PENULTIMATE weekend, the security crises which had rocked Benue State and indeed, the whole country in recent years reared up once again, this time with an assassination attempt on Governor Samuel Ortom. Benue and its governor have been in the crosshairs of herdsmen militias over claims of ownership of the Benue valley.
The herdsmen attacks on farmers in the area became an open security crisis when Ortom signed the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, Benue State 2017.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, MAKH, rose in arms against the state and its governor, insisting that the law must be repealed or there would be no peace.
Instructively, Umar Labdo Mohammed, a lecturer in the Northwest University, Kano, in January 2018, outrageously claimed that Benue State belonged to the Fulani herdsmen “by right of conquest”.
One of the series of attacks on Benue communities was the New Year Day massacre of 2018, which led to an emotional televised mass burial of 73 people. Governor Ortom’s community, Saghev Ward in Guma Local Government Area, was invaded by armed herdsmen on April 2018 and 20 people killed.
Ortom’s rice farm has been repeatedly destroyed. So, the ambush and attempted assassination indicates that he is a prime target because of his determination to implement the anti-grazing law. He has also been at the forefront of Benue people’s adamant rejection of Ruga and Cattle Colonies by the Federal Government. Ortom has paid countless visits to President Muhammadu Buhari to save his state from the herdsmen terrorists.
[ALSO READ] Tinubu tasks Nigerians on national unity
The Federal Government has been seen as engaging in “motion without movement” on this issue.
Former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, infamously disobeyed Buhari’s order to relocate to Benue State after the New Year Day massacres,and gracefully retired thereafter. Also, the Nigerian Army set up the Exercise Ayem Akpatuma.
After a brief lull towards the 2019 general elections, the herdsmen attacks have returned in full scale.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State have warned that Buhari and the Federal Government would be held responsible if “anything” happened to Ortom.
As usual, the Presidency has ordered military engagement to “fish out” the perpetrators. The IGP, Mohammed Adamu, has also ordered a police investigation.
The Federal Government must take decisive action to remove armed hoodlums from Benue and all other states where the same menace is visible.
The inciting claim of “ ownership by conquest” of the state by a nomadic group must be dealt with according to the law.
Open grazing is inimical to agricultural productivity and inter-ethnic cohabitation and must be stopped.
Otherwise, armed conflicts will never cease in the area, and all over the country.