Nigeria’s primary news is still dominated by the contentious presidential election on February 25. Nonetheless, there has been little coverage of recent terrorist attacks in the largely Catholic state of Benue in north-central Nigeria. After the election, Fulani militants have carried out violent attacks in six counties in the Middle Belt state, according to Mike Uba, the county chairman of Guma, which is close to the capital city of Makurdi. Both the state’s northern and southern borders contain the affected counties.
At least 20 people were killed in one of the most recent attacks on March 7 in the village of Tse Jor, after about 40 attackers riding motorbikes brandished machetes and slashed helpless men, women, and children for at least two hours, according to Helen Tikyaa, an aid worker employed by the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi. During the attack she drove to the village, but dared not enter until the assassins had left. According to Tikyaa, women and children continue to enter the IDP camps in Naka, 20 kilometers west of Makurdi, coming from Tse Jor and the adjacent villages.
This is the first time the community is seeing such violence.
In order to avoid alerting the military, which has a base about seven miles south of Tse Jor, the assassins most likely refrained from firing guns during this raid, according to Paul Hemba, the governor of Benue’s security adviser, who spoke to CNA. Knowing they would encounter little resistance, the terrorists prepared this attack, the official claimed. Everyone was surprised by this incident in a far-off rural place. Due to the poor roads and the fact that few villagers had telephones, the attackers understood that it would take the military at least an hour to reach the attack site.
The attack on the Tse Jor hamlet took both residents and the authorities off guard, according to Father Remigius Ihyula, a priest providing relief in Makurdi. The attackers arrived without prior notice, and it was the first time the neighborhood had experienced such violence since the killings began in 2001. Father Ihyula said in a text message, “the motivation might be nothing less than terrorism, the intent to cause suffering and scatter communities in order to seize the desolate places.” Due to terrorist operations that have depopulated broad areas and prevented hundreds of thousands of small farmers from accessing their four-acre fields, more than 1 million people in Benue are battling to subsist in improvised camps, according to Father Ihyula.
UNHCR has been offering shelters and protection support to the victims.
According to Father William Shom, the pastor of a church in Yelewata, Guma County, the attacks persisted on March 7, 62 miles to the east of Tse Jor. One evening, a big group of Fulani militants attacked Yelewata, killing seven people in the process. 27 homes were also burnt by the terrorists, according to Father Shom in a text message to CNA. According to reports from the Foundation for Justice Development and Peace, the town of Naka, which has a population of 3,000, is home to a sizable IDP camp with 5,000 individuals, most of them are women and children who are suffering from trauma and starvation.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross [and] MSF [Doctors Without Borders] have all been very active in providing different types of assistance, said Father Ihyura. “UNHCR in particular has been very supportive, providing temporary shelter and protection-related assistance to victims. The Benue state government has done its best under the circumstances, but the federal government has ignored the suffering of the people,” he said. From the perspective of the Justice and Peace Foundation and the Makurdi Catholic Diocese, our challenge to effective intervention strategies has been mainly the constant attacks and displacements in some areas, he added. It was overwhelming to deal with this situation.
The villages came under attack following the presidential election.
According to media reports, on Benue’s southern border with Cameroon, between 26 February and 2 March, 50 people were attacked by Muslim Fulani terrorists in the remote mountainous area of Kwande county. More than one Catholic parishioner died. After the February 25 presidential elections, the villages came under attack as it was confirmed that All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu had won.
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