No fewer than 13 persons were yesterday feared dead when a suspected armed militia gang attacked Ukpogo community in Apa Local Government Area of Benue State over disputed chieftaincy stool.
The militia gang, who were reported to have invaded the community at about 4:30 a.m., also left some of their victims with injuries in the attack. Meanwhile, the joint military operation code named Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, was said to have since mobilised and taken over the area to forestall further attacks.
Nigerian Pilot gathered from locals in the area that the dispute over the stool of Alegwu of Edikwu dates back to 1994 leading to persistent killings in the community by armed militia gangs allegedly hired by an aggrieved contender to the stool, who had been on self exile since the dispute began.
He was said to have disagreed with the choice of the kingmakers of the community who elected late Chief Imoni Otokpa as Alegwu of Edikwu before his demise in 2018.
The latest attack on the community came just three months after the state deputy governor, Mr. Benson Abounu, on behalf of Governor Samuel Ortom, presided over a peace meeting of stakeholders of the community last May where it was agreed that feuding parties should sheathe their swords and embrace peace.
Confirming the attack, the acting Alegwu of Edikwu, Chief Otokpa David Imoni, said the aggrieved contender had declared war on his people with the active support of some local politicians and had overtime sent armed militia to attack his people to compel them to accept him as the traditional ruler even after taking the matter to court.
“The present one took place this morning when hooded gun wielding militiamen entered the Ukpogo community at about 4:30 a.m., and began to shoot anything that showed signs of life. “Thirteen dead bodies were already found after their departure around 6 a.m.,” he said. When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Catherine Anene, confirmed the attack and the 13 deaths.