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Do the needful on Benue killings, Ortom tells Buhari

•Rejects FG’s colony proposal
•Insists on arrest, prosecution of Miyetti Allah leadership
•Buhari orders IGP to relocate to Benue

By Peter Duru & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
A
BUJA —   GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom of Benue State, yesterday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, asking the President to do the needful in arresting and prosecuting the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for genocide.

No fewer than 71 persons, including women and children, were killed in night raids on some Benue communities since new year day, triggering condemnations across the country.

He also rejected federal government’s proposal of establishing colonies for cattle herders, insisting that the only option was the establishment of ranches in line with global practices.

President Buhari meets Governor Ortom of Benue State.

The governor, who briefed State House correspondents after meeting with the President for about two hours, equally stated that the herdsmen used Nasarawa State as a base to launch attacks on his state.

But Nassarawa State governor,Tanko Al Makura in a swift reaction, dismissed Ortom’s allegation that the Fulani militia operated from a camp at Tonga in  Awe Local government Area of his state.

These developments came as President Buhari ordered the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to Benue State to stem further attacks on the state.

I’ve been briefing President Buhari — Ortom

Governor Ortom told newsmen that he had been briefing President Buhari on the activities of the herdsmen right from the time they started their onslaught on innocent people, adding that the militia, which he said had vehemently opposed the anti-open grazing law in the state, operated from Tonga, in Awe Local Government Area of Nassarawa State.

He said herdsmen, bearing sophisticated weapons, killed two mobile policemen drafted to maintain peace on Monday night.

According to him, the policemen were overwhelmed  by superior fire power of the militia and slaughtered like chicken.

He said:  “I had earlier briefed Mr. President when this incident took place on the 1st of January. After staying back on the ground to do the needful to ensure that we restored normalcy, I said it was important for me to come personally and brief him and that has been done.

“Already, because of the communications we have been having when these incidents started, actions have been taken as directed by him. The movement of the DIG, (Deputy Inspector General) of Police, the movement of the IG (Inspector General) now to relocate to Benue State to ensure that this challenge is surmounted was at the instance of Mr. President.

“Of course, additional personnel of DSS (Department of State Services) and Police have been deployed and even the Army. We have additional personnel on ground now. We have adequately and fully given them the logistics support to ensure that our people are protected.

“I had to brief him, he is also doing further investigation to know the next line of action. I believe that my request that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, must be dealt with. They had earlier threatened and I accused them directly; since June last year, I have been writing to the leadership of security agencies, that these people are a threat to our collective interest.

‘’They must be arrested and prosecuted because we cannot allow impunity to continue to thrive.  And, of course, threat and no action has resulted in this killing and I think that Mr. President will also do the needful to ensure something is done.”

On Ghanaian mercenaries

On the allegations that he hired mercenaries from Republic of Ghana to fight herdsmen, he said: “I am not aware of this and I don’t even know about that one. I am hearing it for the first time. If someone has done that, it must be this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore that has done it.”

Also commenting on the allegations that he was blocked from seeing Mr. President, he said: ‘’I have never accused anyone of blocking me from seeing Mr. President. I am seeing Mr. President. I told him when this incident occurred, I spoke to Mr. President on phone and followed it up.

‘’I know what it entails being a President, even as governor most times I am not with my phone, people cannot access me the way it used to be, let alone a president.

“I didn’t say that and I have not said it. The truth is that I have access to Mr. President anytime I want, I speak to him on phone and I see him personally. I requested to speak to him on phone that day because I couldn’t come to Abuja and he gave me the opportunity, and today, I am here and I have seen him.”

Also fielding questions on suggestion that full blown military operations be set up in Benue like other places, he said:  “Anything that can stop the killings of my people I will go for it, I support it.  I support any policy or any directive, anything that will help stop the killing of these innocent people, who are not armed, because this can not continue.

“We know that the continuity of this will create greater challenges. I don’t want it to continue. We are struggling with economic issues, we are struggling with political issues and we are struggling with several other issues in this country, security issues and all that, Benue State should not be part of this, there is no need for it.

“The law on prohibition of Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranching was made out of the necessity to ensure that we have peace for herdsmen and farmers and that is what we have done.

‘’The law seeks to protect all and as I talk to you, except this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who are instigating people to fight and to kill us, there are Fulani men in Benue State, as I talk to you, doing their businesses.”

The governor, who reacted to the allegation by the Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN Chairman, Benue State chapter, Garos Gololo, that the killings were in retaliation for the theft of 1,000 cows by some people in the state, said:  “You know that man is a liar. Gololo is a liar, he is a wanted man in Benue State, we don’t even know where he is.

“He stays somewhere and makes allegations. The other time he said 1,000 cattle drowned and the herdsman decided to commit suicide by jumping into the river; he has not come out to justify what he said.”

Rejects colonies

On the Federal Government’s proposal to set up colonies to solve the problem, Governor Ortom said:  “I am waiting to be briefed about what colonies mean, I don’t understand it and until I understand it…but like I keep saying, for us, the way forward is ranching and up till this time, the way forward is ranching because it is global best practice.

“It is the practice in other parts of the world, on African soil in Swaziland, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, almost all African countries that rear cattle, they ranch, so why can’t we do the same thing here? For the colony thing, I don’t know what colony is.”

On how many ranches his administration has created, he said: “It’s not for me to create ranches, I know that as a farmer, I have one in my farm and there are several other people who are free. The permits are available for people who want to ranch their cattle to access land and begin to ranch.

“So it is free for everybody and that is the right way to go. And since we started the implementation, there has been relative peace among farmers and herdsmen, they were doing well until this militia coming from this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, came and attacked us.

‘’They are known, we know where they are. As I talk to you, they are in Tongua in Awe Local Government (Nassarawa), that is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.

Herdsmen slaughter two mobile policemen

“It is taking a different dimension. Just yesterday (Monday) in Logo Local Government, mobile policemen deployed to Logo to keep vigil to protect the people and the land, these militia came, exchanged fire with them, caught two of them and slaughtered them like goats.

“They shot another one and left him in the pool of his blood but luckily he did not die. We have taken him to the hospital, we are treating him, the other one that was declared missing was found today (yesterday).

‘’So when it gets to the level of militia killing security men, who are armed and are trained to protect lives and property, is it not taking a dangerous dimension? Who is now safe?”

Militia not camped in Nasarawa —Gov

Meanwhile, Governor Tanko Al-Makura of  Nasarawa State, yesterday, faulted Ortom over the allegation that the Fulani militia that attacked communities in Benue operated from a camp in Tonga, Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.

Instead, Al-Makura said what they have at Tonga was an Internally Displaced People’s, IDPs, camp accommodating about 7,000 people affected as a result of the conflict in Benue State.

Al-Makura expressed surprise that his colleague, who was with him alongside some other governors on Monday evening, did not have the courtesy to inform him on that if it really was true.

He said: “I am really taken back, this statement is most unfortunate. I will like to use this opportunity to say that there is nothing like that whatsoever. If anything, the Tonga that the governor is talking about in Awe Local Government is now the safe haven for displaced persons.

“As I speak with you today, there are more than three IDP camps in Awe Local Government that quarters and caters for the number of people that have migrated from Benue to Nassarawa.

“To be specific, they are more than 7,000 people that are camped in Tonga. S,o it is very ironical that a place that is supposed to be an area that has become a safe haven for IDPs can now be called a place where militias are camped.

“In that case, the militia don’t need to cross as far as Benue, they have the prey within the vicinity.

“Yesterday (Monday), we held over seven hours of rigorous interface with seven governors, service chiefs and some ministers and all our security operatives within the states and around Benue, and my colleague could not tell me this; he could not approach me and give me an idea if there is anything that he saw or is worried about.

“Besides, from all the discussions we had yesterday, there was no concrete security report stigmatizing any part of Nasarawa State as habouring people that are coming to attack Benue.

‘’I feel what should be of concern to us as leaders is the plight of the people and any of such statement that is inflammatory is likely going to cause more confusion to what is already there.

“As it is, it is the implementation of the anti-grazing law in Benue that has caused the problem and now Nasarawa State is being infected by the problem notwithstanding that we are being our brothers keepers and good neigbhours.

“I had to cut short my leave and come to find ways of helping my colleague. We have called all our security agencies to meet to find ways and means of helping Benue and if all efforts we have done and with all the relief materials we have given and the protection to the IDPs that were created, that certain parts of Nasarawa State can now be stigmatized with this allegations, is to say the least, most uncalled for and unfortunate.

“We will still continue to render whatever assistance that I can give to the IDPs from Benue because we have some Tiv people that live in Nasarawa, in virtually all the three or four local governments that share boundary with Benue State. We are duty bound as a responsible administration, to cater for all.

“The Tonga he is talking about, is a town within three states, that is Goa in Benue, Shanda, Ibi and there is River Benue besides them. So, anybody can fly through the River to go and attack in Benue.  And don’t forget the obscurity of the wilderness.

“So, as far as I am concerned, it is unfortunate. There is nobody keeping anybody anywhere in Nasarawa State.”

Buhari orders IGP to relocate to Benue

Meanwhile, Police headquarters, yesterday, confirmed the Presidential order asking the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to Benue State.

A statement by the Force spokesman, CSP Jimoh Moshood, said the order followed the recent killings of innocent people in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state.

Moshood said that in compliance with the presidential order, the IG was moving with additional five units of Police Mobile Force making a total of 10 units deployed to the state.

“More Units of the Police Special Forces, Counter Terrorism Units, and Conventional Policemen are already being deployed to the State as at this time today (yesterday) to comply in totality with the Presidential order,” he said.

He said other units of the force already deployed to the state would carry on un-relentlessly with the patrols and crime prevention activities in the affected areas to sustain the normalcy that have been restored.

Death toll now 80

Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, said, yesterday, that the death toll from New Year day attacks on some communities in the state is now 80.

“Eighty is the number we can say for now, the attacks have not stopped,” Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) executive secretary, Emmanuel Shior told AFP by telephone.

Shior said the killings had displaced thousands of people in the districts of Guma and Logo, who are now seeking shelter in four camps.

“The number (of internally displaced people) is 80,000 now because the killings have continued, some of the people in other states are running to Benue,” Shior said from the Benue State capital, Makurdi.

“We suspect these people are reacting against the open grazing prohibition put in place by the governor of Benue State.”

 


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