Agatu, which had recently had a period of relative calm, has once more become the scene of bloodshed that has spread to nearby towns and local government districts like Apa and Otukpo.

Communities including Ogwumogbo, Ikpele, Ejima, Okokolo, Olegomakwu, Olegonyilo, Nahem, Ocholonya, Abugbe, Ugboju, Odugbeho, and Olegobidu were destroyed and many people lost their lives in the most recent wave of violence that tore through Agatu.

Agatu’s brief unrest has already become a full-fledged conflict that has expanded to nearby villages like Umogidi and the Entekpa sections of Adoka in Otukpo.

Idoma youths face armed men with limited resources.

According to a local source, over 700 armed men have encircled the villages of Otukpo, Apa, and Agatu, and no security guards are in the area to confront them.

Idoma teenagers from Ohimini have volunteered to defend their ancestral houses. Still, despite their heroic efforts, they have to contend with tough opponents who are armed with highly modern weapons such as Heckler & Koch G3, AK47, and other hazardous arms.

Additionally, the villagers continue to lament the lack of security officers in the impacted areas.

An unnamed local vigilante spoke of a recent run-in with security guards who, instead of providing cover, advised against taking any revenge.

He told our reporter, “We, the youths from Ohimini and Ugboju, came here to help our brothers and sisters, but things turned out really tough.

“The security people who were supposed to protect us didn’t do a good job.

“When we got here, one of them warned us that if we shoot without caution, they would take away our guns.

“We only have dane guns, also called ‘shakabula’, with 10 rounds of ammunition.

“But when we went into the forest, things were much harder than we thought. The enemies we faced were too difficult to handle, and we had to retreat.”

One of the volunteers now on the battlefield shared a widely shared video that our reporter was able to obtain, showing what the people were going through.

He claims that the assailants appear to be trying to remove the Idoma community from the Nigerian map.

“We’re about 50 youths from the neighbouring communities, and when we arrived here, the situation was way beyond our expectations. Facing these people with our dane guns is a suicide mission.

“They are fully clad in military uniforms. Unfortunately, we fell into their ambush, and they killed four of us.

“Currently, we are trying to retrieve the bodies from the bush to prevent them from decaying, but we no longer have ammunition. These attackers shoot on sight.

“We urge the government to come to our aid. Idoma leaders, please help us.

“We are under siege, our land is under attack, and they are slaughtering us like chickens.

“Without any provocation, they unleash gunfire on anyone in their line of sight. Our land is besieged, and we’re left bewildered about what led to this,” he lamented.

The continuous attack has also affected the military.

Operation Whirl Stroke was dealt a serious blow just last week when suspected Fulani herdsmen in Agatu launched a well-coordinated attack that claimed the lives of three of its members.

The OPWS Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Sunday Igbinomwanhia gave a thorough account of the invasion by the marauding herders and the enormous expense his troops incurred to secure Agatu. He also explained that his troops’ deployment to the Agwu community responded to the many people who fled the Okokolo community on Thursday.

According to him, “On inquiry, the troops were informed that terrorists suspected to be armed herdsmen were advancing towards the town to attack it.

“The troops immediately mobilised and proceeded to the community, which is about 15 kilometres from their base.

“The success achieved was, however, at a huge cost, with three of the troops paying the supreme sacrifice to prevent the killing of the inhabitants of Okokolo and the intended sacking of the community.”

A helpless state

The community volunteer guards, who were organised in August 2022 to improve community security under the direction of former governor Samuel Ortom, are struggling with their sense of powerlessness in the face of the war’s intensifying violence.

Guard member voiced his displeasure, pointing out that the current administration is not providing them with the required care and assistance.

The guard member said Governor Hyacinth Alia needs to put politics aside and help his people.

He pleaded, “This is not the time for politics. The governor is not really giving us the attention and the necessary support. We expected him to do more because this fight is beyond the police or army alone.

“We are residents of these communities. We know all the corners and can contribute in our own small way to support the other security agencies.

“If this continues, one day, you might wake up to find that Idoma land has been taken over by Fulani herdsmen.”

Sen. Comrade Abba Patrick Moro, the minority leader in the Senate and representative of the Benue South Senatorial District, presented a resolution last week on the ongoing attacks on Benue South towns out of concern for the worsening situation and a need for prompt action from the Senate.

In his motion, Senator Moro bemoaned the ongoing attacks on his constituents by armed men who were allegedly bandits, all without a single arrest being made by security personnel.

He brought up the vicious and unjustified attack that occurred on Thursday, January 18, 2024, on the communities of Okokolo, Abuge, and Ocholonya in the Agatu Local Government Area. This attack resulted in several casualties and the wanton destruction of numerous livelihoods valued at hundreds of millions of naira.

The state and federal administrations have come under fire from the socio-cultural group Idoma Association USA for doing little while Idoma property was in disarray.

During a recent news conference, the group’s president, Edwin Ochai, urged the leaders of Idoma land to oppose and face what he called the attrition-based war taking place in Benue.

He said, “It is unacceptable that our people are left defenseless, homes destroyed, and farm produce decimated.

“We implore the Federal Government of Nigeria to step in promptly and take decisive action to bring an end to these heartless attacks that have turned our land into a killing field.

“The safety and well-being of our fellow Idoma citizens must be prioritized, and justice must prevail.

“We urge our members to raise awareness, mobilize resources, and engage in advocacy efforts to ensure that the voices of the victims are heard and that lasting solutions are implemented.”

In the meantime, OPWS Force Commander Maj. Gen. Sunday Igbinomwanhia responded to the assertion that the security personnel were off the ground by stating that a tracking operation for the marauders was already in progress.

He declared that to guarantee the safety of people and property in the Force Joint Operations Area; the OPWS will carry out its mandate as instructed by the Chief of Defence Staff.

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