How 10 Benue vig­i­lantes were killed by armed bik­ers

Weekly Trust - - News - Hope Abah, Makurdi

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

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