Palpable tension enveloped Makurdi, Benue State capital, on Friday, following rumours of planned attacks on the town between Friday and Saturday (today) by Hausa/Fulani herdsmen.
According to the information that went round on Friday, some Hausa/Fulani herdsmen were planning to attack the city after the Jumat prayer on Friday.
As a result of this, several schools did not open, while the few that opened earlier in the day hurriedly closed and sent messages to parents to come for their children.
As early as 7 am, security operatives comprising the army, police and civil defence, were deployed in the modern market and strategic places within Makurdi.
Also, there were skeletal services in most of the commercial banks visited, as they later closed by 2 pm when the rumour of the planned attack began to gain traction.
Our correspondent also observed that there was air surveillance by a police helicopter during the Jumat between 2 pm and 2.30pm.
Markets at Wadata, Wurukum and railway opened partially while traders were seen in groups discussing the planned attack.
At Wadata market, a woman, who simply identified herself as Nancy Attah, said she heard of the planned attack on Friday morning, and she had to quickly pick her children from school.
She said, “Immediately I heard of this, I rushed to my childrens’ school to pick them and I met other parents who had come to pick their children as well.”
Our correspondent was able to obtain one of the messages being passed around as early as Thursday. It partly read, “Words have reliably reached me this evening through a classmate of mine that a Hausa man who sells items beside her mother at Wadatta market said he was moving his family out of Makurdi by Friday, as Hausa people in Wadatta have systematically planned to attack and kill us as much as they can in the next three days, especially after their Friday prayer and Saturday, especially those who go to the market on Saturday. Please, take note.”
Meanwhile, the amalgam of socio-cultural groups in Benue State, comprising Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Om’Igede, on Friday, called on the people of the state not to take the planned attack on the capital city with levity.
The spokesperson for the groups, Chief Edward Ujege, in a statement in Makurdi, noted that the previous threats of attacks on the state in the state were truly carried out, which he said had led to the death of several persons.
He added, “Though we have not been able to verify this allegation, we are constrained to state that there is some element of truth in this, given that in time past, similar allegations were dismissed at the detriment of villagers.”
Meanwhile, the Benue State Acting Governor, Mr. Benson Abounu, has warned those creating panic in the state to desist from the act. He said, rather, they should help security agencies to guarantee peace.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ede Ogaba, the acting governor said the task of protecting lives and property was the responsibility of every citizen of the state.
While sympathising with families of victims of the various attacks, he called on the people of the state to support security personnel with timely and useful information to enable them to prevent further attacks.