The police in Benue are holding back on their offensive against suspected killer herdsmen on rampage across the North-Central state, saying they would prioritise an immediate succour and enduring tranquillity for the affected communities instead.
The Benue police commissioner, Bashir Makama, revealed this on Wednesday night that the police are concentrating their energy and resources towards a safe return of recently displaced residents to their communities.
“Let there be peace. Let there be calm. Then, the suspects can be followed and arrested,” Mr. Makama said by telephone amidst demands for government clampdown on the culprits which followed widespread outrage about the killings.
But anti-open grazing campaigners faulted the police tactics, warning that the comments could fuel speculation that the federal government was colluding with the herdsmen.
“You beat the iron while it’s still hot, that’s the blacksmith principle,” said David Ogbole, a Pentecostal preacher in Makurdi who leads a civic coalition against herdsmen activities in Benue State. “The blacksmith knows that if you beat the iron after it gets cold, it won’t bend.”
An estimated 69 people have been killed in suspected herdsmen attacks on villages in the agrarian Benue State between December 31 and January 8, according to Benue State Government officials.
Fifty-nine of the deceased are slated for a mass burial in a village near the Air Force Base in Makurdi, the state capital, on Thursday morning.
The figures include the three officers killed following an ambush on a police patrol team on Monday in Logo Local Government Area, about 200 kilometres east of Makurdi.
The local government was amongst the two local government areas razed down by suspected herdsmen between the New Year eve and New Year day.