“Stop The Killings In Benue By Herdsmen And Their Hired Mercenaries”
A Press Statement
By Vanguard Against Tiv Massacre (VATIM)
On The Ongoing Attempted Genocide in Benue State by Killer Herdsmen
Issued on the protest Match to the National Assembly
We are members of the Vanguard Against Tiv Massacre (VATIM); a humanitarian body with its headquarters in Abuja and deeply concerned about the incessant pogrom taking place in Tiv land and, most especially the Benue valley, by armed herdsmen.
2. The issues
We have observed with dismay and great disappointment the continual failure of security agencies to prevent attacks by armed herdsmen which have led to loss of lives, livelihoods and property in Benue State.
These attacks have been incessant, predictable and preventable. In the last two weeks the following villages have been attacked by herdsmen: Mkovur, Ortese, (Gboko Local Government Area) Jingir, Agwabi, Gbanyam, and Tyogbenda (Buruku Local Government Area) and Gbodi, Nzaav, Mbaav and Anyiase (Kwande Local Government Area). In all cases, however, security agencies have been lackadaisical, and slow to respond.
Despite the conspicuous nature of these attacks, not one person has been apprehended by the security agencies.
In the last 5 years, no single person has been investigated or prosecuted for the attacks and killings carried out by the herdsmen in affected communities even where some persons have come forward claiming prior knowledge and presumed responsibility for such attacks (for example, the head of herdsmen in the Agatu community in March 2016).
This inaction by the government with regards to the attempted genocide on the Tiv, Idoma and other ethnic groups living in Benue State, directly contravenes the primary responsibility of the Government which is to protect lives and properties of its citizens as enshrined in Section 14 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria(as amended) The government of Nigeria has also rectified several international laws and treaties such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Paris 1948) assented to by the Government in July 29, 2009.
3. The impact of the crises
The recent crisis has so far resulted in over 500 reported cases of deaths in several communities in Buruku, Kwande, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Guma and Gboko, the worst hit been Buruku and Kwande local government areas with over 30,000 persons displaced and properties and livelihoods worth billions of Naira destroyed. The displaced have been left with no other options than to take refuge in primary schools, market places and other open-air spaces in neighbouring towns.
The numbers of deaths and displaced persons has continued to rise daily as the attacks on villages have continued unchecked. The perpetuators of these heinous acts are suspected criminal herders who roam around the state freely with their herds of cattle destroying farms, properties and the livelihoods of thousands of villagers in the state. These attackers are heavily armed with highly sophisticated weapons and have been found in some instances to include not only Nigerians but also mercenaries from neighbouring countries moving around with the criminal herdsmen in the state, many of them suspected to have gained access into the country through porous borders.
It is evident that Benue and Nigeria in general is already experiencing food crises as a result of the criminal activities of these herdsmen as a result several farming communities have been unable to carry on farming activities. As the food basket of the nation, we wonder how the Federal Government of Nigeria intends to implement its agricultural policy without addressing this crisis.
4. Call for Action
We hereby call on all concerned actors to take speedy action to prevent further loss of lives and property in Benue State. It is of primary importance that the following areas are urgently acted upon:
a. Urgent Humanitarian Relief and Action:
We call on the State and National Emergency Agencies, the International organisations such as the relevant United Nations Agencies and the Red Cross to urgently provide support to internally displaced persons in Benue State.
b. Urgent Enactment and Implementation of Appropriate Legislation:
We call on the National Assembly to enact legislation to address the crisis. We ask the National Assembly to visit the affected areas and to set up a panel of inquiry into these incessant attacks by herdsmen and adopt appropriate legislation to stem this ugly tide.
c. Urgent Investigation and Prosecution:
We demand that the Federal Government, relevant security agencies and members of the International community, to investigate and prosecute, where appropriate, the parties behind the suspected genocide of the Benue people as provided for in relevant national and international laws.
d. Urgent Provision of Appropriate Security:
As noted above, we call on the Federal Government to provide appropriate security for the communities using the appropriate Law Enforcement Agencies etc. We further call on the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigeria Customs Service and relevant Security agencies to further strengthen their functions and the borders to prevent the influx of mercenaries and illegal arms into Benue State and Nigeria.
e. Compensation of Farmers and Displaced Persons:
We call on the Federal Government to compensate farmers and displaced persons in accordance with the United Nations Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons a.k.a. The Pinheiro Principles
Finally, the Federal Government of Nigeria must harness all the resources within its disposal to prevent further loss of lives property and livelihood in the Benue Valley. It must also ensure that the perpetrators of this grave evil be apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law. The government will judged in the years to come by how it responded to this genocide under its watch.
Long live Benue State, Long live Nigeria.
Vanguard Against Tiv Massacre (VATIM)
March, 16th, 2017.