By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Residents on the outskirts of Makurdi main town may have been saved from yearly armed herders’ attacks as ambitious 24km road opens up forested communities thus sending attackers packing.
The greatest challenge the Governor Samuel Ortom administration had to face on assumption of office in 2015 was armed herdsmen crisis.
That crisis left about 18 of the 23 Local Government Areas of the state in shambles after coming under persistent attacks by armed marauders.
But the troubling aspect of the crisis was the intermittent siege on parts of Makurdi town by the armed invaders leading to the displacement of residents, especially those on the outskirts of the town who were always forced to flee for safety with their families into the main town whenever the herders struck.
The attacks on these communities on the fringes of the city centre were always reportedly launched from the inaccessible forested communities in the several kilometers stretch habouring communities from Adeke up to Welfare Quarters area, down to Yaikyo-Terwase Agbadu axis of the town.
But the recent completion of an ambitious 24 kilometer road project by the state government which has opened up the forested areas and hideouts of the armed herdsmen who yearly invade Makurdi outskirts has brought respite to the people who had lived all their lives in fear.
This was the tale of the obviously elated traditional ruler and the most senior Clan Head in Iorbee Lada Kindred of Genabe District of Makurdi town, and Head of Kighir village, Chief Fateh Achaku.
His words, “I was born here in Kighir and lived all my life here in this community.
“We lived here as if ours was a different town from Makurdi because we could hardly connect with the main town.
“We were cut off from the rest of the world but only accessed our homes through any narrow paths we were able to create on our own.
“And then there was the serious threat of armed herders. These are people who like to take cover in secluded areas where people cannot easily access.
“So they used to camp in the thick forests along the Adem axis from where they terrorized those of us on this stretch of the outskirts of Makurdi town.
“At the peak of every dry season we all live in fear because our communities always come under attacks from the armed herders who usually strike and after which they withdraw into the forest and nobody including security personnel would be able to access the area because there was no road to get there in the first place.
“We did not know peace, we lived in fear, we lived as if we were in a war zone because of the persistent firing of gunshots in our communities by the arm men who somewhat held us hostage if I may use the word.
“They chased us from our homes and forced families to seek safety elsewhere in the main town. On several occasions my wife and children left me here and ran into the main town, same for others. It was that bad.
READ ALSO: Why Trucks are killing more Nigerians
“But all that has changed with the construction of this 24km road. Governments in the past came and made promises to open up all the forested communities on this axis but non was courageous enough to do it until about three years ago when a contractor erected a signboard signaling the commencement of work on the road and today our story has changed and we’re grateful to the present government.”
One of his subjects, Mr. Terna Ai, said, “With so much joy I can tell you that the road tore through the forests, more like a ring from Kighir community to Tionsha through to Mobile Barracks to Adem community at Utur through to Mbangur up to Welfare Quarters Area/Kanshio kindred.
“From that point the road linked up to Yaikyo in Ugondo district linking Terwase Agbadu road. That is what this government has done for us.
“It is a project we never believed could be completed so soon but the government heard our cry and by so doing also succeeded in checking the incursion of armed herders into Makurdi main town.
“We gathered that layouts are being created by the government in these areas now so as to have people move into the virgin communities and occupy them. That will obviously bring development to our communities.
“In fact we owe the government a lot of gratitude because apart from checking herdsmen incursions, the road has opened our communities and linked us up and also made it possible for security team like the military operation named Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, to easily access our communities to ensure our security”.