By Akanimo Sampson
With over 50 Igbo people so far kidnapped in Benue State in a matter of weeks, some aggrieved Igbo youths are currently considering to unleash reprisal attacks in the bleeding state as the security agencies are allegedly unwilling to protect them and their investments.
Tension and violence among communities in Benue appear to be boiling over with Igbo people in the state as targets. Before now, violence between Ikyurav and Shitile communities last August was linked to the struggle for supremacy between rival gangs.
Igbo communities in various parts of the state, especially Gboko, are no longer safe as they are allegedly being targeted for kidnapping and murder by native gangs and bandits.
This is happening in spite of the recent action of the state government. The Samuel Ortom administration suspended three traditional rulers in Kastina-Ala Local Government Area following the continued crisis that has claimed many lives.
The suspended monarchs include two third-class chiefs from Katsina-Ala, Chief Tivlumun Ubugh, the Mue Ter Chongo and Chief Ayoleve Ornguga, the Mue Ter Ipusu. The district head of Mbacher, Chief Luke Atomigba, was also suspended.
They were suspended over their alleged roles in the prolonged crisis between Shitile and Ikyurav people. Unfortunately, the action of the state government was preceded by fresh killings at a wake-keep in the area when gunmen who rode on motorcycles opened fire on mourners.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Catherine Anene, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), had put the death toll at nine, but some locals argued that at least 25 people were killed in the three villages affected.
The spate of kidnapping and killing of Ndigbo in Benue in recent time had prompted calls by a group, Igbo Youths Movement (IYM), for serious intervention by the government and law enforcement agencies.
The group had in a recent statement expressed dismay with the way reports concerning security of Ndigbo in Benue had been handled with “levity and non-challance” by the security agencies in the state, warning that Igbo people in Benue may be forced into aggressive defence of their lives and property.
Addressing journalists at a press conference in Enugu, Okafor Nnolim, one of the leaders of the Igbo community in Gboko, claimed there was no week an Igbo person was not kidnapped or murdered in Benue, pointing out, ‘’we have been subjected to paying millions of naira in ransom.’’
Adding, Nnolm said, ‘’we can no longer do our businesses freely for fear of being kidnapped or murdered. Since January this year, we have had over 50 Igbo people kidnapped and some murdered in cold blood by bandits and suspected herdsmen.’’
A fabrics merchant at the Gboko Central Market, Chief Ndukaku Onyekwere, is accusing security agencies of complicity in the travails of Igbo people in Benue, pointing out, ‘’Igbo in Benue State are being systematically decimated and our businesses are gradually being ruined by these kidnappers and bandits.’’
For another concerned Igbo man, Ikem Ani, ‘’we are being subjected to untold hardship. There is virtually no week that an Igbo person is not kidnapped. We have tried to engage the state Police Command to no avail. We are therefore crying out for the world to know the fate of Ndigbo in Benue State.’’