Indications emerged last night that no fewer than 145 persons have been arrested in various parts of the North, following the crackdown ordered by the federal government on suspected militias causing mass deaths in some states in the region.
A top source, who gave an update to Vanguard last night, also hinted that the militias killed no fewer than 30 policemen mobilised by the government to quell the onslaught.
The official hinted that the bulk of those areas was in Benue, Kaduna and Nasarawa states, following the order given by President Muhammadu Buhari to security agencies to fish out perpetrators of the violence.
Investigations by our correspondent reveal that of the 145 suspects so far arrested, 106 had been charged to court, while 21 suspects are under investigation and waiting to be charged to court.
It would be recalled that recently, on March 5, at least 24 persons were killed and 20 others feared missing in two communities in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State, following fresh attacks by suspected herdsmen.
Our correspondent gathered that early in the year, three suspects with Ak-47 rifles were apprehended by the Police Intelligence Team in Benue, nine members of untrained civilian JTF/Livestock guards with prohibited firearms were arrested by the military in Arufa, a boundary town between Benue and Taraba with five AK-47 rifles, who confessed that they were employed as livestock guards by a state government on a N150,000 monthly salary.
Similarly, 16 suspects were arrested in Gboko local government area and investigations are ongoing, while several members of armed militia and unknown gunmen were killed or apprehended by the police.
Other arrests made include that of 6 suspects on January 1, 2018 following the police response to the killings in Akor Village in Guma local government area on December 31, 2017. “Exhibits recovered from the suspect include 3 cutlasses, charms and other items. All the suspects were charged to court for culpable homicide. Concerted efforts are being made by the police to apprehend all culprits in the conflict,” a police source said.
The Nigerian Police have had their fair share of attacks while trying to fish out the culprits, our correspondent gathered.
On January 25, this year, two visiting Police Mobile Force (PMF) from 20 and 32 led by their respective unit commanders were ambushed by a group suspected to be pastoralists while they were on patrol at Sati village in Guma local government area of Benue State.
During the ambush, one inspector Abdullahi Isiaka was shot and wounded, while one Sergeant Solomon Dung was reported missing. “We are doing our job diligently to ensure safety of lives and property in these flashpoint areas. So it is unfair when some people say we are being partial in how we are handling the conflict,” another police source said.
Further findings reveal that he Police has lost serval of its officers, while one is still missing in action in the course on restoring peace in the state.
“About 30 of or colleagues have been killed in the line of duty, while Sergeant Dung is still missing in action,” the source said.
Also, our correspondent gathered that the disbandment and disarming of the livestock guards and militia groups in the state are ongoing so as to forestall further violence.
Early in the year, the IGP team commenced an on-the-spot assessment of situations in Benue with a visit to the flashpoints of the crisis, places such as Logo and Guma local government areas in Benue and Tunga in Awe local government area in Nasarawa State.
Security analysts say that one of the root causes of the crisis in Benue has been the implementation of the Anti-Open grazing law by the state government.
On January 4, the IGP met with Benue State governor and the state’s religious leaders, traditional rulers, CSOs, and other stakeholders, where the open grazing and establishment of ranches were mooted.
It will be recalled that following several clashes between herdsmen and farmers in some parts of the country, the Federal Government deployed mobile police forces, the army and Air Force to troubled areas.
Security has also reportedly been beefed up in affected communities in Benue State and in other states affected by herdsmen/farmers