Senate Rejects C’ttee Report, Summons Defence Minister

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Meanwhile, the Senate wednesday rejected the report of its Committee on Police Affairs, which met with the IG on the Benue killings for being one-sided.

The report, which cited allegations levelled against the State Governor, Samuel Ortom by Idris, was rejected because the committee did not contact Ortom to get his response to the issues raised.

The committee was charged with determining the IG’s level of compliance with the ultimatum issued to him to apprehend the perpetrators of the killings in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state and hand them over to the state’s Attorney General for prosecution.

According to the report of the Senator Abu Ibrahim-led committee, the IG blamed the implementation of the anti-open grazing law for the crises, which left at least 73 persons dead.

Idris, whose presentation to the committee was attached to the report, said inciting statements by Ortom and the public display of corpses of victims, also fuelled further violence.

He also accused the governor of arming a militia, under the guise of Civilian JTF/ Livestock Guards, “with prohibited firearms whose composition is lopsided and comprising majorly of persons of Tiv Ethnic Nationality.”

Idris recommended that the anti-grazing law is suspended.

On his level of compliance with the Senate’s resolution to arrest the attackers, Idris said 145 suspects had been arrested with 124 charged to court, while 21 others were still being investigated.

The committee subsequently found that there was a serious defect in the intelligence gathering mechanism of the police due to inadequate funding, in addition to the massive proliferation of arms and ammunition in Benue State.

“That inflammatory statements, utterances and actions of some politicians and opinion moulders have been found to be promoting hatred and inciting violence,” the committee said.

These findings were similar to submissions by the IGP.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, reacting to the report, observed that the committee did not make any efforts to speak with Ortom, despite the allegations by Idris.

“Because if in the circumstances, they did not interview the governor, and his name has been mentioned with respect to certain statements and actions, it would only be fair to him, to be invited by the committee and hear his own side of the story so that we have a balanced view of what transpired,” Ekweremadu said.

Senator George Akume (Benue APC), aligned himself with Ekweremadu’s position and noted that the report would have been balanced if the governor, who had “been so massively accused by the IG was also invited to make input into it”.

He accused the IG, who he said spent only one day in Benue despite the directive of the president to relocate to the state, of being biased.

“His comments have always been very jaundiced. They are not based on professional soundness and they do not show any detachment and impartiality. As far as this issue is concerned. I want to draw your attention to page 3 subsections 4 that based on claims by the Benue State governor, alleging that there exist armed militia camps in Tuva in Awe local government of Nasarawa state, waiting to be unleashed on Benue people,” Akume said.

Akume said the claims about local armed militia were untrue, as other security agencies had spoken about foreign mercenaries in the country.

Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi APC), however, said it was heartening that some suspects had been apprehended and charged to Court.

He said: “This is a very good beginning, unlike other crises where police and other security agencies would not be able to arrest any suspect. The committee has made a very good recommendation on the funding of the police force. There is no way the police would be able to work if they are not funded and security matter is a very serious matter.

“So no amount is too much for us to devote and make us sustain security. So I will suggest that the committee’s report on the utilization of the excess crude oil be adopted by this Senate.”

Senate President Bukola Saraki said the report was incomplete as Ortom was not given the chance to make an input.

He said: “First of all, Senator Abu Ibrahim’s report, as observed by the DSP (Deputy Senate President), there is no doubt about it, that it is incomplete because there are observations on the comments of the governor; the Governor of Benue State was not given the opportunity to comment. The only reason why I allowed Senator Akume to speak was that I thought that would be the closest we could hear of the views of the Governor of Benue State.

“Let Senator Abu Ibrahim go back and complete his exercise and present a complete report. That time, I would accept contributions from everybody. I think that is the way forward.” The committee was given a week to revise and balance its report.

The Senate yesterday also summoned the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd), over the recent invasion of some border communities in Cross River State, by Cameroonian soldiers.

It also called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief material to refugees affected by the invasion.

The resolution followed a motion by Senators John Enoh, Rose Oko and Gershom Bassey, who said more than 80 Cameroonian soldiers crossed the international border of Danare-Daddi/Danare Bodom axis on January 25, 2018, and abducted five locals.

Enoh said the soldiers entered Nigeria illegally several times in search of separatist agitators and attacked locals in the process.

“This is a calculated assault/offence from the Cameroonian military on Nigeria and an outright defiance of Nigeria territorial sovereignty, not minding the consequences of crossing the international border to carry out intimidation and harassment on the already alarmed citizens of Danare with further assault,” he added.

Enoh added that the current agitation for the independence of Southern Cameroon had caused an influx of refugees to some border communities in Cross River State, with over 6000 refugees.