A large scale security operation appears to be underway in and around Ugbokolo in Benue State which has come under the violent authority of gangsters since the beginning of 2017. Not only did the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr Bashir Makama storm Ugbokolo hours after vigilantes and communal forces killed five gangsters last night, people who observed his dramatic, unscheduled visit speak of an atmosphere around the area that suggests a major security operation. Although no one claimed to have sighted soldiers or mobile policemen in and around Ugbokolo, some elders said they were sensing an ominous cloud.
An observer told Intervention that there were no less than 25 vehicles on the Commissioner’s convoy, made up of Civil Defence commanders, Divisional Police heads from Otukpo, Ogbadibo and Okpokwu Local Government Areas. It is not clear whether the police boss was suddenly in Ugbokolo for an independent initiative, perhaps give backing to what the vigilantes did in the night or as part of a back up for a different security operation in the area. For, not too far from Ugbokolo is the much feared Ollo Village which has been nicknamed ‘Sambisa Forest’. Popular estimation is that it would require the military to storm the place to lay to rest whether it is the arms depot of the gangsters or just exaggerated view of a forest. No one has given the police any chance of being armed enough to do that. Telephone calls to well placed individuals in Abuja and Makurdi drew blanks, including some of those who should know of such an operation.
Authoritative sources suggest that the killing of Ambrose Aba, a local chieftain of the PDP at Okonobo-Akor may have connected the wave of criminality to unnamed political masters who are said to have disappeared from the area. The analysis is that with the arrests made over that killing, it would not be too far before the beans come spilled everywhere “because nobody can protect anybody again”. This is, however, just one perspective of the entire development and tomorrow morning might be more decisive. All that is clear at the moment is that a place such as Ugbokolo could not have been seized by the violence seen in the last three months without origin.
While the Police Commissioner was going round adjoining settlements to Ugbokolo, another drama was playing out in a nearby settlement of Effoyo where a woman returning from the farm was hearing someone’s cry of pain. Community elders to whom she reported upon return put two and two together and reported to the vigilantes who concluded that it must be one of those fatally wounded in last night’s gun battle. He was subsequently picked up whereupon he begged not to be killed, pledging to squeal. According to an eye witness, the bargain yielded a long list of the names of the gangsters. Although the gangsters have since been known to many, his list is an insider’s account and said to be highly treasured.
His second act was taking the vigilantes to the home of the man said to prepare juju which makes the gangsters invincible and impenetrable by gun shots. Intervention was told that a pigeon in a pot and the pictures of most of those killed by gangsters since February were key items found in the suspected jujuman’s operational room. He was subsequently killed as well as the gangster.