The district head of Mbanyiar community in the Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, Chief Tyoor Chabom, in this interview with JOHN CHARLES (PUNCH) narrates how Fulani herdsmen invaded his community, destroyed the farms and how his wives escaped being raped by the raiders.
“My community and family were attacked by Fulani herdsmen. Based on what government told us that security personnel had been deployed in the Guma Local Government Area, some of our people went back to their respective villages to farm.
“Those who farmed during the rainy season were able to harvest their farm produce. They were lucky enough that Fulani herdsmen did not destroy the crops. But those who farmed and have harvested their crops in the dry season between January and this month, were not lucky because the Fulani herdsmen with their cattle damaged all and nothing is left for my people.
“Concerning what you heard about me, it was just some few days ago, my wives and I were in the village and people told me that Fulani cows were eating the melons on my farm and I went to the farm to see things for myself. On getting to the farm, I saw Fulani herdsmen moving with their large cows and with guns. The cows were eating and destroying the melons. Then I begged the herdsmen to please, leave the farm with their cows. They didn’t and because they were carrying guns, we couldn’t do anything other than pleading with them to leave some portions for the women to harvest, since they (wives) suffered to cultivate it.
“The melons were like four bags but these cows finished everything and what was left did not fill two basins. So I told them (herdsmen) to leave the two basins for the women and they laughed and then removed their guns, them showed me and then went away.
“This was between 11am and 12pm. I told my wives that since the entire melon farm had not been harvested, we should look for a way of safeguarding it and we cordoned it off with sticks and we guarded the farm till 6pm in the evening. And when the herdsmen were returning to their base around 5pm , they saw us and we exchanged pleasantries, they called us “Tiv ngio, and we called them Angwe ngio.” They laughed and we laughed then they left.
“But at about 1.30am the next day, they came back to our house. They came with four guns and six cutlasses and surrounded my house. They were knocking on my wife’s door and when I came out; I discovered that they had surrounded the entire compound and there was no way to escape. I said to God, ‘Save us, you are the only one to save my family.’
“They targeted me. They told my wives that they came to kill me because they were given the opportunity to come and graze in the area by security agents. They told my wives that they had charms with them and that nobody would come to disturb them and that even if anyone call the security personnel, they would not come to rescue us.
“They caught my two wives, took them away to the nearby forest, and demanded to have sex with them or they should show them where I was hiding but my wives told them that they didn’t know my whereabouts. They directed the attackers to where I was sleeping inside before they came. They went there but never saw me.
“A week before this incident, these herdsmen had come to my compound, killed all the goats and chickens (hens) in the house and removed all the cassava that were planted in and around the house.
“They are around but I have taken them to hospital for check-up. My first wife told me that one of the herdsmen took her phone and destroyed all the yams that people harvested and kept. They also destroyed all the cassava farms.
“When this crisis first started, the herdsmen killed 23 people in my community and that is why you have IDPs camp one, two and three. The camp three are the displaced people from my community. Where I am now in Daudu is a ward headquarters and I am the acting district head of Daudu and if I am to count the numbers of people killed in my district, they are over 100 since January 2018 to now.
“Nobody is safe even though our state government is trying to bring this crisis to an end, but these herdsmen are in the thick forest where nobody can go. They come from there to attack our people and my people are not living in town, they are living in the rural areas and it is the people who stay in the bush that they attack the most. Now they have nothing to eat because Fulani have destroyed all their means of livelihood.