similar manner at Ukum.
“All activities of the CJTF in the state are suspended until I get commitment from the elders of Kastina-Ala LGA where Ghana hails from. The elders have not shown any concern over the killing of my members in the area and we can’t continue like that as in the first place those being killed were only working hard to protect lives of the people,” he said.
The CJTF leader stressed that for his group to get back to work, there was every need for a meeting with elders of Kastina-Ala in the presence of the state governor.
Police spokesman Yamu says investigation is in progress and the command has put measures in place to arrest the perpetrators, just as he assured residents of the area of what he called “adequate security”.
We have over five secondary schools here but the students are afraid to resume. Remember that the incident occurred in the first week of resumption