as herdsmen slaughter 2 Police sergeants ahead of President’s visit
…Knocks, kudos as stakeholders react to Buhari’s condolence visit to Benue
By Peter Duru & Peter Okutu
MAKURDI—President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed shock that Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, disobeyed his directives to stay in Benue until the blood-letting between farmers and herdsmen was resolved.
The President, who also said his government is deeply worried about incessant attacks on Benue’s rural communities and vowed to end the menace very soon, spoke at the meeting he had with leaders in the state during his assessment visit to Benue State.
“I cannot overlook the killings in Benue or any other part of Nigeria. I cannot do that. I am genuinely worried about the attacks in Benue and we are doing everything to end them,” he said.
He said the insecurity in some states was a major concern to his government, adding that concerted efforts are being made to restore normalcy to every part of the country.
President Buhari said he was surprised at the revelation that the IGP did not spend 24 hours in Benue, when he directed him to relocate to the state and remain there till peace was restored.
“I am getting to know this in this meeting. I am quite surprised,” he said.
President Buhari had, in the wake of public outcry that greeted the New Year Day murder of 73 persons by suspected herdsmen, instructed the IGP to relocate to the state until the carnage was contained.
The Police boss had reportedly spent less than 24 hours in the state before leaving and this attracted more condemnation from Nigerians.
Also at his meeting with farmers, herdsmen, government officials and other stakeholders in Makurdi yesterday, Buhari denied insinuations that he was not interested in what was happening in Benue State.
Appeal for peace
He, however, said the meeting was not the best place to expose the inefficiency of his appointees, and appealed to Benue people to exercise restraint and live in peace with their neighbours.
He also appealed to the people to pay more attention to farming, especially rice cultivation, saying that rice importation had dropped by 90 per cent since some states embarked on massive production of the commodity.
In his speech, Governor Samuel Ortom said: “Mr. President, you are known as a man of integrity and uprightness and you have always fought for justice. “On January 11, 2018, we buried 73 citizens, including women and children. All of them were brutally slaughtered in their sleep by armed herdsmen in the early hours of the New Year 2018. At least 65 more have been killed in Guma and Logo local government areas after the mass burial.
“Just a few days ago, 26 of our men, women and children in Omusu Okpokwu Local Government Area were killed. Also over 5,000 people were displaced in Mbatoho Community in Makurdi Local Government Area.
170, 000 displaced persons
“Attacks by armed herdsmen have continued in various communities in the state leading to the displacement of over 170,000 people. More than 60 per cent of this figure are children who have been forced out of school.
“These and many others now live in the eight Internally Displaced People’s camps scattered across the state namely: Abagana, Daudu1, Gbajimba, Tse Ginde, Anyiin, Abeda and Ugba. Their homes and farms have also been destroyed and taken over by armed herdsmen.
“You had directed the Inspector-General of Police to relocate to Benue and stop the killings. Issues of capacity and integrity may have accounted for the disobedience of your orders but you responded swiftly.
“We plead with you to take steps to reduce the suffering of the over 170,000 of our countrymen in the eight Internally Displaced Camps.
“The Federal Government should compensate them and assist in the rebuilding of their homes as promised by the Committee on Displaced People headed by the Vice-President. The primary and secondary schools, churches and health centres destroyed in several communities should be rebuilt for use again.
“We recall that on May 30, 2017, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore in a ‘World Press Conference’ held in Abuja, opposed our Ranching Law. They called on Fulani herders in all of West Africa to come into Benue to help them reclaim their land.
“In the same vein, Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association in their Press Conference declared that more blood will flow in Benue if the Ranching Law is not rescinded.
“As a President that supports the rule of law, you will most certainly be offended by these Hate Speech(es) that may have crossed the red line. How can a group claim responsibility for the killings that happened and are going about scot free? How can a group make public these inciting and criminal declarations in an organized society and are not arrested by the Police?
“Kindly order the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for carrying out their threats to attack Benue on account of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017.”
He appealed to the President to upgrade the military spike exercise going on in the state to stem the incursion of herdsmen into the state.
“We hope that Exercise Ayem A’ kpatuma will be upgraded to a full-scale operation with the capacity to chase away the invaders so that those who have been displaced can return to their homes.
“I urge the Federal Government and states to support and promote the Ranching Law, so that together, we will stamp out the menace of herdsmen and farmers attacks and cattle rustling in Nigeria. There is no known better and credible alternative to Ranching,’’ the governor said further.
Anti-open grazing law
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Tribal leaders of the three major ethnic groups in the state, Chief Edward Ujege said the unending killings in the state prompted a demand by the people for the enactment of the grazing law by the present administration in the state.
“It was because of the continuous killings of our people that we demanded that a law be put in place since the immediate past administration.
“This law was not made by Ortom who heeded the call of the people. We believe Ortom is the best servant of the state. The law is the win-win for everyone. The law came into force because we believe ranching is the best option and practice to ensure the safety of all,” Chief Ujege stressed.
The Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, urged the Federal Government to decisively tackle the farmers/herders crisis in the country.
He also called for definite roles for traditional rulers, especially in the areas of proffering solutions to security issues.
Shetima Mohammed, a representative of Benue State chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, however, denied responsibility for the Benue attacks.
“Our association is a peace-loving one and the exact opposite of what is being portrayed,” he declared.
Reactions to the visit
Reacting to the outcome of the President’s visit to the state, the National President of Tiv Youths Organization, TYO, Mr. Timothy Hembaor, described the visit as a hoax.
He said: “We are so disappointed with the President, for taking us for granted. He came here allegedly on a condolence visit but he did not console us throughout his speech, neither did he condemn the killings in Benue State. I must state here that this visit has raised our sorrows and we reject the hoax.”
In his reaction, the Team Leader of the Global Amnesty Watch Foundation, Terrence Kuanum, said: “I see the President’s visit as a jamboree to satisfy the curiosity of Nigerians and the international community of him visiting the crisis areas in this country.
“Having told us the President has been studying security reports for the last months, we expected a decisive policy decision like ordering the arrest of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore leadership and declaring the herdsmen as a terrorist group.
‘’But he came and said nothing, meaning the end to this crisis is yet to come. We in Benue are more angry with the situation more than ever before.
“We call on all citizens of Benue to be united and stand for one another to end this crisis.
We all saw that the President neither consoled Benue people nor commented on the attacks. We are disappointed.”
On his part, President of the Idoma National Forum, Chief Amali Amali, said: “I will not say I am disappointed in the President, but the visit afforded us the opportunity to bare our minds to the President and we will continue to stand by our grazing law.”
Also speaking, Wantaregh Paul Unongo said: “I don’t know what people mean by he did not condole with Benue people, I think he did. He came and called the visit a condolence visit. And I think he noticed that Benue people wanted to talk.
“In my judgement, I think the people who spoke did so very well but they talked too much. There were too many speakers at the meeting, even though the people had been informed that the President had a programme in Abuja.
“The President listened to them and the prayers from the government for interventions in several areas, including the military exercise, to make sure that the displaced people returned home.
“So within that context, he stood up and stated that everything they said he heard and that he was going to give them the reply at the appropriate time.”
On his his part, the President-General of Om Nyi Igede, one of the major three tribes in the state, Chief Odey Enyi, said he was disappointed that the President failed to condemn the killings in the state and also failed to order the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.
“We expected him to make a categorical statement condemning and ordering for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who are responsible for the attacks in the state.
“They claimed responsibility, they threatened that they were going to do it, and they did it, we expected him to order for their arrests.
“The Benue grazing law was made for and by the people. Sir Ahmadu Bello had ranches in the north as early as 1928; he himself, the President, has ranches. So we expected that he would have publicly declared support for the law but he did not do it, so we are disappointed.”
Two police sergeants killed
Meanwhile, two sergeants, Ibrahim Shehu and Mohammed Sanni from the Special Forces unit of the Mobile Police Force posted to Benue State to check the incursions of herdsmen in the state have been reportedly slaughtered by suspected herdsmen at Tse-Orogbo, Nyiev council ward of Guma Local Government Area of the state.
This latest killing came just less than 24 hours to the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Benue State.
Vanguard gathered that the victims were killed Sunday afternoon in an ambush by the militant herders who had laid siege to the community since January when over 70 persons were killed in the same Guma and Logo local government areas of the state.
“They were killed in an ambush in the community, though other members of the team managed to escape but the two sergeants were not so lucky, they were murdered in cold blood by the militant herdsmen.
“One of them was butchered, while the other was shot and had his neck twisted by the attackers who escaped after the attack.
“Their remains have been recovered and deposited at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, mortuary in Makurdi by the Police,’’ a source told Vanguard.
When Vanguard visited the FMC Makurdi and the hospital’s mortuary, it was confirmed by highly-placed sources in the hospital that the remains of the victims were deposited at the morgue of the hospital at about 6pm on Sunday.
Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, and his Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, ASP, Moses Yamu, could not be reached for confirmation because they were said to be fully involved in the security arrangements for the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state.
Herdsmen attack: 4 persons reportedly killed in Ebonyi
Also, no fewer than four persons have been reportedly killed as farmers clashed with herdsmen in Igbeagu community, Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
The incident, according to reports, happened yesterday morning, in Anyanwuigwe village, Igbeagu community, Ikwo Local Government Area of the state.
Police spokesman, Loveth Odah, confirmed the incident to Vanguard. According to her, the two herdsmen attacked a man who had gone to feed his local cattle in the bush, and after an altercation with him, chopped off his hands.
“As they were attacking him, he managed to raise the alarm and more villagers came to his rescue.”
The state police spokesperson said the herdsmen also attacked the villagers who came to their brother’s rescue, inflicting machete cuts on about three of them before fleeing the scene.
But the villagers chased and caught up with them, beat them up before handing them over to military men stationed close to the community.
The three wounded villagers were rushed to the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, FETHA, where two of them later died.
“Also, one of the herdsmen later died as he was rushed to the hospital making it four deaths from the incidents”, the spokesperson said.