Nigeria: Clashes erupt between rival militia groups in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State

Nigeria: Clashes erupt between rival militia groups in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State

By Zuleihat Owuiye, Mamos Nigeria

On March 7, 2024, a clash between rival militia groups in the Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State resulted in the deaths of approximately 40 people. While most of the casualties were members of the militia groups, a family of seven and several farmers were also killed during the crossfire. The violence erupted when one of the gang leaders hired external bandits to invade the Gbagir community in Ukum LG and oust another militia leader. The majority of the deceased were members of the rival militia groups, but around 12 farmers were caught in the crossfire. Additionally, over 30 individuals were injured, and some are still missing.

According to a local traditional ruler who spoke on condition of anonymity, the conflict began when a militia leader in Ukum LGA kidnapped a leader from a neighboring community in Taraba State and demanded a ransom of N100 million. However, he was only given N5 million, and after collecting the money, he proceeded to kill the hostages. This act of violence sparked outrage among his gang members in Taraba State, leading another militia gang leader in Ukum to join forces with the Fulani militia gang in Taraba. Their objective was to eliminate the rival gang in Ukum responsible for killing their leader and enable the Ukum gang leader to take control. On Sunday, hundreds of combined forces from the Fulani and Tiv militia gangs began moving into the bushes of Gbagir, and the bloody fight ensued on Tuesday morning.

The casualties primarily consisted of bandits, but tragically, a family of seven from Tse Adzandeh Mbasaa, Mbajiga, Ityuluv, Torov, who were members of the Adzandeh family, also lost their lives in the crossfire. Nyiyongo Ezra, the lawmaker representing Ukum State Constituency, stated that approximately 20 people were killed, although he did not provide further details about the cause of the attack.

The Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia, was unavailable for comment, but a military source revealed that some of the attacks in that part of the state were carried out by local militiamen. The source acknowledged that while a few innocent individuals may have been caught in the crossfire, the majority of those killed were members of the militia gangs. The military is currently stationed in Kwande and working to restore calm to the area and ensure the safety of innocent civilians.

The state Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Adesina, also refrained from providing specific details about the crisis but mentioned that additional officers have been deployed to the area. The search for missing individuals is ongoing, and so far, five corpses have been recovered.

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