By Peter Duru – Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has cautioned that with 18 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state under the siege of armed herdsmen, the state cannot afford to record communal crisis over issues that could be resolved amicably.
The Governor sounded the warning on Tuesday in Makurdi when he hosted stakeholders, traditional and political leaders from Konshisha and Oju LGAs of the state over the unending crisis between the neighbouring Tiv speaking Bonta community and the Igede speaking Ukpute community which has lingered for about a year.
The Governor who regretted that the crisis recently claimed the lives of a five-year-old and a traditional ruler lamented the existence of similar communal conflicts in Kwande, Vandeikya, Makurdi and Agatu that usually record disputes over fish pond.
He stated that further hostilities would weaken the drive towards optimum food production in the state that was already facing the challenge of food shortages occasioned by armed herdsmen attacks.
His words, “Let’s reason together, this thing must stop as it affects food security since most of the already displaced 1.6million Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, as a result of the herders attacks are peasant farmers.
“We sent security men you attacked and killed them. Is there something hidden that we don’t know?”
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting which had in attendance Senators Abba Moro and Gabriel Suswam as well as security personnel, he totally condemned the criminality among youths of both communities.
The meeting agreed that there should be immediate cessation of hostilities between the two communities to pave the way for the peaceful demarcation of their borders; and that erring members of the communities should be disciplined and sanctioned.
Part of the resolution read “there should be constant hosting of stakeholders meetings involving the two communities and should be urgent demarcation of the borders between communities.
“That the access road from Konshisha to Oju should be opened and remain accessible and safe to all and sundry with regular Security patrol. The two Local Government Areas should provide enabling environment for the establishment of a Police post within the area to serve both Bonta and Ukpute communities.
“The Traditional Rulers should sit up and take full charge of their domains. The Youths in collaboration with the Traditional Rulers and Security Agencies should fish out the criminal elements amongst them to pave way for sustainable peace in the area.
“And faith-based organisations should encourage the communities on the need for peaceful coexistence.”