Following the atrocities in Benue State earlier today, where two Catholic reverends were murdered in Ayar Mbalom, a village in Gwer East LGA of Benue State, President Muhammadu Buhari has come out with a statement condemning the killings, with a promise to remedy what has developed into a full blown national security crisis.
In a Twitter thread, President Buhari extended his condolences to the people of Benue, whose state has been in the thick of sustained, almost daily, attacks from armed herdsmen. The latest in these series of murders are two priests of St Ignatius’ Catholic Church.
Reverend fathers Gor Joseph Joseph and Felix Tyolaha were killed Tuesday when armed herdsmen stormed the village of Ayar Mbalom.
The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi subsequently called on the Federal Government to intervene to stop the spate of brutal mass murders that have gripped the middle belt region of Nigeria for the last few months.
“Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha have been confirmed dead in the deadly attack by herdsmen early today on Mbalom village of St. Ignatius Quasi Parish Ukpor-Mbalom,” the Diocese statement read.
Going into fuller detail, Fr. Moses Iorapuu, Director of Communications for the Diocese said about the attacks:
“In their classic style, they burn down homes, destroy food items and kill. The police seem to know nothing of the attacks which have been going on in other villages within Benue State since the Anti Open Grazing Law came into effect last year.
“Many people are asking why the international community has remained silent over the massacre of Benue citizens? The answer is simple: It has been the goal of the jihadists to conquer Benue and Tiv people who resisted their advance into the middle-belt since 1804; the people who rejected Islam and fought for the unification of Nigeria in the civil war of 1967 – 1970.
“The people of the East, therefore, have little sympathy for Benue people and the Muslim North is enjoying a sweet revenge overshadowed by an insensitive regime. There were over 170.000 internally displaced persons before the Naka invasion and surely with the current situation in Mbalom, Benue will be flooded with thousands more.
“What cannot be said at this point is the consequences of the death of missionaries in the silent killings that have been siloed by the government for over a year. The diocese has been active in providing relief materials including education and skills acquisition lessons. To go for the priests means total destruction of everything we stand for and believe in!”
Responding to these new atrocities, the President promised to “ensure that the assailants are apprehended and brought to justice for this vile and sacrilegious act,” calling the attacks “vile, evil and satanic.”
I extend my sincere condolences to the Govt and people of Benue State, the Mbalom community, and especially the Bishop, priests & members of the St Ignatius’ Catholic Church, whose premises was the unfortunate venue of the heinous killings of worshippers & two priests by gunmen.
This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable. Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Army operations in the region, which have been ongoing with Exercise Cat Race at the forefront of surveillance and security cordon of vulnerable states, have not been able to prevent incidents like the latest killings, which have intensified not just in frequency but in sheer brutality.
Just under a week ago, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had estimated that about 257 innocent victims have been killed since January as a result of the herdsmen onslaught against rural farming communities mostly in the middle belt region of the country.
What, if any, new measures the President will set up to address the escalating crisis remains to be seen. But with a population largely disarmed and at the mercy of mass murderers, and security protection by the state inadequate for the more remote vulnerable communities targeted by the killer herdsmen, Nigerians are beginning to question not if, but when, the next round of killings will make the next headlines. In the meantime, the body count grows with each new victim that is laid to the ground.