Benue State Residents Forced to Pay Bandits’ Tax Amid Threats of Attack

Residents of Torough community in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State are being coerced into selling their farm produce to meet a N20 million tax imposed by local militias. The bandits have threatened severe attacks on the community if the amount is not paid within a few days.

Sources within the community have revealed that each household has been tasked with contributing N50,000 to meet the bandits’ demands. In response to the threat, residents are selling their farm produce and livestock, or reaching out to relatives for financial assistance.

One resident, speaking anonymously due to fear of retribution, confirmed that the money has been allocated among households. “Some have started disposing of their farm produce and livestock to raise the levy, while others have contacted their relatives outside to raise the levy so as to avert the attack of the bandits,” the source stated. Reporting the matter to authorities, including the village head, is seen as too risky, potentially provoking the militias further.

The local government is aware of the situation. Ukum LGA, notorious for criminal activities including killings and kidnappings, has seen prominent individuals, such as the state Commissioner for Information, Culture, and Tourism, Matthew Abo, and past local government chairmen, kidnapped in recent years.

Local government chairman, Victor Iorzaa, confirmed the extortion and identified a notorious militia leader, known as Full Fire, as the orchestrator. “Full Fire has been terrorizing the area for the past five years, often collaborating with Fulani herdsmen. Recently, the military launched an attack on his house,” Iorzaa said. He emphasized the community’s fear and vulnerability, with Full Fire’s base near the Taraba State border posing an ongoing threat.

Iorzaa has reported the situation to the police and the state security council, expressing gratitude to Governor Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia and security operatives for their efforts in combating crime. “Security operatives are doing their best to curtail them,” he added.

Contrarily, state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Catherine Anene, stated that such incidents would have been reported to the command if they occurred. Meanwhile, the Governor’s Security Adviser, Joseph Har, claimed that bandits in the state are on the run and unlikely to impose such a levy. Har affirmed the state administration’s commitment to addressing banditry, kidnapping, and other criminal activities, describing the imposition of illegal levies as a common survival tactic for bandits globally.

Har concluded, “Only an irresponsible government will fold its hands to allow that callous thing to happen,” reiterating the state’s active measures to mitigate criminal activities.


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