No fewer than 30 herders have been killed in what is suspected to be an air raid carried out by the Air Force in Rukubi, a town on the border between Benue and Nasarawa States.
They were killed while returning from Makurdi, the Benue State capital, where they had gone to retrieve hundreds of cows seized by the Benue Livestock Guard.
They reportedly paid a N29m fine and got their cattle, moved them to Nasawara State, and were offloading them when they were hit by a blast on Tuesday night.
Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State confirmed the deaths while addressing journalists on Wednesday but did not blame anybody for it.
“They went and paid the penalty to the Benue State government, and they came back to the border where they were told to come and wait to receive their cow, so while they were waiting, the bomb exploded,” he said.
“There were all kinds of allegations. Initially, they thought it was an airplane that came and bombed the place, but now it has been established that it was a drone that was sent.
“A drone was sent, we do not know who sent the drone, was its security agencies or other people we don’t know? I spoke with the governor of Benue, and I also spoke with the security agencies.
“Nobody is claiming responsibility that they sent the drone. So that is the true position of things.”
The governor urged the families of the victims to be calm and said the incident will be investigated.
Miyetti Allah Blames Air Force
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria has, however, blamed the Air Force for the killing of the herders.
The association’s spokesman, Muhammad Nura, is calling for a thorough probe.
“Those killed had gone to Makurdi to retrieve about 1,250 livestock impounded by the Benue Livestock Guards after paying a fine of about N29m for violating the anti-open grazing law of Benue State,” he said in a statement.
“After paying, the pastoralist had hired vehicles from Makurdi to convey back their seized livestock to Rukubi and it was in the process of offloading their livestock that the Air Force came and bombed the vehicles and those within the vicinity.
“This is the third time that the Air Force is being involved in strafing livestock between the border of Benue and Nasarawa states in the last year.”
Defense authorities are yet to respond to the allegation, but the military has been carrying out raids in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba States against bandits in what it calls Operation Whirl Stroke.
Some of the dead have been buried by Islamic rites.