Host/stranger interface in Edumoga Ehaje area of Okpokwu Local Government Area in Benue State has taken a very violent turn in a two hour raid by unknown gunmen which has left 20 persons dead. Today’s theatre of bloodshed is Omusu Village which came under attack between 4 and 6 pm earlier this evening. Not much details are available but Intervention has learnt that the raid caught everyone unaware, including Oloofu Ogwuche, the Chairman of Okpokwu Local Government Area who was on a fact finding mission to the Village when the violence broke out.
Well connected sources hinted Intervention that the Fulani herdsmen in the area reported yesterday that three of their members had been killed around the area. Informed sources said the Local Government Chairman got in touch with the DPO for Okpokwu as well as Alhaji Nana, the leader of the Fulani community in Okpoga, the local government headquarters. A fact finding visit was the preferred conflict management strategy of the trio, according to the source. However, the tour of the area by the Chairman earlier today did not suggest that any Fulanis were killed in the area. According to the storyline, when the fact finding team made up of the Chairman, police and other observers withdrew to eat and review the tour that the raid commenced. The Chairman was still in the house of a politician at nearby Ojapo, the most urban part of Edumoga Ehaje when news of the raid reached him, Intervention was told.
Alternative sources claimed that an Alhaji had alerted someone at Ipoya, close to Omusu against that particular community going to the farm today. But when the attack came, it was Omusu that bore the brunt although it does not seem the attack would end at Omusu as some well located people at Okpoga, the Local Government Headquarters are saying that the attackers are heading for Okporikpo, a nearby village. No one knows now where such sources have got their intelligence from but the overall security situation today is such that such might no longer be dismissed. “No one knows where they can burst out” was how it was put. There is a speculation that those who operationalised today’s raid were hired marksmen and were dropped at Alooma Junction from wherever they came. It is even understood that police might have seized the said vehicle but this could not be confirmed.
It is an all pervading state of affairs, including Fulani women and families who are reported to have relocated to the Divisional Police Headquarters at Okpoga for fear of attack. The police are credited with working hard but the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty is described as much. An authoritative voice at Ojapo told Intervention that no one could correctly estimate the number of persons killed at the moment. He said the number of times the vehicles evacuating dead bodies from Omusu to the hospitals at Okpoga must suggest that so many have been killed, from young people to elders and women. Many people have been injured and properties burnt but there is no official confirmation.
Neither repeated calls to the Chairman of the local government council nor the Information Officer yielded any response but Intervention would follow up on the coverage, particularly on recent dynamics of host/stranger relationship between herdsmen and the locals vis-a-vis current violence.