* Journalist losses aunt, raises the alarm over threats to life

Known as the Food Basket of the Nation, Benue State is gradually losing that epic crest to be christened the epicentre of crisis. 

In virtually all parts of the State hardly a week pass without the record of one damning crisis or the other that have left the State in a shadow of its old self. 

If the crisis is not armed herdsmen induced, it is local bandits instigated or communal bloody fight that leaves in its wake sorrows, tears and blood. 

It's been all tales of woes for a people who usually pride themselves as the food power house of the country where several of the grains, citrus, yam, cassava, rice, tomatoes, pepper, ginger, melon and several other are farmed in commercial qualities and hauled to other parts of the country. 

Unfortunately the state is fast losing that panache that makes it stand out among the committee of states in the country owing to the ceaseless attacks and killings. 

There is no gainsaying that Benue is currently bleeding and not a few families are being set backwards as a result of the crisis. 

Many have continued to lose their sources of livelihood, homes, properties and loved ones in the crisis in parts of the state that have defiled all manner of intervenes to have them nipped in the bud. 

From Agatu to Apa, Otukpo to Ogbadibo. From Gwer West to Makurdi and Guma, down to Gwer East LGAs; from Ukum all the way to Kwande LGAs it's been same sad story of crisis. 

The implication is that families have been rendered homeless and denied access to their farmlands. Thousands of these families have found solace in Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps where they are surviving on the goodwill of spirited individuals and organisations. 

While majority of these displaced persons were victims of armed herdsmen incursions in several Benue communities many others have not known peace because of bloody crisis between neighbouring sister communities that ordinarily should be in peace with each other. 

Of special mention is the Mbarvu and Mbasombo communities in Gwer East LGA of the state where all known measures have been taken by the state government to end the bloody conflict over a parcel of land the warring sister communities have resisted all the peace initiatives to end. 

The then Governor of the state, Chief Samuel Ortom had also in May 2020 suspended two traditional rulers of both communities, Chief Peter Ikyum of Ishough and Chief Ager Kuhe of Mbasombo, in oder to compel the warring communities to sheath their sword but they remained adamant. 

Even the threat by the present administration in June 2023 to take over the disputed land has not been able to convince the hitherto good neighbours to drop their arms and embrace peace. 

Bothered by the level of attacks and killings in the crisis, women of both communities had also defied the heavy downpour, trooped out in their thousands and took over the busy Makurdi-Aliade road at Ikpayonge to protest the crisis, the destruction of properties including farmland and farm produce as well as the loss of innocent lives. 

The development left road users and commuters stranded for several hours as long queues of cars and trucks coming from the South to the Northern part of the country and those from the Northern part of the country conveying goods and commuters to the South were left stranded. 

The angry protesters who sang solidarity songs as they marched for hundreds of meters to register their anger over the needless bloodbath in their communities lamented the incessant killings and razing of houses in the two warring sister  communities. 

It took the intervention of the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Mr. Aondona Dajoh and his colleagues who were all drenched in rain water, to calm the angry protesters. 

The Woman Leader of  Mbakough Kindred, Mrs. Veronica Orbunde who addressed the lawmakers said the peaceful demonstration was to draw government's attention to the use of militia by the fueding parties, who rape innocent women  in their farms and also kidnap and kill some of their husbands for no justifiable reasons. 

She said, "we are tired of this crisis and we are pleading with the sister communities to end this senseless killings and destruction of properties in our communities." 

Addressing the huge crowd after inspecting the destruction at the Ikpayongo market in one of the attacks, the Speaker who expressed worry at the development appealed to the warring communities to embrace peace and stop the incessant killings and destruction of properties, assuring that the government would deploy more security personnel to the area to protect the lives and properties of the people. 

Among the women who lost loved ones, property and farmland as well as farm produce in the crisis is Victoria Ojeme, a journalist of repute who is currently facing grave danger after losing an aunt in the crisis. 

Mrs Ojeme who has unfortunately become a target for attack by the rampaging militia prosecuting the bloody crisis hails from Mbarvu, one of the communities at the centre of the crisis. 

Nararting her ordeal, Ojeme said "I hail from Gwer East LGA of Benue state, Mbarvu community specifically. I am the third daughter of Pa Atule Humbe and my late mother's name is Mama Bridget Humbe. 

"I have been in shock for the past three years and has also stayed away from my community for several years after receiving so many threats from the neighbouring community that has been at loggerheads with my community. 

"They have threatened all the youths for coming back home and for those who thought the threat was just a mere threat, never came back alive. 

"So many houses have been razed down, the elderly that could not flee were  slughtered by the invading community, 

"In one of the attacks they killed my Aunt the only surviving woman in my father's house. Today my life is also in danger. They feel that some of us are crying out about the spate of attacks and killings in the senseless crisis and I have become a target. 

"I appeal to the government to take decisive steps to end the crisis as the loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties is already taking its toll on the farming populace who have all deserted their ancestral homes and farmland and have become Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in their own state."