George Okoh in Makurdi and Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
The Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom has for the umpteenth time called on the federal government to stop the killings of innocent citizens in his state by suspected herders of cattle.
Ortom made the call yesterday when he met with a group of women under the auspices of the Nigeria National Network for Peace-building in West Africa at the Benue Peopleâ€™s House, Makurdi.
His remarks came on the heels of the reaction by the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Mr. Mohammadu Nuru Abdullah, who decried the fresh attack on his kinsmen in neighbouring Plateau State that claimed three lives on Monday night, describing it as an act of terrorism.
Ortom, during his interaction with the womenâ€™s group, said despite the heavy presence of security agencies in Benue, including the Nigerian Army, 24 persons were killed in a fresh attack by militia herdsmen in Okpokwu Local Government Area on Monday.
Represented by the Secretary to the Benue State Government, Mr. Tony Ijoho (SAN), the Benue governor said the killings were as a result of the resistance by a group of persons to change.
The governor asked the women to pray so that President Muhammadu Buhari would have a change of heart with regards to the killings in Benue and other parts of Nigeria, adding that in addition to the killings, women were being raped while schoolgirls had been kidnapped.
He explained that the Open Grazing Prohibition Law was not outside the stateâ€™s jurisdiction, insisting that the killings must stop.
Earlier, the Nigeria National Network Coordinator for Peace-building in West Africa, Bridget Osakwe, had told the governor that the group was interested in the return of peace to Benue.
Osakwe said women within and outside the organisation had been mobilised to meet with the governor to commend his efforts aimed at entrenching peace in Benue and declare their support for all the government and non-governmental organisations that were working for peace in Benue, Nigeria and the West African region.
According to her, the organisation has presence in the 15 West African countries, noting that war traumatises people, especially displaced persons.
She also pointed out that incidents of rape become rampant when people are displaced from their homes.
Some of the placards displayed by the women, who wore T-shirts and caps bearing the organisationâ€™s name and logo, read: â€œDo not rape our women and girls,â€ â€œKillings and displacement translate to empty food baskets,â€ and â€œSay no to proliferation of small arms.â€
The highlight of the meeting was the signing of one of the placards by the SSG.
Also in Benue yesterday, the state Police Command announced that 10 cattle rustlers had been apprehended in Guma Local Government Area of the state, following a tip-off by residents.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni made the disclosure while briefing reporters in Makurdi, the Benue capital, yesterday.
He said that after the arrest of the suspects allegedly involved in the incident, the police quickly put measures in place to avoid a reprisal, adding that the command on the whole has continued to strengthens ties with other security agencies to embark on confidence building measures in communities deserted by the rural dwellers.
The police commissioner said that with the ongoing interactions at all levels, the police would be better equipped to enforce the Open Grazing Prohibition Law.
The police further revealed that 44 persons had been arrested in different locations in the state for not complying with the Open Grazing Prohibition Law, adding that the suspects were apprehended in the course of the ongoing military operations and handed over to the police.
Owoseni said the suspects had been arraigned in court.
Meanwhile, the MACBAN chairman, Mr. Mohammadu Nuru Abdullah has lamented the fresh attack on his kinsmen in Plateau State that claimed three lives on Monday night, describing it as an act of terror.
Abdullah, in a press statement yesterday, said he was â€œoverwhelmingly shocked that the Irigwe militias, in an effort to accomplish their mission of terrorising Fulani herdsmen in Bassa Local Government Area in Plateau State, had on Monday re-launched an attack on Fulani cattle herders and mercilessly killed three persons, namely, Abubakar Shehu, Abubakar Gidado and Ishaq Yusuf without any provocation.
â€œIt is also disturbing that the Irigwe community always trespasses into other neighboring local government areas, launch their attacks and kill our people for no cause.â€
He added that on the same Monday when three of his kinsmen were killed, the same militias attacked and killed 38 cows, saying 20 of the cows had belonged to Wada Alh Audu, while 18 belonged to Umaru Ibrahim.
â€œThe Irigwe militias usually cross into Riyom, Jos South and part of southern Kaduna to strike. In this particular incident, they operated from Rukwechungu village of Miango district in Bassa LGA into Gero village of Gyel district in Jos South LGA.
â€œThey also beat up and wounded Haruna Zakariya, who is now receiving treatment at a clinic in Rafin Bauna. It is on record that this militia group has been unleashing terror against our innocent cattle headers in the areas,â€ he alleged.
He said in spite of the efforts made by the Plateau State Government, security, communities, and other non-governmental organisations to restore peace, the militias have continued to kill silently.
â€œIt is unfortunate that while efforts are being made to restore peace and order, the silent killings of Fulani herdsmen by Irigwe militia continue unabated,â€ he said.
Abdullah, however, conveyed his appreciation for the efforts of the state government and the security agencies in Plateau State to restore order and called on them to re-intensify efforts at finding a lasting solution to the consistent attacks.
He also advised community leaders in the area to work out modalities to compliment the efforts of the state government and the security agencies.