Couple, 5 others killed by herdsmen, fuel tanker explosion in Benue

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…As Health workers vow to continue strike***

A couple and five others were, weekend, killed in three separate incidents in Logo, Guma and Ushongo Local Government areas of Benue State.

Vanguard gathered that the couple, Mr. Kwaghaondo Ugber, and his wife, Mne, were killed in an ambush by suspected herdsmen on Anyiin Road, at Tse Adendem village, on their way to Anyiin town. According to a relation of the victims, Bem Ugber, the couple had boarded a motorbike from Iorza village, heading to Anyiin.

He said: “We gathered from the bike rider that they were ambushed close to Tse Adendem village on Anyiin Road by armed herdsmen, who shot the rider on the hand and after they all fell down, the rider managed to escape into the bush, but my uncle and his wife were not so lucky.

“We reported the matter to the Police after we got the information. Their remains were retrieved and because of the manner they were killed, we buried them immediately in my village, Tse Hwer in a Logo Local Government Area

Armed herdsmen were also reported to have attacked Tse Shitenger in Uvir council ward of Guma Local Government area of the state, killing one Azegeor Shitenger and also took one Mrs. Yonov Shitenger hostage. According to a source in the area, the attackers stormed the village early Sunday morning and left many with injuries while many others were unaccounted for.

Meanwhile four persons were also at the weekend burnt alive, while over 40 others suffered varying degrees of burns when a petroleum-laden tanker exploded into flames at Gbatse village in Ushongo Local Government Area of the state. The inferno razed several motorbikes, houses and farmlands in the community. According to an eyewitness, “the incident happened around 9:30 Sunday.

The ill-fated truck crashed and tumbled when the driver of the truck tried to avoid a pothole. “Minutes later, people rushed to the scene of the accident and started scooping petrol from the truck. It was while they were doing that, that the truck exploded into a huge ball of flames.

“Four persons were burnt beyond recognition, while many others sustained severe burns. On hearing the unfortunate incident, Governor Samuel Ortom directed that all the victims be moved to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH, for treatment.” When Vanguard visited the BSUTH, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Terlumun Swende, lamented that the incident happened when health workers were on strike nationwide.

His words: “Since when the governor gave his directive and the victims were brought here yesterday, I had to bring together our medical team to save their lives. As you can see, they are being attended to. It is a serious issue.”

In the meantime, The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) on Monday said it would continue its ongoing nationwide strike until the Federal Government implements certain agreements reached between the two parties on Sept. 30, 2017.

JOHESU disclosed this at a peaceful rally organised by its national body in Abuja, saying it would not be deterred by the court’s injunction compelling its members to return to work.

Mr Josiah Biobelemoye, National Chairman of the union said the rally was aimed at updating members with current developments regarding the ongoing strike, including the recent court order.

It was reported that the National Industrial Court (NIC) gave an order on May 25, 2018 compelling JOHESU to call off the strike, which began on April 18.

Biobelemoye emphasised that the union had every right to obey or challenge the court order.

“I owe members the responsibility to update them on happenings between us and the government to enable them take decisive position, and whatever they decide is final.

“We call on the government to implement our upward adjustment and other things as contained in the agreement of Sept. 30, 2017.

“No going back on the strike until those things are met,’’ he said.

He noted that since the union embarked on strike on April 18, the federal government had met with the leadership eight times.

He however, described the meetings as one step forward and two steps backward.

He mentioned that the amount of money owed the union is N22.6billion, adding that due to the intervention of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, it had been reduced to N16.5 billion.

He said JOHESU’s agreement on the reduction of the entitlement from N22.6 billion to N16. 5 billion was geared toward ensuring lasting solutions to the crisis.

“I urge you to stand up for your right, do not yield to pressure or threat in whatever form by the government.

“Hence, we are not going back to work until they pay us our full entitlement,” he reiterated.

Vanguard with additional report from Citizen