A Benue born expert in International Criminal law and one of the prosecutors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Barrister Pius Ukeyima Akutah has identified genuine dialogue with the Federal Government as a way out of the intractable security challenges confronting the state, adding that it will help to sustain the commendable effort being made by the State Government.
Barr. Akutah said this when the officials of Benue Journalists’ Forum Nigeria (BJFN), led by its National President , Joseph Saater Undu visited him in Abuja to seek his opinion on how to move Benue state forward by ensuring absolute peace and unity among indigenes and residents of the state. According to him, the issue of herdsmen invasion of Benue communities is not acceptable even as the problem is not peculiar to the state.
He said: “This crisis in Benue is unfortunate even though it’s not limited to the state. It’s happening all over the country even in other West African countries like Ghana. It’s not so peculiar to Benue. But the issue in Benue is so pathetic. We have complained about this for a long time but it appears nothing has been done sustainably to stop the occurrence of this issue”, he said.
When asked about the possibility of dragging the Federal Government to International Criminal Court over the matter, Akutah said: “ I think it is not just about taking the government of this country to international arbitration or whatever court for any reason.
“Have we actually explored the possibilities of dialogue with the Federal Government in a manner that will sustain the efforts that we are making back home?
“We are making efforts back home, the passage into law of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law is one of the efforts to stop this.
“And if some people have received that law negatively as it were, we need to really look at this law not in the sense of repealing it as some people have said because the law has come to stay. The law is meant to regulate how the herders do their business by asking them to ranch their cattle. This is what is happening all around the world and I’m sure it will bring peace.”
He also disabused the minds of those who feel the law is meant to work against their interest saying: “The way some people have taken this law suggest that the law has come to work against their businesses. No, that is not what it is.
“We need to engage the Federal Government and talk about this in a round table discussion and not taking the government to international law court and all that. We can adequately discuss this issue with the government.”
While challenging Benue leaders at all levels of government over the insecurity in the state, Akutah posited, “what are the leaders who represent us doing about dialogue? What are they doing about negotiations with the Federal Government in this regard? Can we say the FG has shut the door against us?
“We are one of the states in this federation and we have access to the President. And if we talk to the president and nothing comes out of it, does it stop us from further approaching other persons or personalities within the polity? There are different structures of government in this country. We can reach out to any part of these structures of government and begin negotiation from there and I believe that we can find a way out to resolve this matter internally.”
When asked about the leadership challenge in Nigeria, Akutah blamed it wholly on poor leadership recruitment process where people are rewarded with sensitive leadership positions on account of their blind loyalty to the godfathers at the detriment of the general public.
He said: “Overtimes, the process of recruiting leaders in Nigeria has been so flawed with a lot of irregularities. The leadership structure in Nigeria, especially in Benue, does not evolve from a deliberate plan to put people in a place that would proffer solutions to their problems.
“What kind of leaders do we have today? With due respect, what kind of leaders do we have across board. We have leaders that overtimes could not proffer solutions to our problems and that’s why the problems are multiplying everyday.
“The essence of leadership is to provide solutions to problems and if we have leaders who cannot do that, it becomes a bigger problem. It has become the settlement of the boys when they work so hard to protect the interest of their masters. Then, they deserved to be compensated with leadership.
“That’s why you see people in leadership today who have not prepared themselves to be in leadership positions. But because of this settlement of a thing, people emerged as leaders not knowing the enormity of what they are going to be confronted with.”
Ealier in his speech, the National President of the forum, Mr. Undu said BJFN is currently meeting with political, traditional and religious leaders and other prominent indigenes and professionals of Benue extraction to seek their opinions on how to ensure peace and unity among indigenes and residents of the state and how to move the state forward in the comtempory Nigeria considering the state as a critical stakeholder in the Nigerian project.