…Adds Nigeria sitting on keg of gunpowder
…Reps condemn attack on Ortom, say offenders must face justice
…Afenifere blasts FG to failing to restore security, punish perpetrators of Agatu massacre
…Attack on Ortom: Military deploys troops to Tyo-Mu forests in Benue
By Peter Duru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Tordue Salem
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, yesterday, met President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, and told newsmen after the meeting that the 2023 elections may not hold, if insecurity in the country persists.
Meanwhile, the military, yesterday, deployed troops to Tyo-Mu, the community Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, was attacked in his farm last Saturday.
Commander of the joint military security outfit in Benue State, Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, Major-General Adeyinka Yekini, disclosed this while conducting newsmen round the scene of the attack where five bullet shells were recovered.
This is even as the House of Representatives, yesterday, condemned in very strong terms the attack on the governor, saying the perpetrators must be fished out and dealt with.
Similarly, the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural and political organisation, Afenifere, berated the Federal Government for its inability to resolve the insecurity in the country and for failing to fish out perpetrators of Agatu massacre in Benue State which claimed scores of lives.
Military deploys troops in Tyo-Mu
On military deployment in Tyo-Mu, Major-General Yekini said the troops were deployed to the community to intensify patrol and surveillance of the general area.
General Yekini, accompanied by Security Adviser to the Governor, retired Col. Paul Hemba, noted that his troops had immediately moved in to patrol, comb and clear the area.
He noted that the patrol will help check activities of the militia herdsmen and other criminal elements emerging from the forest across River Benue to unleash mayhem on people.
His words: “We are here to show you that the general area is clear of any bandits. The incident was quite unfortunate. When we were alerted, we immediately combed the area. We should not be judged by this singular assignment; we have accepted it was a security breach and we will take action.”
He disclosed that in the course of patrol, the troops discovered a makeshift camp of the armed herders which it destroyed and set ablaze.
On his part, the governor’s security adviser, Col Paul Hembe, retd, who disclosed that five empty shells of bullets were recovered from the scene of the attack, said no arrests had been made but noted that three persons who reside in the area were only invited for questioning after which they were allowed to go home.
Hemba, who commended the swift response of troops of OPWS to the area, said as soon as they were alerted, they moved in to comb the area but noted that the bandits had fled by the time the troops arrived.
“We are at the scene of the unfortunate incident of the attack on Governor Samuel Ortom. He came into his farm and while touring the farm, he went to a small market and on his way back, the gunmen who were hiding in the bushes opened fire on him.
“We quickly alerted the OPWS and they immediately responded and gave them a hot chase and they have been combing the bushes since then. We commend OPWS for their prompt response.
“The troops combed the bushes and found some makeshift hideouts and burnt them. We could not make any arrest because the bandits ran away as soon as the troops arrived,” Hemba said.
2023 elections may not hold over insecurity — Ortom
Also yesterday, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, said if the insecurity challenges in the country persisted, 2023 elections would not hold.
Governor Ortom stated this when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The governor, who arrived at the Villa unaccompanied, met with the President over issues of insecurity in the country.
He thanked the President for condemning the attack on his farm but said “that there will be no 2023 elections in Nigeria if insecurity persists.”
Briefing journalists after meeting with the President, Governor Ortom disclosed that the nation was sitting on a keg of gun powder without meaningful progress being made on the issue of security.
He said: “It’s not just enough to say that one criticises the policies of the President, but when he does a good thing, it is our responsibility to team up with him to ensure that it’s done because it is when we are peaceful, when we have security that we can talk about tomorrow.
“I want to also appeal to Nigerians, 2023, yes to a politician is not far, but it’s still a long way. If we secure our country and everything is working fine, then we can talk about 2023, but with the way things are going, if we don’t secure the country, there is no way we can talk about 2023, that is why I always dismiss people who come to me to say we will contest this, we will contest that.
“For me, I want us, as leaders of this country, who have taken oath of office, let us abide by those things we have said, work together as a team, leave politics aside, leave ethnicity aside, then secure the country, Nigeria. We have no other country than Nigeria.
“Today, we cannot go to Cameroon or Senegal or any other country and claim responsibility, so my appeal to everyone is to ensure that we work together. Security matters are not just for the security agencies alone. We as people who are being led, have a responsibility, we who are leaders, have a responsibility.
“It is only when we team up that we’ll be able to surmount this challenge. But I think there shouldn’t be room for people who are creating problems for us. We have a constitution, we have laws of the land. If people are found wanting, they should be cautioned, they should be arrested, prosecuted and let the right thing be done.”
‘Let’s protect the constitution’
Speaking on the protection of the constitution, Ortom appealed for the provisions of the constitution to be protected to enable equity, fairness, and justice in the country.
He criticized the issue of impunity in the country which he said had been allowed to fester, and urged the Federal Government to immediately prosecute anyone found culpable of breaching the law.
On the question of reports alleging that attack on his convoy was a pseudo-claim, the governor appealed to Nigerians not to politicize the issue of attempted assassination on his person.
He reiterated that the attack on his convoy by about 15 gunmen suspected to be herdsmen while on a visit to his farm, was not stage-managed.
While asserting that he had done nothing wrong to enact an anti-open grazing law beneficial to the state, he said the demand by the cattle breeders association, Miyetti Allah, to repeal the law would be impossible to fulfill, having passed through due process.
Ortom, who prayed that what happened to him should not be experienced by anyone else, commended other governors, colleagues for standing by him during the attack.
Gunmen suspected to be herdsmen last Saturday attacked Governor Ortom at Tyo Mu along Makurdi/Gboko road in Makurdi Local Government Area of the state.
Ortom, who described the gunmen as ‘herdsmen’, said about 15 of the attackers trailed him to the river bank where he was on foot.
Attack on Ortom, indication of anarchy — Reps
Similarly, the House of Representatives yesterday condemned the attack on the governor and asked security agencies to go after the perpetrators.
The lower chamber condemned the incident when the matter came up during yesterday’s plenary presided over by the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
It described the attack on the governor as an indication of anarchy and full-scale lawlessness in the country.
The House, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for promptly ordering an investigation into the incident.
It also called on the security agencies to ensure that those involved were brought to justice, to serve as a deterrent to others.
The resolution of the House followed a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Kpam Jimin Sokpo, who represents Buruku Federal Constituency of Benue State and 11 others.
Presenting the motion, Sokpo raised concerns about the worsening spate of violent crimes and insecurity across the country, ranging from cultism, armed robbery, armed herdsmen attacks, bandit attacks, armed militia attacks, to Boko Haram insurgency and terrorism.
He expressed worries that “on Saturday, March 20, 2021, some gunmen suspected to be killer herders, ambushed and opened gunfire on the convoy of the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom at Tyo-Mu, a distance of less than 20 kilometers from Makurdi, the state capital.’’
He explained further that the attackers, numbering over 15, wielding sophisticated weapons and dressed in black, had trailed the governor from the farm but were repelled by the security details attached to the governor who had to run for over one kilometer to safety.
In his contribution to debate on the motion, Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta), warned that if the violent herdsmen were not stopped as fast possible, Nigeria might soon begin to import basic foods as cassava.
“If care is not taken, we will soon be importing yams, cassava and garri into the country, to feed our people, because our people in the grassroots, are no longer going to their farms, because of attacks from herdsmen,” he warned.
Adopting all the arguments, the House collectively condemned “the armed attack and assassination attempt on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State by unidentified gunmen on the 20th March, 2021”.
Though the House commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his prompt response and for immediately ordering an investigation into the attack on the governor, it also resolved to call on the Department of State Services, DSS, and Nigeria Police to investigate claims of responsibility of the attack on the governor by a Fulani group.
The House, also urged all Nigerians of good conscience and law-abiding citizens to keep faith with the indivisibility, unity and sovereignty of the nation.
Afenifere blasts Buhari over insecurity
Meanwhile, the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural and political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday berated President, Muhammadu Buhari over the failure of his government to resolve the nation’s insecurity problems and prosecute perpetraors of Agatu massacre in Benin State in 2018.
Afenifere’s new leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who stated this in a statement, titled “Afenifere synpathises with Ortom over attack,” said “President Buhari’s reaction to the development amounted to shedding crocodile tears.
He asked the President to “desist from pretending that he was not aware that herdsmen were the perpetrators of most of the killings the country has witnessed in recent time.”
Adebanjo expressed displeasure that Buhari’s government could neither apprehend perpetrators of the 2018 Agatu massacre in Benue State nor do anything to stem attack by herdsmen in the state.
“Rather than help the people of Benue, the President told an embattled Ortom when he approached the Presidency for help in 2018 to go make peace with his neighbours,” Adebanjo added.
The Afenifere leader said the myriad of intractable crises bedevilling the nation appeared to have overwhelmed the President.
He said now is the time to give governors full powers to be in charge of security in the states, if insecurity was to be nipped in the bud.
“Restructuring still remains the only way out of the doldrums for the nation, if disintegration is to be avoided,” the Afenifere leader said.