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Benue killings: Lalong apologizes to Ortom, withdraws offensive remark

…says I’m truly sorry for comment on anti-open grazing warning

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

Ortom and Lalong

In a rare display of humility and statesmanship by a Nigerian politician, Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, Sunday, tendered an unreserved apology to his Benue state counterpart, Samuel Ortom, over his remark that he had warned the latter not to implement the anti-open grazing law.

At a media briefing in Abuja, Lalong, a lawyer, not only apologized to Ortom and Benue people but also withdrew his sneering remark, which had not gone down well with many Nigerians since he spoke after visiting President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa last week.

The Plateau governor said he was extremely sorry for his remarks, which were not helpful at the time he should have consoled and sympathized with the government and people of Benue State over the gruesome murder of over 73 innocent persons by rampaging herdsmen.

For that reason, Lalong formally extended his heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families of those massacred on the New Year Day in Benue.

The governor said, “I extend my condolences to the government and people of Benue over the irreparable loss. I apologize over my comments on the matter.

“Either arguments for or against do not help the matter because we are all brothers and sisters. Benue and Nasarawa states were created from Plateau State.

Lalong pointed out that what was needed by the people of the two states was how to work together and find lasting peace for Benue and Nigeria and not debate on anything that could further lead to conflicts and carnage.

It will be recalled that the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on Thursday said he had warned his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, against implementing the state anti-grazing law recently passed into law.

Lalong said in an interview with State House correspondents shortly after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa that he considered it untimely to start implementing the law without proper alternatives.

He said, “To be honest with you, I advised him. I told the governor of Benue State when he was doing the law; I said ‘look, why don’t you tread softly, just be careful, take other steps before you start implementation.’

“But you see, states are different. His own concepts are different and for us on the Plateau, it is different.

“I said I will not do the law before implementation. I have not developed the ranching areas so I cannot go and say I put a law, to stop who? If I stop the people, what is the alternative?

“So, I said ‘do consultations allow the people to understand and buy into the concepts.’”

Peeved by the comments, Ortom denied ever being counseled by Lalong on the new law, which had since gone into operation in Benue before the massacre early this month.


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