Seventy-one people perish in week of violence in Nigeria’s Benue state

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ABUJA, Jan 8 – A total of 71 people have been killed in a week of violence in Nigeria’s Benue state, a government spokesman said on Monday, much of it involving clashes between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers.

The killings endanger efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari to bring security and stability to Nigeria – a key campaign pledge when he ran for election in 2015.

Muslim herdsmen, mainly of the Fulani ethnic group, and Christian farmers often clash over the use of land in remote areas of the Middle Belt region.

Terve Akase, chief press secretary to the governor of Benue state, attributed 71 deaths from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6 to killings by the Fulani. Reuters was unable to verify the figures.

“The attacks happened in very remote villages,” said Akase. “Now, with security operatives on the ground, villagers have been going about the bush to pick up more corpses.”

Nigeria’s police inspector general, Ibrahim Idris, told reporters last week that the country was secure, though more police would be deployed to Benue state to deal with the violence.

“What we should be praying for is for Nigerians to learn to live in peace with each other,” said Idris.

Nigerian troops have been deployed in more than 30 of the 36 states to tackle insecurity – something which has thrown a critical spotlight on the performance of the police.

In November, at least 30 people from a cattle herding community, including young children, were killed in a clash in the northeastern state of Adamawa.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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