February 4, 2023

Over 6,000 killed in Benue by armed Fulani herdsmen – Ortom

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom

…says State suffering organized genocide masked in terrorism

Peter Duru, Makurdi

Governor Sameul Ortom, weekend, said over 6,000 persons have been killed in the state by marauding armed herdsmen who have in the last few years staged ceaseless attacks on communities in the state.

He said the attacks have also left the state grappling with over two million Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who are living in dire conditions in official and official IDPs camps across the state.

The Governor was reacting to the allegation leveled against him by a group of 52 Fulani personalities led by the deposed Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi who in their petition to the Presidency accused him of having a hand in the said blast that claimed the lives of supposed pastoralists in Doma Local Government Area, LGA, of Nasarawa State.

According to the Governor, “the group leveled all manner of accusations against me in a desperate attempt to set me up for hatred, vilification and attacks.

“The group which refused to give itself a name, accused me of being responsible for the recent killing of some pastoralists at Akwanaja, Doma LGA of Nasarawa State via a bomb attack. They tried to link the Benue State Livestock Guards with the killings, claiming that the pastoralists were bombed on their way from Benue to Nasarawa after they had retrieved their cattle. The group maliciously accused me of carrying out genocide against pastoralists.
“The dethroned Emir Sanusi did not stop at that. He made a video in Hausa in which he maligned me and called on all Fulanis to consider me as their enemy while urging those in Benue State to vote against me during the coming elections.

“I consider these allegations and blackmail targeted at my person and the Government of Benue State as part of a grand conspiracy by enemies of the state to eliminate me. Since 2017 when we enacted the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, I have escaped seven assassination attempts.

“The recent utterances of some personalities such as Lamido Sanusi have revealed the true identities of those behind the sinister agenda to eliminate me. But my life is in the hands of God and only He can permit anything evil to come my way.

“Let me remind those castigating me unjustifiably that nomadic herdsmen attacks on farmers in Benue state date back to 2009; however, 2011 was when the attacks assumed a dreadful dimension with widespread killings, injury and displacement of farmers from their ancestral homes. Benue State came under attack nearly 50 times before the law was enacted.

“When I was voted as Governor in 2015, my people who are predominantly farmers requested for a policy that would not only end hostilities and attacks on them by nomadic herdsmen, but would also allow both parties to peacefully coexist. As a result, the State Executive Council sent a bill to the State House of Assembly and the “Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Bill” was passed by the House of Assembly on 4th May, 2017 after public hearings were held in the three Senatorial Districts of the state.

“It is public knowledge that right from the day the law came into effect, umbrella bodies of nomadic herders boldly came out with impunity and said they would never obey the law. They vowed to mobilize Fulanis across the West African sub-region to invade Benue State and stop implementation of the law. They actualized their threats on the eve of the 2018 new year when they carried out simultaneous attacks on Guma and Logo local government areas killing 73 people whom we painfully gave a mass burial in Makurdi on January 11, 2018.

“Fulani herdsmen attacks on my people in the last couple of years have caused a devastating humanitarian crisis resulting in the killing of over 6,000 Benue people and the displacement of about two million others with many living in IDP camps.

“Our people have suffered the organized genocide masked in terrorism, not because they do not know their attackers. Benue people know those who are visiting them with unprovoked violence and killings, but as law-abiding citizens of Nigeria, we have chosen to sustain our belief in the conventional security agencies of this country.

“Now, the enemy has turned round to accuse our people of being the aggressors. Their aim is to blame the victim in order to launch more attacks on the state. On the 31st of January, 2023, armed herders blocked the Makurdi-Naka road and killed innocent people including the Divisional Police Officer of Gwer-West local government area of Benue State.

“Let me tell the dethroned Emir of Kano Lamido Sanusi and his conspirators that I cannot be intimidated by any of them. I hold the mandate of Benue people and my allegiance is to my people in respect of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which gives states as federating units, the power to enact laws for the good governance of their people. I have nothing personal against the Fulani.

“I consider the statement by the nameless group led by Lamido Sanusi as a mockery of thousands of Benue people killed by Fulani herdsmen. The group has chosen to spit on the graves of our people in a manner that smacks of impunity and lack of humanity.
“They are pushing a false narrative that 3,000 herders have been killed in Benue State without any proof of such an allegation. The other elder called Hakeem Baba Ahmed who claimed to be speaking for the Northern Elders Forum, leveled more verbal attacks on me. I elect to ignore and leave him with his conscience.

“I must state categorically that the Benue State Government under my leadership has no hand in the Akwanaja incident. Linking me with the bomb attack in Doma, Nasarawa State is the most unfair thing anyone would do to me.”