At least 71 Gbeji locals were slain in the attack, almost all of whom attended a parish branch of St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. Numerous Catholic villagers were slaughtered, according to reports, in a violent raid by Fulani herdsmen on October 19 in Benue State, Central Nigeria. Details are still coming to light. The slaughter of four Fulani herdsmen earlier in the week during a fight between herders and farmers defending their crops is what prompted the raid, according to both the police and the church. The precise number of deaths during the attack on October 19 is not agreed upon.
There are claims that at least 35 victims were discovered following the raid, and an additional 36 bodies were later discovered in nearby fields. He claimed that among the deceased were two police officers, ladies, and kids. Father Samuel Fila, a local priest who was outside the hamlet at a clergy gathering at the time of the attack, informed CNA in a text message that the Fulani terrorists arrived at 6:00 a.m. and started shooting randomly. He claimed that around 200 attackers took part in a planned operation, burning homes and using machetes to slash residents running for their lives.
A lower death toll has been provided by the State’s police commissioner.
The police commissioner for Benue State, Wale Abass, claimed a far lower death toll of no more than 10, including one policeman. According to Abass, the greater numbers could be the result of newspaper exaggeration or the fact that some families remove the bodies of their loved ones from the killing fields before an official count can be conducted. 20 police officers and 15 troops are working together to follow up on information regarding the whereabouts of the assailants and the local individuals who killed the herders, the official said, adding that no arrests have been made thus far.
Since 2019, Muslim extremists have frequently carried out brutal terrorist assaults in the state of Benue, which forbids the open grazing of migrating cow herds. Benue State borders the states of Nasarawa to the north and Taraba to the east. The Fulani ethnic group, which makes up to 10% of the population of Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, includes the herding clans. A rural community with 5,000 residents, Gbeji lies two miles west of the state boundary with Taraba. Approximately 9 kilometers south of Gbeji, in the parish of St. Thomas Catholic, villages there receive missionary visits.
The raid came in response to a violent clash that occurred recently.
The raid followed a bloody altercation that occurred earlier in the week. According to Father Fila, on Monday, October 17, local farmers armed with single-shot handguns engaged in a fight with four Fulani herdsmen whose herds were endangering the mature harvests and killed them. Herdsmen threatened to attack the village on Tuesday, he claimed. Due to exceptional flooding and widespread dread of being killed by armed terrorists while harvesting crops, farmers in Benue State, known as the ‘breadbasket of Nigeria’, are experiencing crop decreases. Due to militia raids, millions of farmers and their families in Benue are now living in camps for the internally displaced.
Following the Gbeji massacre, a presidential contender from the Fulani ethnic group offered his sympathies to the bereaved families in a Facebook post that some perceived to be a threat. In a letter to the people and administration of Benue State, PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar expressed his “deepest sympathies to the families who may have lost a loved one” (PDP). For our national unity, the ongoing surge of intercommunal violence is not encouraging, Abubakar said.
Governors of other states have formed civilian guards for safety.
Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue, has been pleading with the federal government for years to relax the country’s draconian firearms rules, which prevent him from arming volunteer citizen guards with assault rifles to protect rural areas. In response to the frequent attacks by bandits and terrorists led by Fulani people in the Middle Belt, the governors of other states in the region deployed citizen guards for the same reason. The first half of 2022 saw at least 1,484 fatalities in the Middle Belt States, according to data made public by the Council on Foreign Relations.