Herdsmen Raid Leaves One Dead and Transformer Razed in Opiddlo, Benue State
An early morning raid on Opiddlo Village in Edumoga District of Okpokwu Local Government Area in Benue State of Nigeria has left one dead and machete cut on three others. Mrs Veronica Ogwuche fell to herdsmen violence shortly before six o’clock this morning in a raid in which her own son sustained machete cuts described by eye witnesses as severe. Although the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Ugbokolo under whom Opiddlo falls and whom everyone calls Mr Alfred (perhaps because his surname is said to be long) could not be reached because he has been on the crisis in the bushes, Intervention confirmed that Opiddlo was already swarming with policemen as at eight o’clock today. It was part of these policemen who removed Mrs Ogwuche’s dead body presumably to the morgue, inviting community leaders to a meeting with the Benue State Commissioner for Police in Makurdi, the Benue State capital tomorrow.
It was understood the raid was, however, cut short because a counter-raid put the herdsmen on the run. Where the said counter-raid emanated from is still unclear but it gives an insight into how the herdsmen violence is building up dangerously in the most populous District in Idomaland. Yesterday in Ojapo, the main agricultural market township of the lower part of the District, the Peace Committee made of the police, LGC and community representatives could not be inaugurated. Well located community players told Intervention that the youths made it clear that nothing other than the departure of herdsmen from the area is acceptable. The hardening of position has been linked to the attack on farmers who went to negotiate peace with herdsmen in the area only to encounter gunshots in which one of them was killed and several others wounded at Okpale-Ogege on January 3rd, 2017.
The trigger for the attack on Opiddlo today is unclear. Findings show that it may not be unconnected with Opiddlo being among the three villages that went to tell the herdsmen at their main settlement in Onyai last Sunday to stop further intrusion into the area. The other two are Ogene and Otobi. Mr Alfred, the DPO happened to be at the meeting where his explanation that the peace committee put in place across the area has stated that all cases of destruction of crops be reported for compensation was rejected. Someone who attended the meeting explained that the communities did so because the issue is beyond destruction of crops but also hardening of the soil once cows have moved across. Beyond that is the ever present fear of preemptive herdsmen violence.
Police sources at Ugbokolo confirmed to Intervention that today’s raid started with the burning of the community’s transformer in addition to the killing of Mrs Ogwuche, triggering a massive running for safety in several of the nine villages of Amejo clan, especially those nearest to Opiddlo. In what appears to be evidence of local intelligence reporting, one of the villages near Opiddlo evacuated women and children yesterday evening in anticipation of a raid while the men stayed put. Competent observers of the security situation hinted that those who carry out the raids are clearly hired and put on the job and that the counter-raid might be product of confusion between those hiring and those hired. It remains to be seen how correct this turns out to be. How could Nigeria watch itself bleed by the day without the authorities decisively de-escalating the situation?