AS BENUE MOURNS — WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR NIGERIA TO MITIGATE FUTURE KILLINGS?
On January 1st and 2nd, Herdsmen attacked Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue state in Nigeria killing over 70 people.
The whole of Benue state and Nigeria is in mourning. These people were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, and children. Today they are being giving a mass burial. A sad and painful event that could have been prevented if was really a country with value for human life.
Let’s take a look back.
It will be remembered that 2 years go, in 2016, a herdsmen attack was reported in the same Logo and Ukum Local Government Areas in the state. Eyewitness reported that around 9:30pm to 12midnight that very day, the villages came under heavy and well coordinated attacks by the Fulani herdsmen. The worst hit were Anyiin town, Uzer, Jootar, and Gov all in Logo Local government as well as Gbeji and Vaase in Ukum Local government area.
A year before that, according to available data, Ukura, Gafa, Per and Tse-Gusa villages in Logo LGA were also attacked and it was reported that over 100 people were killed.
The crisis did not start today. The deaths did not start overnight.
This data visualization I created in 2016 from historical data shows what has been popularly tagged ‘streams of blood’. The visualization in a timeline sequence shows records of reported attacks, the year, location of attack and number of lives lost. You will see that some villages were hit multiple times. In a developed world, such analysis would have been leveraged to understand violent behavioral patterns, trends, causes and effects. It would have been used to predict and avert future attacks. But in Nigeria, the case is very different. Our case is always different.
In 2016 Dori and Mesuma villages in Gashaka Local Government Area of Taraba State was attacked. Residents said more than 40 people were killed and properties burnt. The state commissioner of police, Shaba Alkali during an interview said after he got the report from the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Serti, mobilised his men and deployed them to the area, but however they could not access the villages with their vehicles due to the poor state of roads. He said the deployed operatives spent hours trekking to the villages.
They were trekking while people were being slaughtered. Wonderful.
I have questions. Why were these roads in a poor state? Have the roads been marked for reconstruction previously? How much was appropriated? When was the start and finish date? Who is the contractor? How is it that no one lost their job due to this disgraceful and unfortunate revelation? These are the calibre of the analytical and surgical questions we refuse to ask since this conflicts began several decades ago. One should not be surprised to learn that this road might not have been fixed till this day.
“The sad situation in Benue State shows some fundamental faults in our security system. There is a clear failure of intelligence gathering, analysis and response time. Our security agencies must be overhauled in terms of equipment, specialization, funding, training and staffing”.
These were the outburts of Nigeria’s Senate President (SP) Bukola Saraki obviously outraged after hearing the news on the recent Benue killings. And the Senate President is correct, just like he always is whenever these killings happen. We have been hearing outburst like this, and news of panels being setup to investigate the killings, but nothing really gets done.
Lets look at some prominent attacks.
In 2013, Takkad villages in Benue, Zilang and Mafan were attacked, over 70 were lost. In 2014 Dogon Daji saw 100s of lives lost, Arikye, Eggon recorded nearly 40. Ikpele and Okplo in Agatu recorded almost 50 deaths.
Agatu has been hit many times. In 2016, villages like Aila, Okokolo, Akwu, Adagbo, Odugbehon and Odejo in Agatu again recorded over 350 deaths according to available data. But media reports suggest more. This was popularly tagged ‘Agatu Massacre’.
“In my 20 years of working as a humanitarian, I have never seen such a level of destruction. If steps are not taken, the crises can affect the country as a whole.” — UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mrs. Angele Dikongue Atangana
After Agatu massacre, a representative of the Fulani Herdsmen came forward to say that they had records of 200s of cows stolen and over 300s of their people killed by the Agatu and Mambila militia, while citing political reasons for one side of the story being told. Still I have questions. What have stopped them for telling their own stories and making sure their plight are heard? Since when did killing become a normalcy in the Nigerian space? Where is our justice system and the rule of law? For a government that was so quick to brand the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who do have the same modus operandi of reckless killing and maiming a terrorist organization, while deploying a military operation tagged ‘Python Dance’, why have they taken so long to do the same in these circumstances?
This takes us back to the real issue; politics, political will, games, bias, nonchalance and hypocrisy. There is something the Nigerian people are not seeing. The crisis has been going on for years now. Lives and properties lost on all sides. It has been reported that over 3,920 persons lost their lives in the Agatu massacres between 2013 and 2017.
2017 had several attacks. Why is it allowed to happen over and over again.
Every time there is a new occurrence, the government makes a call for a panel and investigation that never yields real results till the next batch of killings happen. Why do we continue to do the same thing expecting a different result? Is it that hard for government to leverage historical data analysis to create well defined policies and law that will serve all parties involved while mitigating future conflicts?
While blood continues to flow, history has taken note that just like the ones before it, this government has failed its people. That our security agencies have continued to fail us. That intelligence gathering, analysis and response time doesn’t exist for if they did, the over 70 people being buried today in Benue, the thousands that have been killed over time in this herdsmen and farmers conflict, and the several thousand Nigerians who have died in the hands of the ‘technically defeated’ Boko Haram would still be alive today.