“Pay N20 million tax or face attack” — Bandits tell Benue community

Some daredevil bandits have threatened to unleash an attack on Torough community in Ukum local government if they do not pay the sum of N20 million tax in the coming days.

Sources in the community say residents have began selling their farm produce to raise the fund, adding that each household has been tasked with raising the sum of N500,000 to meet up with the demand.

One of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being killed said, “Already, the money has been shared according to household, but the least amount is N50,000.

“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,” he told Punch.

The source noted that nobody in the village, including the village head, would dare report the matter to the security so as not to anger the local militias.

When contacted, chairman of the local government, Victor Iorzaa, confirmed the development and said that he had reported the situation to the police and state security council.

The chairman identified a notorious militia leader, Full Fire, as the person behind the development.

Iorzaa said, “The report is true, and the person behind it is Full Fire. He was the person that connived with Fulani recently to attack our people; he has been working with Fulani people and terrorising the area for the past five years.

“He is a bandit. If you remember, two weeks ago, the military launched an attack on his house.

“The people of the area are living in fear that the community is the most troubled place in the LG. If one is going to the village, don’t be surprised that before you get there, the person will be attacked.

“I have reported the matter to the police and also the state security council. Full Fire lives at the border community with Taraba State.”

While commending the state governor, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, for his efforts at combating crime in the state, the local government chairman also applauded security operatives for curtailing the excesses of the militias.

He added, “But security operatives are doing their best to curtail them.”

Meanwhile, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Catherine Anene, said if such a thing happened, it would not have been reported to the command.

Also, the Security Adviser to the Governor, Joseph Har, said bandits were on the run in the state and could not have the luxury of collecting tax from the villagers.

Har said, “The issue of this illegal levy has become a common practice with bandits everywhere worldwide because they use it to survive. However, only an irresponsible government will fold its hands to allow that callous thing to happen.

‘“The criminals have been having a very tough time recently, and they are really having the heat and can’t have the balls to wait and collect any tax.

“Most of them have fled their camps (you can find out) and we intend to sustain the momentum until we run them down or they surrender. There is reduction in the impunity of these bandits and the basket will get filled again.”