Benue community accuses militia of killings, abductions

File photo of Gov. Ortom briefs President Buhari on security situation in Benue
File photo of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom in the State House

Members of Shitile community in Katsina Ala Local Government Area of Benue State are accusing a militia of kidnapping and killing residents.

The residents sent a petition to the presidency and other local and international human rights organisations on the matter.

They named the militia as Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, and said it reportedly has the support of the state government.

In the petition, dated July 24, 2017 and signed by 20 persons on behalf of the community, the residents said the CJTF activities had taken “a nasty and brutish turn” for the people of the community.

The residents said they were being “hounded and haunted by a reign of terror characterised by frequent and rampant extra judicial killings, physical and psychological battering of women and children and wanton destruction of residential and commercial properties, all at the hands of one Aondona Ishenge.”

The petitioners said Mr. Ishenge, otherwise known as “Tor-Abaji,” and his accomplices among whom is one, Ternenge Orijondo, also known as Or-Ijondo, “operate under the canopy proclaimed by him as the Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, and purportedly emplaced by the Government of Benue State”.

They said the CJTF as a Benue State Government funded quasi-security apparatus “is supervised and armed with sophisticated automatic firearms through the office of the Security Adviser, Edwin Jando (rtd) and commanded by one Aliyu Tashaku, who enjoys the ignoble fame of having been an operative of the Boko Haram terrorist group.”

They also said under the control of Tor-Abaji, the CJTF “has changed the taste and colouration of life for the people of our community, killing and maiming at will, as well as burning down and utterly destroying homes and businesses of our people, leaving us in a state of heightening terror, trauma and total insecurity”.

They allege that the crisis could be traced to the degenerating security situation dating back to November 2016 when two persons, Orkar Galgbom and Wangyo Mbatsav, were allegedly killed by CJTF in Utyondu village, of Mbayongo district in the area.

“In January 2017, there were many killed at Tse-Igbe, while on the 18th, 25th and 26th days of June, 2017, Tor-Abaji, dressed in military uniforms and armed with sophisticated automatic rifles, together with his horde of heavily armed gang moved through Abaji settlement on a spree of destruction, burning down houses and brutalising women and children, after which he arrested some targeted persons whom he took away to an undisclosed located and subjected them to severe torture, resulting in scores of deaths

“A number of persons were lucky to have escaped alive from the torture rounds, among them Orafalorlumun Gbiseh and Terfa Achia, both of whom narrated how Tor-Abaji, while torturing his victims had boasted of having the support of government which he bragged placed him above the law, even as he said to have vowed to bring all political opponents of the ruling government to their knees by force of arms,” they said.

The petitioners also said, while all of this was going on, they made several reports to security agencies within the state but received no response.

The petitioners said the fear in the area is that if the CJTF is not tamed in time, ”it has the capacity to rapidly grow into another terrorism monster in the kind of Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda or Taliban.”

They called on the government to ensure that the CJTF is disbanded immediately.

A copy of the petition, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, also has a list of the names, location and dates of all those reportedly killed, maimed or kidnapped in the communities within Shitile

Efforts to get a reaction to the allegations from Mr. Jando, the SA on security to Governor Ortom were unsuccessful.

He did not answer repeated calls by the reporter and did not also respond to a text message sent to him before publishing this story.

Mr. Ortom has, however, repeatedly said his state has no such armed militia and was not procuring arms for any such group.

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