Bukola Eshun in Abuja
Abuja-based Club De Pals, a non-profit organisation comprising young professionals from the Tiv extraction, has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari on his failure to take decisive actions that will end the on-going killing of farmers and innocent citizens by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.
The group also accused President Buhari of marginalising and neglecting the Tiv people despite their overwhelming support for him and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections.
In an open letter to the President, Club De Pals expressed concern that it was becoming worrisome that despite the global attention which the genocidal attacks in some parts of the state had generated, the Federal Government continued to pay lip service to a crisis that had claimed several lives.
Over 3,000 people have reportedly been killed and property worth hundreds of millions of naira destroyed since the crisis broke out in 2012.
According to the group, President Buhari and his APC-led Federal Government needed to urgently treat the Benue crisis with the same seriousness being deployed to tackling the insurgency in the North-East, as the killings and destructions in Benue were as devastating as the Boko Haram operations in the North-East.
“The latest round of the crisis which started in Agatu local government area with the killing of over 400 people in one single attack, has spread to Tarka, Makurdi, Guma, Logo, Katsina-Ala, Buruku, Gwer West, Ukum and Kwande Local Government Areas of the state,” the group stressed.
Club De Pals noted that the attacks on innocent farmers by Fulani herdsmen who moved freely with sophisticated weapons in the state were coming at a time the state Governor Samuel Ortom had just carried out an amnesty programme where dozens of arms were retrieved.
They therefore condemned the provocative comments by the spokesman of the Fulani socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah (Cattle Breeders Association), Alhaji Banire, that the Fulanis were responsible for the attacks in revenge for the killing of their cattle.
The group insisted that it was rather becoming clearer that the adventure of Fulanis into the state was a well-planned scheme to destabilise Benue people and possibly snatch their ancestral lands by some expansionists who were only operating under the guise of herdsmen.
“We state emphatically that the continued silence of Mr. President on this very significant national security matter, the response of the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Danbazzau to convene a ‘town hall meeting’ without any specific date, the comments credited to the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase during his visit to Agatu community that he could not see the bodies of the 400 people massacred in 10 villages, have all combined to give us the message that we are not liked, unsafe and unprotected by the Federal Government”, they said.
“It is appalling that the Nigerian security forces delayed deployment of their Men and Officers to stem the blood-letting until hundreds of people had been killed by the Fulanis.
“The delay in mobilising police and military action suggests to us that some certain elements in the security establishment were giving tacit or latent support to the armed invaders to achieve the territorial acquisition agenda in Benue State,” the group added.
Among other specific demands made by the Club is calling on President Buhari to urgently direct the Chief of Army Staff, the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS) to ensure an end to the continued killing of Benue people by armed militia under the guise of Fulani militia in the 23 local government areas of the State.
“We endorse the position of the Benue Caucus in the House of Representatives that we may resort to self-help if the national security establishment fails to protect us from these marauders as it is the case at the moment.
“We equally align with the demand of the Tiv, Idoma and Igede socio-cultural organisations, namely, the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), Idoma National Forum (INF) and Omi Ny’Igede, respectively, that the Federal Government should immediately set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to launch a full- fledged investigation into the Fulani killings in Benue State.
Club De Pals also lamented that non-appointment of Tiv sons and daughters in the Buhari Government was only a testimony to the fact of their neglect even in times of difficulty as being experienced in the Benue killings.
In the letter to the President, the group said, “it is curious that the Tiv have so far been totally neglected by this administration despite having voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 11, 2015 Presidential and National Assembly election as well as in the April 28, 2015 Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“Indeed, two of the three Senatorial Districts in Benue State with a total of 14 LGAs, which are populated by the Tiv, were won by the APC,” the letter noted.
While assuring President Buhari of Benue people support for his government, Club De Pals however demanded the appointment of Tiv sons and daughters in federal positions, especially the Federal Executive Council and headship of Federal Parastatals and Agencies.
“We hereby state very strongly our objection to the creation of “Grazing Reserves and Routes” as this cannot be a panacea to the problem at hand in Benue state, with a population of about five million people – most of whom are farmers, depending solely on the same land. Alternatively, we support the call for the creation of ranches as is the practice in most countries for raising of livestock, the group stressed further.