By Isiaka Wakili
President Muhammadu Buhari met Benue State leaders at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday over the recent attacks on some communities in the state, asking them to accommodate their countrymen.
The president, according to a statement later by his spokesman Mr Femi Adesina, called on the state’s leaders to restrain their people following the incident.
President Buhari assured them that all the perpetrators of violence in the state would be made to face the wrath of the law.
“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,’’ the president said.
He said all those involved in the conflict that culminated in loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state.
He commiserated with all the victims of the attacks, and the families who lost loved ones and properties, noting that the government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims.
President Buhari said relevant agencies had been directed to start catering for the humanitarian needs.
He told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.
He said the Inspector-General of Police had been directed to relocate to the state to provide security for lives and properties, urging all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.
The statement quoted Governor Sam Ortom, who led the delegation, as saying the tension would be reduced with the Federal Government’s intervention to find a lasting solution to the herdsmen attacks.
“We will leave here to rebuild confidence in our people,’’ he said.
The Tor-Tiv, Prof. James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse, was quoted as saying his entire domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.
“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation,’’ he added.
Benue elders: No land for cattle colonies
Benue State leaders have said their state has no land for cattle colonies which the Federal Government is planning to establish as a solution to the perennial clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
They said this at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday after a one-hour close-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari over the recent killings by herdsmen in communities in the state.
The delegation, led by Governor Sam Ortom, comprised Benue State Deputy Governor Benson Abounu, former Senate President David Mark, former Governor George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Senator JK Waku, General Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Brigadier-General John Atom Kpera (rtd), former Attorney General of the Federation Michael Aondoakaa, Benue State House of Assembly Speaker Terkimbir Kyambe and other members of the National and State Assembly from the state.
Addressing State House correspondents after the meeting, Ortom said the Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh had explained to him yesterday that “a colony is many ranches in one place, restricted in one place.
“So, for us in Benue State, there is no 10,000 hectares. They are looking for 5,000 hectares we have no 10,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take place. So, people are free. Other states have the land, but we in Benue State we don’t have, and that was what led to us enacting this law (the anti-open grazing law).
He, however, stated that they were open to suggestions from the federal government to find a lasting solution.
The governor said they appealed to Buhari to cause the arrest of Miyetti Allah leaders whom, he said, were still issuing threats of attacks.
Ortomnoted that the meeting was at the instance of Benue stakeholders to appreciate Buhari for providing security.
He said the state received relief materials on Sunday based on Buhari’s directive to NEMA “and they are being shared among the five IDP camps that we have in Benue State.”
The governor stated that 60,000 people were displaced following the recent attacks by herdsmen in the state.
He also stated that the herdsmen were not only against the anti-grazing law, but were also seeking to occupy and take over Benue land.
“And until this time I speak to you, they’re still issuing out threats and it is not just anti-grazing law, it is occupation.”
Ortom said Benue stakeholders believed in Buhari’s leadership “because he is disciplined and is an upright man … and he did assure us that there is no room for impunity.”
The governor said the president assured them there that he would do everything possible “to ensure the state lives peacefully and there is no further killings.”
He dismissed the allegations that he was arming militias as false and a complete distraction from the main issue. “If we are being killed in the magnitude that we saw and we had weapons of what I saw in the media, I know that five AK 47s can sack a whole community. So, if we had such weapons and I as governor, my local government had been attacked and people killed, property destroyed and so on, so will I go and sponsor militias in Taraba State?” he said.
Osinbajo replies Ortom
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has denied the Benue State Governor Sam Ortom ever wrote to him about an impending attack by herdsmen in the state.
The Benue state governor said weekend that sometime in June he had alerted Prof Osinbajo, then acting president, to an imminent attack by herdsmen in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas.
But in a statement yesterday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande the vice president said it would be “a terrible falsehood” to suggest that he was ever informed by the governor or anyone else of imminent killings of citizens in any local government of Benue State.
Osinbajo said on June 7 Ortom wrote to him when he was acting president, to protest a newspaper publication where the leadership of Miyetti Allah was reported to have declared its opposition to the state’s anti-open grazing law and vowed to resist it.
The vice president also disclosed that the Miyetti Allah had earlier written to him on June 5, on the same law, protesting several sections therein.
The statement read in part: “The Governor went on to say that the leadership of Miyetti Allah should be arrested because they used words such as ‘wicked, obnoxious and repressive,” to describe the law, and because these were “utterances that are capable of undermining the peace…
“The Vice President subsequently met with the Governor, discussed the matter and the security situation in the State and then ordered law enforcement agencies to be on the alert to prevent any attacks or violence. This was in June 2017.
“In the said letter written by the Governor, there was no mention of any threat to any specific one of the 23 local governments of Benue State, so the best the law enforcement agencies could do even then was to await information or intelligence of an imminent attack. None came.
“Since then the VP has held several meetings with the Benue State Governor, including a visit to the State on the 6th of September, last year at the behest of Mr. President during the tragic floods in the state last year. At all such meetings, the Vice President discussed the security situation of the State with the Governor.
“Following that, the then Acting President convened a major national security retreat which was attended by all State Governors, service chiefs and heads of security agencies. The Retreat featured very detailed discussions on the herdsmen/ farmers’ clashes.
“To the best of our knowledge, neither Governor Ortom nor the Federal Government was aware of the imminence of the cowardly attack on Logo and Guma on the 1st of January, and therefore any suggestion that the President or the Vice President ignored the State Governor’s warning is both absolutely false and certainly misleading.”
“Although the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo, does not believe that the Governor could ever have said so, it will be a terrible falsehood to suggest that the VP was ever informed by the Governor or anyone else of the imminence of the killing of citizens of our country in those or any other local governments in Benue State.”
From: Dailytrust news