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Nigerian Officials and Locals at Odds About Number of Casualties from Attack


Nigeria has deployed security forces to a village in central Benue state where state police say suspected herders killed 10 people this week. But Nigerian media report dozens were killed, citing a local community leader. Herders and farmers frequently clash over land rights for grazing.

Benue State Police Commissioner Wale Abbas, told VOA by phone on Friday that a joint security team patrolled the Umogidi village in Otukpo district of the state to restore calm.

He said heavily armed men invaded the village Wednesday evening and opened fire on locals.

Abbas said police recovered eight bodies from the village. But Nigerian media cite the village head as saying 46 people were killed, including his son and the local police officer who lives in the area.

Abbas disputes that report.

"Since then, we have moved all our arsenals to the place. As I'm talking to you now, we have placed adequate security there, so I don't know where they got the numbers," he said. "Where are they getting forty six? They're just whipping up sentiments"

Common clashes

Farmers and herders have often clashed in Benue State over grazing land for cattle.

Days before the attack, armed men killed seven people in a nearby village.

In February, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom said more than 6,000 people had been killed in communal clashes since he assumed office in 2015.

He said the attacks have left the state grappling with more than two million internally displaced people living in dire conditions.

Community calls for intervention

On Friday, Benue State residents protested the recent killings by suspected herdsmen militia and called on authorities to intervene.

Paul Hemba, the Benue State security adviser, visited the village Friday.

"We're getting conflicting reports on casualty figures, which is not unusual in this type of situation," he said. "The community claims to have buried some before our arrival and according to them that is what is responsible for the differences in figures from those the security agencies are reporting "

Nigeria is battling a range of security issues, including kidnapping for ransom, that have led to widespread criticism of the government.

Earlier in April, 10 students were kidnapped from northern Kaduna state and, to date, have not been freed.