The bloodletting which started in Rivers State on New Year’s Day has spread to Benue State.
No fewer than 20 people were killed and 30 others, including children, injured, by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen.
They attacked villagers in the Middle Belt state.
Governor Samuel Ortom wept when he saw the magnitude of the attack during his visit yesterday to the Benue State University, Makurdi where the bodies were kept in a morgue.
The governor confirmed the casualty figure. The attack occurred between Monday and Tuesday in Guma and Logo local government areas.
Ortom spoke to reporters after a security meeting.
According to him, nine of the dead were livestock guards – the enforcers of the anti-open grazing law. Their patrol van was set ablaze.
The law is to check the herdsmen, who have been killing people. Its implementation has started despite protests by Miyetti Allah, an organisation of Fulani herdsmen.
Ortom said the law was not targetted at any ethnic group and wondered why the herdsmen had taken it so personal to the point of unleashing terror on the people.
It was also learnt that more people were killed in Tomatar, Saghev districts in Guma Local Government Area. But the number could not be ascertained.
A tearful 30-year old woman Miss Dooshima Anande, said her brother who had just completed his National Youth Service was killed.
Villagers were leaving in droves with their property.
The governor lamented the unwarranted wanton destruction of lives and property.
He said no matter the intimidation and killings by the herdsmen, the law would not be reversed or repealed.
He said anybody or group that flouted the law would be punished.
Ortom urged the Federal Government to step into the matter so as to avert further destruction of lives and property.
He expressed regret that the state government informed the Federal Government of the impending attack but it still took place.
Dr Gajir Tsoho of the Surgical Department, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, said over 30 were receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the attacks.
Residents of six communities in the two local government areas began the New Year on a sad note.
Casualties included women and children.
It was learnt that the herdsmen invaded Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan around 10am at the time the people were returning from New Year morning service.
The gunmen opened fire on everyone in sight.
Around 3am yesterday, they reportedly invaded Tomatar.