Gunmen have killed at least 50 people during two attacks on a village in north-central Nigeria, authorities said Thursday.
Ruben Bako, chairman of the Otukpo local government where the massacre happened, said that gunmen killed 47 people on Wednesday in Umogidi village in Benue state. A day earlier, three other people had been slain in the same place, he said.
Anene Sewuese with Benue state police confirmed that attack and said that the assailants had open fire at a market. However, Sewuese put the death toll at eight people, including a police officer.
The motive of the attacks was not immediately clear, though authorities said they believe both attacks were connected. While there was no claim of responsibility, authorities said suspicion fell on local herdsmen, who have clashed in the past with farmers over land disputes in north-central Nigeria.
The farmers accuse the herders, mostly of Fulani origin, of grazing their livestock on their farms and destroying their produce. The herders insist that the lands are grazing routes that were first backed by law in 1965, five years after the country gained its independence.
Benue state, which is referred to as "Nigeria's food basket" because of its bountiful harvests, is one of the hardest hit in the decades-long clashes between agrarian communities and nomadic cattle herders across Nigeria's northwest and central regions.
Agricultural yields from the state have decreased over the years because of these frequent clashes, further squeezing families in a region where many are poor and hungry.