By Paul Angya
Never before in my life have I experienced this depth of frustration and helplessness. With all my innate sense and knowledge of what is right and wrong; with all my experience as a Lawyer of International
repute for the last 33 years and experience and extensive contacts in the Federal Civil Service for the last 19 years at the highest levels, including one of which I acted as Director General/Chief Executive; never before have I felt this level of helplessness and anguish, the continuing progrom against the Tiv people.
My heart bleeds, that once again, within a short period of 3 months I am compelled to write on what seems to be the genocide and ethnic cleansing being methodically and systematically conducted against us, the TIV people – inhabitants of the Benue valley, and as it’s becoming increasingly clear, based on recent happenings, with the active
collusion, collaboration and participation of the Nigerian Army.
On the 8th of January 2018, in response to the invasion and killing – (ethnic cleansing) that occurred in Tiv land, I wrote the piece titled, ‘Weeping and Wailing for Benue’ wherein I cried, “where is our standard
bearer, who like Moses in the battle against the Amaleks at Raphidim, will hold up his arms for us to prevail or like Joshua, will stretch out his spear toward Ai (for Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai). Who is the standard bearer at this time of our
travails, when a mighty army surrounds us and is about to overwhelm us? How can we even sing our Lord’s song in our own land? Alas, our elected leaders have slunk into their shells with flimsy and pitiable excuses.
At a time like this, we need leaders to stand up and radiate energy, exude confidence and hope of a better tomorrow, onto a pulverised and traumatised people and not slink into hiding like some vermin or other creepy creatures afraid of the sunlight. Where is that leader? Where is that standard bearer?
In spite of my writing, in spite of the national and international outcry and global condemnation, the murders, the killings, the pogrom has continued unabated. As disclosed by Retd. General Theophilus
Danjuma, a former Army Chief of Staff and civilian Minister of Defense, and now confirmed by all Benue indigenes, this pogrom is with the active connivance, collusion, collaboration and participation
of the Nigerian Army, with a deafening conspiracy of silence from the Nigerian political leadership. As I asked the question on the 8th of January, I ask again today, where are our elected leaders?
Hundreds of Benue citizens are being killed on a daily basis – the latest of which was the attack on the Catholic Church in Gwer East and the killing of two Catholic Priests and the lay faithful at their morning Mass. Numbers in terms of deaths no longer shock even the people of Benue. There appears to be a well-designed, orchestrated and
approved plan (at the highest levels) to systematically and methodically exterminate the TIV race from the face of the earth. Since the murder of the Catholics, hundreds more have been killed in Gwer West and East, Guma and the Logo local governments.
There is no official word from any authority in Nigeria. Not the Police, not the Army not the Presidency. There is a seeming conspiracy of silence throughout the nation. If you weren’t a TIV person (did not personally feel the pain and anguish of the Tiv people) you would not believe that this magnitude of murder is being conducted on a daily basis in Nigeria in this 21st century.
The murderous Fulani herdsmen have sacked and taken over all TIV ancestral homes and land in Nasarawa State comprising Obi, Awe, Kiana, Adudu, Nasarawa Toto, Doma and the East side of Lafia, here again with the active collaboration and support of the Nasarawa State Government. Large groups of Armed Fulani marauders are camped in those villages under the protection of the government from where they move into Benue to plunder, maim and kill. In Benue State, the Fulani killers have taken over and now occupy most of Guma, Logo, Gwer west and East Local Governments.
On Sunday the 22nd day of April, I personally had a horrendous encounter with these Fulani killers. I had attended a thanksgiving
service at the NKST Church Naka organized by the Benue Society for the blind and to also commiserate with the victims of the Army attacks on Naka (the burning and sacking of the city). On my way back to Makurdi, I was advised to go through Taraku-Aliade road (a distance of about 2½
hours, given the nature of the road as against the Naka–Makurdi road, a distance of about only one hour). This according to the residents was because, that country side is taken over by the Fulani killers. Because I did not completely believe that in this 21st
century, a government with coercive powers of the police and the military would stand idly by and watch one race exterminate another and occupy their land, I chose to ignore the advice and proceed on this route. To my utter shock and dismay, this decision was suicidal. It was only the grace of God that brought my team and I out of that
occupied zone alive.
The entire countryside, stretching from Naka town to Adeke in Makurdi, a stretch of about 60 kilometers or one-hour drive, had no single living TIV soul. All homes, houses and farms were deserted 100% and in their place I saw Fulani cattle spread over the entire country side like water on land (must have been over a hundred thousand cattle) with murderous Fulani guards slinging AK47 rifles on their shoulders in broad day light (about 3pm) without a single Police or Army
presence. Half way through this valley of death, one of the Gun toting herdsmen decided to take aim at us. It was the quick reaction of the Police guard on my team who quickly aimed and cocked his gun at him that caused him to beat a retreat. I can confirm that the Fulani have taken over more than 40% of TIV land, farms, villages and cities and still occupy them as we speak without as much as a whimper from the relevant authorities tasked with the responsibility of our security.
2.0 Operation Cat Race
What was the objective of the Army operation conducted in March called
“Operation Cat Race” (Ayem a Kpatema) and what did it achieve?
I make bold to say that it was aimed at confirming or completing the disarmament of the TIV people begun by the Benue State Government under the so-called ‘amnesty program’ and paving the way for unrestrained slaughter of the TIV people and the plunder and occupation of their ancestral lands. I believe that, that exercise
achieved its objective, as the army whilst in Benue territory did not disarm one Fulani invader, but proceeded from house to house to search and seize even farm implements that looked metallic not to talk of locally made tools like bows and arrows. After which mission accomplished, the Army moved out and the Fulani mercenaries moved in and are now picking off our people like chickens in a coop. Whilst the Fulani mercenaries invade, kill and plunder from the East, the Nigerian Army complements from the West with well-coordinated attack
of burning, destruction and sacking of our cities (Naka a case study). The TIV race is now hamstrung between the devil and the deep blue sea. Where do we go from here? Where do we run? Where can we hide? Who can rescue us? Who will speak for us like Danjuma did for Taraba? If I were a soldier, I would personally take up arms in defense of my people. Though I am not, I am determined to be a part of the force for
change that would enthrone a responsive, responsible, competent and proactive government in Benue State and Nigeria at large, that would honor its fundamental and constitutional duty of ensuring the welfare
and security of the people.
a. I urge the return of our Governor wherever he may have gone, and the State Government to speak up, to shout to the high heavens and continue to shout until the world takes notice of the on-going genocide in Benue.
b. I urge the State Government to begin the compilation of material evidence and to retain lawyers to file charges against the Federal Government at the International Court of Justice (ICJ);
c. I urge the Federal Government through the Nigerian Army to begin ‘a cordon, search and rescue’ of Tiv territories taken over by the Fulanis’ and our people commencing from all TIV territories in Nasarawa into Benue and beyond and to permanently station security outpost (therafter) in the recovered territories.
d. I urge the Federal Government to offer compensation and ensure speedy return of the displaced back to the affected communities.
e. Government must prove itself responsible for the security of our state and nation by bringing to book those responsible for these
atrocities and ensuring the rule of law. Each human life must count.
Finally, I urge all Benue citizens wherever they may be to stop running, stand and defend your inheritance (the land of our fathers as they defended it against the jihadists in 1804) if the Government
cannot defend you. Ultimately, arm yourselves with PVCs and ensure that this government, which has failed abysmally in its singular duty of providing the welfare and protecting the security of our people is voted out of office come 2019, like general Obasonjo said, ‘you don’t sustain failure’.
Paul Angya, Ph.D, KSM, fsi wrote from Benue State