by Andrew Angulu,
Many residents of North – Central Benue state have fled Kastina-Ala rural environs in drove following military operations to rid the area of suspected bandits allegedly loyal to the deceased criminal kingpin, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as Gana.
Locals told our correspondent in Makurdi on Tuesday night that most of the suburbs in Kastina-Ala Local Government Area of the state had become deserted as inhabitants have relocated to Makurdi, the state capital and other safe areas.
A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the soldiers of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) had, in recent times, dealt with criminals in the area while alleging that they were also arresting people indiscriminately.
The resident said he had relocated with his family, just like many others, to Makurdi for fear of being caught in the web.
Another residents, who also didn’t want his name mentioned, said though the soldiers had targeted the criminals, it was worrisome that the bandits were divided on parallel lines, fighting each other and making life unbearable for the rural dwellers.
“Kastina-Ala is not safe. The bandits are wreaking havoc while fighting themselves on grounds that some of them were sold out to the soldiers who are clamping down on them (criminals).
“It’s a rival militants attacks and that’s worrisome,” the resident alleged.
It would be recalled that the activities of the dreaded late Gana and his gang, who held hostage three local government areas of Ukum, Logo and Kastina-Ala informed the drafting of a special military operation to the areas by the federal government.
On his part, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the local government area, Tertsea Benga, said at least 30 people, in the area had been arrested by soldiers and their whereabouts unknown.
Benga said; “those arrested in Anyom tyugh was on the January 30, 2021 while that of Kenvanger was on the November 21, 2020; both communities in Mbatyula council ward in Katsina Ala LG.
“Up till now, the whereabouts of the arrested persons are unknown.
“Efforts made by the leaders of both the affected communities to the military to ascertain the position of the acclaim suspects proved abortive as military always assured of their safety without seeing them.”
When contacted, the OPWS Force Commander, Major General Adeyemi Yekini, declined any comment about the matter, insisting that our correspondent should contact the Media Office of the Defence Headquarters in Abuja for response.