The killings in Benue State continued on Wednesday as three protesters, who were protesting about the killing of scores of people in six communities in the state by herdsmen, were feared dead in a violent demonstration by some youths in Makurdi, the state capital.
The protest followed the killing of residents of about five communities in the state between Monday and Tuesday by cattle rearers.
No fewer than 20 people were killed and 30 others injured when herdsmen attacked the communities in between the New Year’s Day and Tuesday.
The invaders attacked communities in the Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state.
The protesters in Makurdi on Wednesday almost attacked the state governor, Samuel Ortom, during his visit to calm the frayed nerves.
Security operatives saved the day by whisking the governor into a waiting vehicle.
To avert a breakdown of law and order, the military, police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and vigilantes were drafted to beef up security during the violent protest.
The Assistant Director of Information of Nigerian Army, 707 Special Force, Major Olabisi Ayeni, however, denied knowledge of any death during the protest.
Also, the spokesman, Benue State Police Command, Moses Yamu, said, “The command is not in receipt of any such report please.”
Thousands of youths across the state had embarked on a protest in Makurdi on Wednesday, demanding an immediate stop to herdsmen attacks.
The youth, who carried placards, blocked the Lafia-Makurdi highway, the Otukpo road and the Old Bridge Road and converged on the popular Wurukum roundabout.
As early as 7am, the protesters trooped to major roads, mounting barricades in strategic areas, blocking both entry and exit routes, which also prevented vehicular movement in and out of Makurdi.
The President, National Association of Ihiarev Youths, Bem Terna, lamented that despite the killings by the herdsmen, President Muhammadu Buhari had yet to make any statement or order the arrest of the suspects.
He said the protest would continue for seven days.
Terna stated, “The Federal Government is not doing anything to address this situation. In fact, it is conspiring against the state to allow this carnage to continue. The President is adamant over the issue. We will continue to stage this protest for seven days. We want the entire world and the international community to come to our aid.”
The youth defied the tear gas canisters fired by security operatives to disperse them while they kept stoning the security agents.
The demonstrators turned violent when Ortom visited them at Wurukum, insisting that the only person who they were ready to listen to was Buhari.
Security operatives had to whisk away the governor in a waiting vehicle when the situation became tense.
Meanwhile, Ortom, who later spoke to newsmen at the Government House, noted that he understood the pain of the youths, but called for calm and urged the people to go about their lawful business without fear.
He said he had already called for additional deployment of security operatives in Makurdi and the local government areas of the state.
Ortom added, “We have asked for additional deployment of security in Makurdi and placed other local government areas on red alert. No curfew for now as it would mean more hardship for people travelling to their bases.
“I have reiterated my call on the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore because they have openly said they would resist the law on open-grazing, which is an initiative of the Benue people. There is no other alternative to ranching.
“But I think the right thing to do is for the Federal Government to arrest the leadership of MAKH or else, they are telling us that we are not part of Nigeria. Their threats have become a reality and they are living in Abuja with the Federal Government.
“If FG does not arrest them, then they are throwing us into a state of anarchy. No going back on the law.”