By Kingsley Omonobi & Peter Duru
MAKURDI—As President Muhammadu Buhari visits Benue State today, stakeholders in the state have called on the President to take decisive action to end killings by herdsmen in the state.
The presidential visit is coming about 10 weeks after the new year day massacre of farmers in Logo and Guma local government areas of the state and a week after the Omusu killings in Okpokwu Local Government Area of the state.
A statement in Makurdi by Governor Samuel Ortom, through his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua, said: “During the visit, the President shall pay a courtesy call on the Chairman of the Benue State Council of Chiefs, Tor Tiv IV, Professor James Ayatse.
“In the course of the visit, the President will also hold a meeting with major stakeholders at the Benue Peoples House. President Buhari shall also visit one of the eight displaced persons’ camps in the state.”
On what they expect from the President, Chairman of the ethnic leaders of the state and President General of Mdzough U Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege told Vanguard that the people of the state expect a decisive statement and action from the President to end the killings in the state.
Chief Ujege said: “What we expect is for him to accept the anti open grazing law of Benue State and also direct the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to implement it so that we have peace in Benue State.
“We also want them to stop the unnecessary attacks on Governor Ortom, especially the IGP and the government apparatus because it is not a good sign at all.
“And he (the President) should stop the killings in Benue because as President of the country, it is within his powers to do so.”
On his part, Team Leader of the Global Amnesty Watch Foundation, Terrence Kuanum said an end to the killings in Benue should be paramount to the President.
Kuanum said: “We expect him to listen to the voice of reason and act as a leader, taking decisive actions to arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah kautal Hore, who were allegedly fingered in the killings in Benue having threatened to resist the Open Grazing Prohibition Law of the state which came into effect on November 1.
“He should without delay, declare that group a terrorist organisation; it is only that declaration that can bring the killings to an end.
“So long as the leaders of the Miyetti Allah group are free, these killings will continue because they are the sponsors of the mercenaries and if the security personnel keep arresting mercenaries and leaving the sponsors, more mercenaries will be hired to kill innocent people. So, the President needs to offer leadership and be decisive so that these killings will end just like what he did with Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB.”
On his part, Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Benue State Council, Mr. Chris Atsaka, said: “Our expectation is nothing short of an end to the invasion of Benue communities by herdsmen who obviously have killed scores of people, displaced many from their ancestral homes and have also taken over such communities.
“Even with the ongoing Exercise Ayem A’ Kpatuma nothing seems to be going on to end the invasion.
“What the Benue people are asking for is an outright stop to what is going on at the moment and for the Open Grazing Prohibition Law of the state to be supported, enforced and implemented in totality because it was validly passed into law after going through laid down processes.
“So, Mr. President should be magnaniimous enough to act as an elder statesman to stop the carnage going on in the state.
“Above all, there is no federal presence in Benue State, especially all the federal roads in Benue are bad, so he should give Benue state what it deserves for supporting him in 2015.”
On his part, the President General of Omi Ny’Igede, Chief Ode Enyi, said the people of the state expect a pronouncement from the President that will put a stop to the killings in the state.
“We expect that he will throw his weight behind the Benue grazing law and direct security operatives to fully enforce the law.
“The President should as a matter of urgency, do something about the state of roads in Benue State because there are no good federal roads in the state as if we have been abandoned by the Federal Government.”
On his part, Anthony Adah said: “I expect that the President will visit all the burial sites of all slain Benue people from Agatu to Guma/Logo and Okpokwu LGAs, so that he will understand the pains of the Benue people and call this people to order.”
Also speaking, Emmanuel Ganki, a public commentator and youths activist, said: “We expect basically three things; first, the President should formally condole with the people of the state for the heinous murders.
“Secondly, we expect him to state the position of the Benue people especially the Tiv tribe in his All Progressives Congress, APC-led government in Nigeria.
Thirdly, we also expect him to arrest the continued killings in parts of the country because it posses grave danger to our democracy.”
Army orders Field Commanders to stop the carnage or face Court Martial
Meanwhile, following the continued wanton killings as a result of herdsmen/farmers clashes and other violent attacks particularly in Adamawa, Taraba and Benue states, the Nigerian Army has ordered its field commanders to spare no efforts in bringing perpetrators to book.
Towards ensuring that this directive was carried out, the Army headquarters said: “We have warned our commanders on the ground to take decisive actions or face court martial.”
The Army in a statement by Brigadier General Texas Chukwu, Director of Army Public Relations said: “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to the continued disturbing, senseless killings and wanton destruction of properties in Adamawa, Benue and Taraba states.
“In view of this, we strongly warn the perpetrators of these crimes to desist forthwith.
“The Nigerian army in conjunction with sister services and other security agencies are working assiduously to identify and arrest all those involved regardless of their disposition in the society including government functionaries.
“We will like to unequivocally reiterate that the Army Headquarters warns the arsonists and the killers to stop or face decisive action by troops.
“Our Rules of Engagement, ROE, is clear on arson and murder; therefore, no such criminal acts would be allowed in any of the aforementioned states.
“The public is please reminded that when troops are called out for internal security operations, they are not to joke or persuade anyone.
“We have warned our commanders on ground to take decisive actions or face court martial.”