Four days after herdsmen invaded the remote Gbeji community in Benue State, Northcentral Nigeria and massacred some residents, President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said that he “and all his administration condemn the recent attacks in Benue State.”
The President said “it is unacceptable for lives to be taken by herdsmen and farmers alike.”
At least 36 bodies have been recovered as of last Friday after the heavily armed gunmen arrived the Gbeji village on Wednesday and opened fire on the villagers.
Two Police officers were among those killed in the attack that left many injured, said Terver Akase, Spokesperson of the Benue State Governor.
Benue officials visited Gbeji on Friday and met with families of the victims, urging the national government to license sophisticated guns for the state´s local security force to defend residents.
“The security agencies have been overstretched. That being the case, our people have to defend themselves,” a government statement quoted Governor Samuel Ortom´s representative as saying.
Gabriel Suswam, who represents the affected area in Nigeria´s Senate, said the Nigerian government “has failed woefully in the protection of lives and property.”
Sources confirmed that trouble started on Tuesday when some villagers killed two herders and stole their cattle. This was followed by a reprisal attack by herdsmen on Wednesday on the village of Gbeji.
But in a statement by Presidential Spokesperson, Garba Shehu, Buhari said: “No one should attack anyone because of their way of life. Neither should anyone take revenge on others for injustice done to them. Both should be held accountable for their actions, and justice delivered.
“It is equally unacceptable for the lives of those merely practising their duties as police officers and government officials to also be lost. Government will hold those that took those lives to account.
“There are many times when President Buhari and Governor Ortom of Benue State have disagreed politically. But, today, the President puts all these aside, to reach out to the Governor to express the heartfelt condolences of the nation for what has occurred in recent days.
“The President pledges the full support of the Federal administration in assisting him, his State government, and people of Benue with resources to investigate what has occurred.
“When tragedies like this occur, we must remember first and foremost that we are all Nigerians.
“Politics too often gets in the way of what is best for our nation. Too often, it divides us. As those who have been entrusted with leadership by our citizens, we have a duty to remember that, and do everything we can to bridge divisions and come together in the interests of all our people.”