Gunmen in north central Nigeria have killed eight people, including a divisional police chief, in the latest violence ahead of a presidential and parliamentary election later this month, police and a security source said on Wednesday.

Insecurity is a big issue for voters in a country where armed gangs terrorise people in villages and on highways and carry out kidnappings for ransom.

Police in Benue state responded to a distress call after gunmen blocked the Markudi-Naka road, forcing travellers to flee, Benue state police spokesperson Anene Sewuese Catherine said.

The divisional police officer for Naka town, Mamud Abubakar, led a team of officers that engaged the armed gang in a gun fight, Catherine said in a statement.

“However, the DPO (divisional police officer) who led the team sustained gunshot injuries and was rushed to General Hospital Naka where he was eventually confirmed dead,” Catherine said.

A police source said two other police officers were shot and killed during the fight with the armed gang.

When the gunmen retreated, they killed two children and three women in a nearby village, said the source, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.