•South-west govs, CAN condemn assassination bid
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Funmi Ogundare in Lagos
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Benue State, Mr. Terver Akase, has called on security agencies to prosecute leaders of the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM), which claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attempt to kill his principal, Dr. Samuel Ortom.
The attack on Ortom, during a visit to his farm, also attracted more condemnations yesterday as the South-West Governors Forum and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) flayed the incident and urged security agencies to arrest the attackers.
FUNAM, in a statement signed by one Mr. Umar Shehu, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Yes; yes, we did. The Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) carried out the attack. We have genuine reasons. We acted on behalf of millions of Fulani people in 15 countries.
“Our courageous fighters carried out this historic attack to send a great message to Ortom and his collaborators: Where ever you are, once you are against Fulani long term interest, we shall get you down. This is a clear warning. We hope those who take us for granted will get the indisputable message,” the shadowy group had said.
But Akase, who was a guest on ‘The Morning Show,’ a programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, THISDAY Newspapers’ broadcast arm, stated that Shehu who signed the FUNAM statement exists.
He, however, dismissed allegations that the Benue State Government was profiling the Fulani ethnic group, saying that it is only concerned about some of the armed ones, who live in the forests with AK-47 rifles.
The CPS wondered why security agents have not combed the forests to arrest the killers.
He expressed concern that more than 24 hours after the attack, nobody is asking questions about the security situation in the state.
He said: “It is unfortunate that a man who is the chief security officer of the state will be attacked in this manner. So, what happens to the rest of the citizens and Nigerians in Benue State who do not have security around them? This is a question going on. What has happened to the security of this country?
“Why are the forests not being combed by our security agencies? When we say this, we are not profiling Fulani as a race, but we are concerned about the armed ones who live in the forest with AK -47. Why is no one asking questions?”
Akase accused the group of repeatedly saying the forests belong to it.
He added that the Fulani group lives in a forest around the area where Ortom was attacked.
“Thank God, the Inspector General (IG) of Police has asked the Commissioner of Police in Benue State to investigate the matter. We are hoping that the police will not just stop at that, but go beyond. These people are around the border communities. The security agents should move in and get them,” he said.
Asked why the governor was being targeted by the group and the possible way forward, Akase said the group had given reasons, labelling the governor as its problem.
According to the CPS, the group also accused Ortom of initiating the anti-grazing law that purportedly put the Fulani in Benue State at risk and has chased the Fulani away and even called him an infidel.
“How is the governor an infidel? Is it about Jihad? The man who signed the FUNAM statement, Umar Shehu, exists in this country. We expect that as we speak, the man should be in detention somewhere and brought to book. He and his group should be asked questions; what has Governor Samuel Ortom done to deserve to be killed? If the governor is not safe, who is safe in this country? We are absolutely disappointed,” he stated.
He narrated how the attack happened, saying that Ortom had gone to inspect his farm located off the Gboko-Markurdi road, when he was ambushed along with this aides.
He commended the governor’s security aides for helping to repel the attack.
“The governor is a farmer and he goes to his farm anytime he has chance and Saturday was one of those days. He, accompanied by one or two of his aides and security details, went to the farm located off the Gboko-Markudi road. The governor has one of his farms close to the bank of River Benue. He went there to supervise the farm and on his way back, that is when the ambush took place.
“But God didn’t allow the assailants to succeed. I will also commend the security men with the governor who did a great job by repelling the attack and safely took the governor to where the vehicles were packed. You know the terrain is not very good; you need to move by foot where the farm is located. The vehicles were not close to where the attack took place; that is why the governor had to be protected where the vehicles were parked,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the South-West Governors Forum and Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, has described the attackers of Ortom as cowards.
Akeredolu said yesterday in Akure during the swearing-in of the first female Secretary to the Ondo State Government (SSG), Princess Oladunni Odu, and four special advisers that their action was reprehensible.
He said: “l must pause to condemn, in the strongest term possible, the most recent cowardly attack on the convoy of the Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom.
“I call on the security agencies to unmask the agents of darkness bent on throwing this country into a state of anarchy.
“We note that the authorities have assured the people of Benue and Nigerians alike that the perpetrators will face justice.
“May we, therefore, admonish those saddled with the responsibility of unraveling the mystery to ensure that, as it has been in other incidents, the investigation being conducted is thorough and not open-ended”.
CAN has also condemned the assassination attempt on Ortom by suspected herdsmen.
It charged security agencies to investigate, arrest and prosecute the masterminds.
In a statement yesterday by the General Secretary, Rev. Joseph Bade Daramola, CAN said it was disappointed that the Fulani Nationality Movement that claimed responsibility had not been outlawed by the government.
“We are worried, sad, shocked, disappointed, and pained at the collapse of the security architecture of the government and the failure of those in charge to rise up to the security challenges. If a state governor is unsafe despite all the security operatives in his convoy, then who is safe?
“We welcome the presidential directive and that of the Inspector General of Police that the investigation of the matter should be thorough and it is our hope that the matter will not be swept under the carpet,” it said.
CAN said it was disappointed that Fulani Nationality Movement that claimed responsibility has not been outlawed and the herdsmen leaders who publicly threatened the governor are still going about their businesses as if they have done nothing unusual.
It added: “Is the government waiting till they have successfully carried out their evil and wicked enterprise? What are these people turning the country into in this century?
“If these murderous Fulani herdsmen are not Nigerians, as we are being told, why do our security agencies appear powerless before these criminals? Are they holding superior ammunition? Are they waiting till everyone results to self-defense with the attendant consequences?”
CAN added that if President Muhammadu Buhari wanted his name to be written in gold, he should fix the security before the end of his tenure in 2023.
“We challenge the federal government to roll out the list of names of the kingpins of those murderous herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits and terrorists in the prison and police custody and those under trials.
“As long as the government continues treating these criminals with kid gloves so also will they continue operating with impunity,” it said.
CAN also urged the National Assembly to suspend a bill before the House of Representatives seeking to institutionalise the use of hijab, describing it as ill-timed and uncalled for.
The bill titled: “Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2021” is seeking to provide a mechanism for enforcing certain provisions of the constitution and other international laws that recognises the right of females to adorn hijab in both public and private establishments in Nigeria.
CAN said: “We wonder what the sponsors of the bill seeks to gain from it other than to compound the security problem and the wearing of hijab in public and Christian schools.”