This baby will never know her mother. Her mother will never sing lullaby to her or rock her to sleep. Worse still, she will never suckle from her mother’s breast.
This is because just one week after her birth, suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded their community in Mbalaagh Council Ward of Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue State and murdered her mother, Felicia Asongo.
The baby, who looks so smallish for her age, was lucky to have been smuggled away from the crisis by her grandmother during the attack in which 27 people were allegedly killed. She is now being fed with baby milk under the watchful eyes of her aged grandmother.
For more than two weeks now, over 200 members of the Mbalaagh Community have been taking refuge in the North Bank area of Makurdi, with some of them sleeping under trees after the gruesome invasion.
The baby girl, who was yet to be given a name, was about three weeks old when the reporter visited the North Bank area of Makurdi where the Mbalaagh people were taking refuge. She slept peacefully in her grandmother’s arm, oblivious of what had befallen her mother.
Narrating the incident, Mama Margaret Asongo said the heavily armed Fulani invaders came into their village at about 6.30am that fateful Wednesday and started killing everyone in sight.
“When they got to our compound, I quickly carried my granddaughter and went into hiding. But my daughter-in-law could not run because she just had a baby that week. So, they killed her.
“I am not happy at all that my daughter-in law was killed. I have been thinking of how to take care of the five children that she left behind. She was a farmer before her gruesome murder in the hand of Fulani herdsmen.”
Also speaking, one of her sons, Abraham, said when they finally found Felicia’s corpse, they had to hurriedly bury her in the night for fear that the Fulani invaders would attack them again.
Asked if they had any problem with the Fulani herdsmen before the attack, Abraham alleged that the Fulanis’ cows destroyed their farms and in the process of chasing the cows away, the herdsmen attacked them.
“We only complained that their cows were destroying our farms and in the process of driving them away, the Fulani herdsmen came and attacked us. We did not have any problem with them before.”
The 37-year-old Abraham, who is also taking refuge in North Bank with his two wives and six children, said he had been living on charity since the incident, adding that he could no longer go to farm to cater for his family.
“I want to go back home, but I am afraid to go because we don’t know if these Fulani herdsmen will attack us again. They have destroyed everything we had; our compound, our farm, our foodstuffs. They’ve destroyed everything.”
Corroborating Abraham’s claims, Jonathan Iorgrim, a 32-year-old father of two, said his children could no longer go to school, adding that they had been sleeping in the open since the attack.
Mrs. Augustina Ortim, a farmer, told our reporter that she really desired to go back home as the farming season was already setting in. She said, however, she was afraid to go for fear of another attack by the Fulani herdsmen.
On his part, Mr. Emmanuel Aakyor said he had been at the camp for over two weeks with his family and appealed to government to come to their aid with a view to ensuring that they go back to their village as soon as possible.
“Government is yet to come to our aid. Hon. Emmanuel Jime who was here last Saturday gave us some bags of pure water and promised to table our plight on the floor of the National Assembly. Also, Governor Gabriel Suswam sent some soap, magi and rice to us last week.
“But more than that, we want to go back to our village so that we can continue with our farming activities. Our children are also out of school because of the attack and they need to go back to school. We appeal to government to provide security for us so that we can go back home.”
However, Secretary of the Miyette Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Benue State Branch, Garus Gololo, lamented that some people who were benefiting from the Tiv/Fulani crises were fuelling the problem, adding that many Fulani herdsmen have also been murdered by Tivs too.
Gololo disclosed that in the past, Tivs would only take one or two cows, belonging to Fulanis, lamenting that these days, the Tivs would elope with a whole herd of cows. “Sometimes, 100, 200 or even 300 cows would be missing at once. Recently in Guma, 200 cows were missing with two of the rearers and up till now, we are yet to see them.”
He added that the solution was to call the two parties together and fashion out a workable solution to the matter. He said at present, the Tivs cannot farm freely and the Fulanis too cannot graze their cows freely.
“The problem is affecting everybody. We need the Tivs to farm so that we can have food and we also need the Fulanis to graze their cows so that there can be enough meat for all.”