By Joseph Wantu, Makurdi
BARELY a month after suspected Fulani mercenaries launched attacks on Agatu communities in Benue state, killing 82 persons, another communal clash involving the Ologba and Egba communities of Agatu dialect claimed the lives of 45 people yesterday.
The Guardian’s investigation revealed that during the invasion of Agatu communities by Fulani herdsmen in March this year, the 82 people that were feared killed were of Egba extraction of the Agatu community.
The victims in yesterday’s clash were said to be of the Ologba community. But confirming the incident on telephone, the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Hyacinth Dagala, said only 23 dead bodies were discovered, while three persons sustained serious injuries and had been taken to the hospital.
The police commissioner said that the villagers had been fighting over a fishpond and that the renewed crisis was as a result of suspicion by the Egba community that the Ologba had organized the recent deadly Fulani invasion against them.
Dagala said relative calm has returned to the warring communities, adding that his men are on ground to maintain peace in the area. Also, confirming the incident, Mr. John Ngbede, the immediate past Commissioner for Works and PDP Deputy Governorship candidate in the just concluded election, who hails from the area, said the communities have had long-standing unresolved issues.
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Ngbede said that in the wake of yesterday’s clash, which started in the evening, many people were injured, even as thousands are now refugees in Ogbagaji, headquarters of the Agatu Local Government Area.
Suspected Fulani herdsmen, last month, killed dozens of people, among them women and children, and burnt down houses in Egba Community of Agatu Local Council of Benue State.
A witness from the community said heavily armed Fulani mercenaries besieged the community at about 5am and began to shoot sporadically. The Guardian’s investigation revealed that the crisis between the Agatu people of the state and the Fulani herders began in 2013 and has reccurred more than four times this year.
Residents said each time the herders launched an attack, they did so through the Nasarawa state axis across River Benue, using their cows as shield.
Expressing grief over the killing of his people, the member representing Agatu at the State House of Assembly, Audu Sule, called on the Federal Government to urgently intervene to prevent further loss of lives and property in the area.
Meanwhile, recurring clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Benue and Plateau States, occasioned by the desire of the former to feed their cattle at the expense of farmlands, have been traced to the effect of desertification.
According to environmentalist, Dr. Alade Adeleke, former Technical Director, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), and now Independent Consultant, Biodiversity Enterprise and Rural Development, “We have a lot to do to mitigate the effects of desertification, occasioned by climate change. And as long as climate change continues to wreak havoc on the environment, the crises will persist”.
Adeleke called for a workable policy framework on wetlands, land use and resource management, if government sincerely wishes to curb the orgy of violence.
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