Ahead of Buhari’s Visit, Obasanjo Makes Whistle-stop in Benue

  • Lays wreath at mass burial site, commends Ortom’s grazing bill
  • President to arrive Makurdi on Monday

Tobi Soniyi in Lagos, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saturday, made a brief stop in Makurdi, Benue State, where he visited the burial site of the 73 victims of the New Year attacks by herdsmen and also laid a wreath in honour of the dead.

Obasanjo’s visit to Benue came two days before the scheduled arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari in the North Central state which has been a theater of killings by herdsmen. President Buhari is billed to visit Benue Monday as part of his scheduled visits to troubled states of Benue, Yobe, Zamfara and Rivers. The former president’s visit to the grave site of the victims of herdsmen attack, who were given mass burial, is seen as symbolic, because Abuja had opposed the conduct of a mass burial for the victims of the attack.

On his arrival at the state capital saturday, Obasanjo, was received by Governor Samuel Ortom at the Makurdi Airport, from where he proceeded to the burial site of the 73 victims of the January herdsmen attacks, where he laid a wreath in honour of the dead. He departed the state immediately after the visit to the burial site.

While condemning the wave of killings in different parts of the country, the former president specifically noted the recent tragic incident in Omusu, another part of Benue State, where 24 people were reportedly killed including 16 women and four children.

The former president expressed shock that after the killings and burial of 73 persons, over 80 people had been reportedly murdered in cold blood in various parts of the state.

He said Nigeria had still not got it right in terms of security and therefore urged leaders at various levels to come together and get to the root of the killings with a view to finding a lasting solution.

He however commended Ortom’s doggedness in finding a solution to the herdsmen killings through the anti-open grazing law and urged him not to relent in his efforts.

He said until the real matter was investigated and permanent solution found, innocent Nigerians would continue to be buried in their numbers.

Obasanjo expressed worry that the senseless killings were being carried out without commensurate actions from the authorities, saying the trend was capable of discouraging foreign investments in the country.

Meanwhile, the state government has announced the itinerary of President Buhari for tomorrow’s visit. Astatement by the Special Adviser on Media and ICT to Benue State governor, Mr. Tahav Agezua, announced said during the visit, the President would pay a courtesy call on the Chairman of the Benue State Council of Chiefs, Tor Tiv (V), Professor James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse, and hold a meeting with major stakeholders in the state.

According to his programme, Buhari will also visit one of the eight displaced persons’ camps in the state.

Since the New Year’s eve attack by herdsmen, the state has been receiving visitors from all walks of life, including opposition politicians.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, was one of the early visitors received by Ortom in the wake of the herdsmen attacks. He visited the burial site and also donated some money to the state.

Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, also paid a condolence visit to the state on February 8 and declared support for the state’s anti-open grazing law, warning that it must not be compromised.

Meanwhile, the federal government has blamed the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the country on what it identified as environmental factor.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this on Friday at a mini town hall meeting organised for the staff of the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, as well as a cross-section of Nigerians residing in the European country, said the clashes were neither caused by ethnic nor religious issues.

Mohammed said it was wrong to give ethnic and religious coloration to the clashes, because the clashes were a direct result of environmental dynamics. He however assured the people that the federal government was committed to finding a lasting solution to the clashes.

He said whereas Nigeria’s population in 1963 was about 48 million, it is now about 180 million, with the country’s land mass remaining the same, meaning there are more people per square kilometer and raising the chances of clashes over dwindling resources.

For instance, he said Lake Chad that used to provide water and other resources to more than 30 million people in four countries, including Nigeria, in the early 1960s had shrunk by about 90 per cent, from 25,000 square kilometres to 2,500 square kilometres, thus forcing those affected to move south in search of resources.

“These and other reasons, like desertification, have altered the resource landscape, heightened competition for dwindling resources and raised the possibility of clashes between farmers and herders,” the minister said, noting that the establishment of ranches was one sure way of reducing the clashes.

In resolving the crisis, he held the view that both the farmers and the herders must be willing to shift slightly from their positions, which are grounded in their way of life over centuries.

Mohammed, who is in Berlin to attend a meeting of African Tourism Ministers on the sidelines of the International Travel Trade Fair in the German capital, said contrary to the fake news being peddled on the Social Media, President Buhari was resolute on putting Nigeria back on its feet.

”The naysayers have taken to the Social Media to distort the situation in Nigeria. They are spending huge amounts of money to spread fake news about Nigeria, hoping it will override the string of achievements by the administration. That is why Nigerians at home and abroad must ensure they have access to authentic information. One way is to download the FGN/APP on their hand-held devices. It is free!,” he said.

Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, commended the patriotism and dedication of Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially those in Germany.