Nearly two months after the invasion of Agatu by Fulani herdsmen, more than 10 villages are still under siege by rampaging Fulani insurgents, according to Chief Elias Ekoyi Obekpa, traditional ruler of the Idoma tribe in Benue State, Nigeria.
Several days of attacks in February’s final days killed hundreds of people and sent thousands fleeing from the largely Christian area of Nigeria’s farming belt.
The villages still under siege share boundaries with Nasarawa State and the Gwer-West Local Government Area in Benue.
The monarch, who was addressing Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom during his visit to the ravaged communities on Tuesday, 5 April, declared that the menace of the Fulani herdsmen had turned into a real insurgency, beyond simply herder-farmer clashes.
Despite a deployment of military officers to Agatu, Obekpa noted that although many displaced people were now eager to return home, they cannot do so, for fear of the herders.
According to a staff representative of Open Doors, a charity that supports Christians under pressure for their faith, those who were left behind are desperate – so desperate that they almost attacked a team trying to give them relief aid.
“The pastors there said it was all a result of their situation – no food, no support and people dying in the camp due to lack of food. We thought we were going to give emergency relief to about 50 people, but suddenly over a thousand people showed up,” a worker on the ground said.
The Och’Idoma urged Governor Ortom to ensure soldiers and other security operatives are deployed in areas under siege, as well as communities where villagers are yet to return.