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29 Dec 2018

There is no hope for me and my seven children again, wife of man killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen on Christmas Eve

Mngohol, 32, and her children – seven in all – had to go to the farm on December 24, but as they did the hard work, it was with excitement and anticipation nestling comfortably in their minds as the countdown to Christmas Day proceeded rapidly.

They looked forward to a merry Christmas celebration the next day, December 25. Being members of Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev, an agrarian community in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State, farming is not only a way of life, it is practically the only means through which families sustain themselves.

So when Mngohol’s husband, Ioewuese Myaga, instructed her to go home with the children who followed the couple to the farm, it was an opportunity for the woman and her kids to put finishing touches to their preparations for Christmas.

The husband, Myaga, 40, who decided to stay back in the farm where they had gone to harvest corn, was supposed to join his family at home later in the evening.

But, alas, it was the last time his wife and kids would see him alive.

After waiting all through Christmas Eve for the farmer to return home, the worried family members went back to the farm on Christmas Day, only to discover Myaga’s bullet riddled body.

The farmer had been murdered on his farm by suspected Fulani herdsmen, while harvesting crops.

For Myaga’s wife and children, the anticipated and planned merriment of Christmas and the entire festive season quickly gave way to despair. All of a sudden, the family was forced to live without the support of a breadwinner.

December 25, the day Myaga’s wife and children looked forward to with so much joy, became a day the family would never forget, albeit for unexpected reason – it was the day that Myaga was buried.

It was supposed to be a day of merriment but, for the family, it became a day of mourning.

It was obvious that Mngohol, Myaga’s wife, was shedding tears when our correspondent spoke to her on the telephone on Thursday. She could hardly talk, as her voice choked as she tried to suppress sobs.

But, amidst the tears, the 32 year-old-woman, who has been forced into early widowhood, explained that in addition to the shock of losing a loved one, the family has lost all hopes for the future as a result of her husband’s death.

Narrating what happened on the fateful day, she said, “I left him in the farm. He told me to go home with the children; he said he would come later after working for some time. When we got home, we waited for him but he did not come back.

“The farm is about three kilometres from the house so we thought he would still come home before nightfall. But since it was already late and the area was dangerous, we couldn’t return to the farm to look for him on that day, so we waited till the next day – Christmas Day. We went to the farm to look for him in the morning. On getting there, we found his body. He was dead. He was attacked by Fulani herdsmen,” she said.

Mngohol, who is solely dependent on her husband, lamented that she does not have the means to take care of the seven children Myaga left behind.

She wondered how she could continue to feed the children, and fund their education.

According to her, the total cost of the children’s school fees per term is about N200,000. Some of the children are in private secondary schools, while others are in primary school.

The late Myaga’s eldest child is 16 years old. The youngest is just three.

Despite economic challenges, the family used to be a happy one.

But, for now, Mngohol could only foresee a gloomy future.

Sobbing intermittently, she said, “I cannot afford to take care of seven children. There is no hope for the future again. We are only relying on God and good spirited Nigerians.”

The woman added that besides the fact that the family was barely managing to get by with the little proceeds from the farm, the fear of the rampaging suspected killer herdsmen would make it impossible for her to venture into the farm anytime soon.

“My husband was not making much from the farm apart from just a little that was being used to keep the family going. Now I am afraid of the herdsmen because of what they did to my husband and I will not be able to go to the farm.

“My major problem now is how to take care of the children and train them in school. I will appreciate any assistance,” she added.

The woman further disclosed that the children are devastated by their father’s death.

“The children are aware that their father is no more. They are devastated. They miss him a lot,” she said.

It was gathered that Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev, a community of about 300 inhabitants, had been under attack by Fulani herdsmen in recent times.

Sources in the community disclosed that many of the villagers had already been displaced by the herdsmen, who operate in the area with sophisticated weapons.

Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev was among several communities in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State which have come under intensive attack from suspected Fulani herdsmen since January 2018. The attacks subsided around August but recent developments suggest that the herdsmen have launched a fresh onslaught on the area.

A community leader, Joseph Anawah, who raised the alarm over the development, expressed regrets that military authorities in the area were denying reports of Myaga’s killing.

Speaking with our correspondent on the telephone, Anawah insisted that the farmer was indeed killed by Fulani herdsmen.

Asked how he was certain that the herdsmen were responsible for Myaga’s murder, Anawah said, “The herdsmen have caused a lot of havoc in this area. The type of guns they use is different from the type of guns any local man will use. They use very sophisticated military guns. These things have been happening in this area for the past four years now.”

Continuing, he said, “The incident occurred on December 24. On Christmas Eve, some herdsmen murdered Mr Iorwuese Myaga, a father of seven children, a resident of a settlement in Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev.

“He was murdered by Fulani herdsmen on his farm where he went to harvest corn. He was shot while trying to harvest his crops on his farm. They ambushed and shot him at close range in the neck, piercing his gullet. But his corpse was recovered in the bush the next day, Christmas Day, and he was buried that same day. He was buried at his country home at Tse Ikyem, Ukemberagya Gaamne-Tiev, in Logo LGA Benue State.”

Until his untimely, tragic demise, Myaga was said to be a devout Christian.

The pastor of the local branch of NKST church (which stands for Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar and is translated as Universal Reformed Christian Church), where Myaga worshipped, Reverend Felix Suega, described the murdered farmer as a ‘committed’ member.

Also speaking with our correspondent on the telephone, the pastor said, “I was the one who buried the deceased on Christmas Day. The man is a committed member of my church. I saw him last in church on Sunday. We took Holy Communion together on Sunday. Then on Monday, they killed him.”

Suega, who condemned the development, expressed shock that the military denied the incident, which he said was reported to the police.

“It is very painful that we lost our member but it is too bad that soldiers are denying that something of that nature happened here. Can you imagine that? The matter was reported to the police,” the aggrieved clergyman said.

Meanwhile, the Benue State Police Command and the military authorities operating in the state have differed over the development.

While the police confirmed that a farmer was killed in the area on Christmas Eve, the military, through Operation Whirl Stroke, denied the reports.

In a statement obtained by our correspondent on Thursday, the spokesman for the Benue State Police Command, Moses Yamu, however said it had launched an investigation to ascertain if indeed it was Fulani herdsmen that killed Myaga.

Parts of the statement read, “Our men in Logo LGA made contact with the executive chairman of the council, who is the chief security officer of the local government.  The information was that the farmer went to the farm on December 24, 2018 to harvest corns but did not return.

“So on December 25, 2018, the local government chairman went to the farm area with some youths in company of the army and they recovered the corpse of the man with gunshot injury in the head.

“Even though it was alleged that it was herdsmen that killed the man, we have launched investigation to ascertain the circumstances behind the man’s death.”

But, on his part, the Force Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Adeyemi Yekini, said there was no killing in the area on Christmas Eve.

Yekini, who reacted to the development in a statement which was also obtained by our correspondent on Thursday, said the reports of the ‘alleged killing’ was part of a ploy to undermine the prevailing peaceful situation in Benue State.

“The attention of OPWS has just been drawn to a story of the killing of a villager in Logo LGA by armed herdsmen on Christmas Eve.

“It is apparent some people are not happy with the current peaceful security situation in Benue and will go to any length to fabricate lies to cause unnecessary tension among the good people of Benue.

“All parts of Benue State, including Logo celebrated the Christmas in peace without anybody being killed before, during or after the celebration,” Yekini said in the statement.

As the police and the army differ over what actually transpired in Ukemberagya Gaambe-Tiev on Christmas Eve, a bereaved family is left to contemplate a hopeless future without their breadwinner.

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