THE Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has finally rolled out the state’s version of security outfit aimed at protecting the people from the onslaughts of armed herdsmen who have been decimating the population with little response from the Federal Government’s agencies.
The outfit, the Benue Volunteer Guards, BVGs, according to the Governor, will grow from its current seed 500-strong personnel to 5,000 in the near future. The Governor disclosed that he had applied for President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval for the procurement of AK-47 and AK-49 assault rifles to enable the Guards withstand the firepower of the herdsmen who have been freely using such high calibre firearms on the defenceless Benue population.
Benue is the second state after Zamfara, which has vowed to arm state vigilantes with military-grade rifles. The South-East Governors Forum was the first to moot a regional security outfit in August 2019. However, it was the governors of the South-West states that first actualised that plan by setting up their Western Nigeria Security Network or Amotekun Corps.
All over the country, there are various forms of state-funded security outfits aimed at tackling terrorists within their areas such as Boko Haram, Bandit-Terrorists and Herdsmen-Terrorists. These are desperate responses to the inability or unwillingness of the federal-controlled police, military and security agencies to protect the people. The people’s security is the Federal Government’s first duty because it has the exclusive power over the forces of coercion.
What stands the Benue aspect out is that Governor Ortom is a leader pushed to the wall and now ready to swim or sink to defend his people. He says he would buy the assault rifles anyway, if the president declined his application for licences.
Ortom feels justified because the Federal Government has allowed non-state actors to use prohibited weapons against innocent, law- abiding citizens on a genocidal scale. No day passes without the invasion of communities and burials of massacred victims. Rather than address the cries and complaints of the governor and his people, the Presidency’s body and spoken languages clearly show it is on a warpath with the leadership of the state.
Unless the Federal Government wakes up to its responsibility to flush the herdsmen invaders out of the state and bring them to book, an all-out war is imminent in Benue State. Even if Buhari declares a state of emergency and sends an unelected individual to administer Benue, it will worsen the situation because such a move will be stiffly resisted.
An all-out war in Benue could spread to other areas suffering the same herdsmen scourge. This could threaten the unity and survival of Nigeria. The ball is in Buhari’s court.
If an all-out war breaks out in Benue, the president must accept the blame for it.