Ortom: 18 of 23 Benue LGs Under Siege by Herdsmen

  • Says president addressing state’s humanitarian crisis
  • Agrees arrested livestock guard should face the law
  • Govt commences criminal proceeding against Miyetti Allah

George Oko in Makurdi

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom at the weekend gave a gloomy picture of the security situation in his state, saying about 18 of the 23 local government areas of the state are under the siege of attacks by Boko Haram and herdsmen. Ortom, however, said President Muhammadu Buhari was genuinely addressing the humanitarian crisis currently plaguing the state as a result of the many attacks in different communities around the state.

The governor also said the arrested livestock guard, Tershaku, in connection with Boko Haram attacks, should be allowed to contend with the full course of the law, after all, he has an opportunity to prove his innocence if he truly was. He was addressing journalists in the state upon his return from China, where he had gone to observe his leave.

But on the conduct and utterances of the Miyetti Allah, an umbrella body for cattle rearers, he said the state had resolved to commence criminal proceeding against the group and that the process had begun already.

Making excuses for the security agencies, Ortom said, “They too have their deficiencies in terms of capacity, numbers, equipment, funding, and this is why I’ll continue to call on my people to continue to support them, because the insurgency that is going on, as at today, out of the 23 local governments, you hardly count five local governments that are not under siege.

“So, you can see the enormous challenge. There are several ways individuals, groups, communities can come in to support. We have the Vigilante Group, we have Livestock Guards, but these are not armed people, so, it becomes very difficult and when it comes to funding, you discover that the security personnel in the state are grossly underfunded and ill-equipped.

“We need to support them. Where individuals or groups or corporate organisations have that kind of support, you can pass through government, you can pass through anybody or to them directly by way of mobility, funding or whatever that can be available to support the security agents to work.”

Apparently impressed with Buhari’s intervention in the humanitarian crisis in the state, Ortom said, “We’ve identified all those flash points that these invaders come and attack our people and we’ve adequately made presentations to the federal government. As I speak, there’s already a reinforcement going on by all security agencies to ensure that we’re able to surmount this challenge, especially of attacking our people, because Mr. President, in my last discussion with him, was deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis that we’re facing today in Benue State.

“A committee was set up to assess the damage and to see how these IDPs can be rehabilitated to go back to their various communities. But one thing that was identified was that areas that were attacked were not yet safe and while the committee was going round, despite the fact that they had adequate security personnel with them, they were also attacked in several places and, thank God, the security personnel were able to repel all the attacks that came upon them and no one was hurt till they finished their assignment and went back.

“Mr. President had indicated that he wants a rehabilitation of these homes, because even when they go back, how are they going to stay in these places? So, we raised the issue of security in these areas and he did assure us and I’ve seen the sign. As at today, some of the personnel, the top senior people, are already in the state and by tomorrow (weekend), the Chief of Army Staff is visiting himself, just to try to also address this matter. All the security apparatuses are augmenting their personnel to help curtail these attacks and I believe that within the shortest time possible, it’ll be done.”

Speaking on the arrest of the leader of the livestock guards, the governor maintained, “As a law abiding governor and someone, who believes in the rule of law, I’ll always support due process. Security agencies are at liberty to arrest, detain and investigate anyone, who they may suspect to be involved in security breach or perpetuating insecurity.

“The arrest of Tershaku is one of such and as for me, as I always do, and you are witnesses to the fact that when it comes to issues of security and prosecution, I don’t interfere. I’ve made a statement through my assistant after his arrest that due process should be followed; he should not be victimised but security men should be fair to him.

“He should be investigated and if at the end, he is found culpable, he should be prosecuted. When my adviser was suspected of murder and a commissioner was also a suspect in a murder case, I asked them to resign. Although they were not convicted, I said for the purpose of credibility of this government they needed to give way and they gave way. They had to resign.

“You are also aware that even when one of my appointees was convicted, I asked him to resign. Later though, he appealed the decision of the lower court and was exonerated and is now a free man. If I have another opportunity I’m going to appoint him again. So, I don’t want to talk about the arrest other than to say let the needful be done; let there be no victimisation. If at the end an investigation is carried out and he is culpable, let that be.”

On the activities of Miyetti Allah, the governor, who claimed to be dumbfounded, noted: “I’ve said it repeatedly; I’ve written and will continue to write and continue to raise the alarm that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is responsible for the killings; for the mercenary work that is going on in Benue State. I still want to repeat that they are responsible. There are evidences; they are on tape, they have done press conferences and none of them has come out to refute what was credited to them in the media.

“They’ve said it is about Jihad; it’s not about grazing. They said it is about occupation; about taking over the land. They’ve said it and the evidence is there. I’ve presented this to security agencies and I want to believe that it is a whole process; they’re still working on it and at the appropriate time, these people will be apprehended, because they cannot go free.

“After killing my people, they’ll not be allowed to go free. I’ll continue to say it that these people must be arrested, because they’re responsible for killings in the state. The evidence is there; very clear for everyone, who wants to see to see.

“Besides that, what we’ve decided to do as a government, since there is no response yet, is to initiate criminal proceedings against the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore in court. I have been briefed that the case is coming up on Thursday at a High Court in Makurdi. We’re beginning with the 73 victims of the New Year day attacks and several others will follow.

“I believe that the court will definitely give us justice. These people are not going to be allowed to go free; justice must be served to us. Those people, who think that Ortom is making too much noise should, please, help me so that justice will be given to me and my people. That is all that I seek and nothing more than that. By the time you do that, I’ll keep quiet; I’ll not say anything again.”