By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Dirisu Yakubu & Peter Duru
.Lalong apologises to Ortom, withdraws offensive remark
.Says I’m truly sorry for comment on anti-open grazing law
.Herdsmen in fresh attacks in Benue
.PDP urges Buhari to visit victims’ families
ABUJA — Apparently reacting to the spate of killings in the nation, the climax of which was the murder of 73persons in Benue State by Fulani herdsmen on New Year day, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, yesterday, warned against further blood-letting across the country.
Consequently, he called on governments at all levels, religious leaders, traditional rulers and social activists to serve as a national vanguard to resolve some of the recent disturbing incidents affecting national security.
His warning came on a day Plateau State governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, tendered an unreserved apology to his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, over his remarks that he had warned the latter not to implement the anti-open grazing law in his state.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, called on President Muhammadu
Buhari to empathize with Nigerians by paying a visit to the people of Benue State to condole with families of victims of the horrific killing of defenseless Nigerians by herdsmen.
Stop the killings now — IBB
Babangida in a statement, said the nation had witnessed so much bloodshed that it now requires urgent action to be stopped and warned security agencies to remain apolitical, neutral and focused in the task of securing Nigeria.
He said: “It is customary to observe the Armed Forces Day on the15th January every year to remember Officers and Men of the Nigerian Armed Forces who laid down their lives for the unity of our country.
“Let me use this opportunity to call on Nigerians to demonstrate our appreciation of the courage of these gallant fallen heroes by appreciating their contribution and providing supports for the welfare and upkeep of the families they left behind, especially their widows and children.
“At this period, where our nation is faced with myriads of challenges of terrorism, communal clashes, kidnapping, cultism and gangsterism, among other criminality, we should cooperate and support our security with relevant information and intelligence to help in tackling the problems.
“As a people, we should inculcate our cultural values that promote good conduct, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We should eschew hate speech, discrimination and other vices that trigger senseless violence and bloodshed.
“We have witnessed so much bloodshed through communal clashes and conflicts that need urgent actions to stop them now.
“As we enter the electioneering period, I urge our political office holders as well as politicians from all political parties to be conscious of their campaign slogans and messages by ensuring that they are geared towards peaceful participation and constructive engagements of the electorate.
“I must also call on governments at all levels, religious leaders, traditional rulers, social activists and the media to serve as national vanguards in resolving some of the recent disturbing incidents affecting our national security.
“For the members of the armed forces and security agencies, I urge them to remain apolitical, neutral and focus on the ethics of discipline which is the hallmark of their profession.
“In conclusion, I wish to, once again, express my condolence to the families of members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives in their effort to keep Nigeria secured in various military operations. May their gentle souls rest in perfect peace.”
Lalong apologises to Ortom
Meanwhile, Plateau State governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, has tendered an unreserved apology to his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom, over his remarks that he had warned the latter not to implement the anti-open grazing law in his state.
At a media briefing in Abuja, yesterday, Lalong not only apologised 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 the remarks he made 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 New Year Day in Benue.
He said: “I extend my condolences to the government and people of Benue State over the irreparable loss. I apologise 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 to 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, had on Thursday, said he had warned his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, against implementing the state’s new anti-grazing law.
He had 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.
Visit victims’ families in Benue, PDP tells Buhari
In a similar development, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, called on President Buhari to empathize with Nigerians by paying a visit to the people of Benue State to condole with families of the victims of the horrific killing of defenseless Nigerians by marauders a fortnight ago.
The party condemned what it described as the insensitivity of President Buhari’s administration, following its failure to send a delegation during the burial of the 73 murdered victims of the senseless killings.
The party in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “It is very sad to note that in its insensitivity, the Federal Government did not consider it important to send a delegation to the burial of those massacred in Benue and till date, there has been no Presidential visit of any sort to commiserate with the people of Benue and other states where Nigerians are being slaughtered by bandits under the All Progressives Congress, APC, regime (sic).
“The PDP is worried that, while innocent Nigerians were still being slaughtered and families crying out for help, the President was busy receiving APC governors on orchestrated self-serving visit to Aso Rock to endorse his personal ambition for a second tenure; a time when a soothing word and practical action from his Presidency would have helped ease the pains and reassure the people.”
The PDP said the failure of the incumbent administration to secure Nigerians was an encouragement to the marauders to continue their violent campaigns against defenseless Nigerians.
“While we painfully note the failure of the Buhari-led government to provide adequate security in the endangered areas, despite early warning signs, his failure to visit Benue speaks volumes.
“Indeed, such a disposition is believed to be emboldening the marauders to continue their killing spree, divide and further plunge the nation into turmoil like the attacks in Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and other states.
“It is imperative for Nigerians to note that no government, in the history of our nation, had formulated a divisive body language like this APC-controlled Federal Government and the citizens are painfully bearing the brunt,” the party added.
Herdsmen in fresh attacks in Benue
A middle aged man was at the weekend killed and many others seriously injured when suspected herdsmen reportedly attacked Ado and Logo local government areas of Benue State.
This happened despite efforts by security agencies to check killings in parts of the state.
Vanguard gathered that the invaders struck late Saturday night at Tswarev axis at Tse Orabum village in Ukemberagya/Tswarev of Gaambe-Tiev, Logo.
According to our source: “The herdsmen killed the young man and ran away with his motorcycle, heading towards Chinkai a town in Taraba State, near River Benue.
“The corpse of the deceased has been deposited by security operatives at NKST Hospital morgue Anyiin.”
Meanwhile the attack on Ado local government was carried out at Udobo Igba Utonkon Royondo, where several houses and farmlands were reportedly destroyed by the suspected herdsmen.
According to our source, “the herdsmen came to the community and were grazing on people’s farms, when the owners of the farms tried to chase the cows out of their farms, the herdsmen went after them.
“The people ran away and today (yesterday)the herdsmen came back shooting sporadically, a hunter escaped with serious injuries, while several houses and farm lands were also destroyed.
“As we speak, the village has been deserted, several persons have been declared missing while the invaders have taken over the village.
“The matter has been reported at the Igumale Police Station and we have taken the injured to the hospital,” he added.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, ASP, Moses Yamu said he was yet to receive details of both incidents.
Meanwhile, calm has returned to Makurdi town which witnessed upheaval on Saturday that led to the razing of some cars and property in the Wadata area of the town.
Security personnel were seen in strategic positions in the affected areas when Governor Samuel Ortom led members of the State Executive Council on an on-the-spot assessment of Wadata, where the incident happened.