George Okoh in Makurdi
Five people were yesterday killed by suspected Fulani militia herdsmen in four different villages in Gwer-West Local Government Area of Benue State in the early morning attack.
This is as the Benue State Government has described as reckless and insensitive a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu where he was quoted as saying President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed “his disappointment and sadness to hear Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State make a litany of accusations against his person and his government following the recent unfortunate incidents in the state.”
According to a local source, five dead bodies had been recovered by security agencies, including a pregnant woman rescued alive with severe gunshot injuries and many still missing.
He gave the names of those killed in Tse Gbuusu in TyoughAtee/Njaha Council ward as Zegeor Ugbakyaa (Male 70yrs) and Igber Ahungur (male 75yrs) .
Shagbaor Vershima (male 45yrs) was killed at Onmbaagbu Village also in TyoughAtee/Njaha ward, Halem Ayeeye (female 65yrs) was killed at Tse Tûgh Village also in TyoughAtee/Njaha Council ward and Avindigh Agîr (male 41yrs) was killed at mbatyough in Saghev/Ukusu Council ward.
“Mrs. Nancy Tyobee (pregnant woman 30yrs) from Tse Tanyaregh, Iior Shundan (Male 70yrs) from Onmbaagbu Village and Kwatakpa Kwaghbee (female 60yrs) both from TyoughAtee/Njaha Council ward of Gwer-West Local Government Area are currently receiving treatment for their varying degrees of gunshot injuries by the attackers,” he lamented.
He said Shagbaor Vershima had already been buried by his family in his Onmbaagbu Village, while the rest of the corpses had been deposited at the General hospital Naka.
Security agents are currently on patrol in the danger areas
According to a release by Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, Shehu was referring to Governor Ortom’s clarion call on the President to act decisively and in an unbiased manner to end the spate of killings by Fulani herdsmen in Benue and other parts of the country.
He said, “We are convinced that Mr. President was not aware that his aide Shehu made such a statement on his behalf. It is clear that the media aide didn’t speak for the President in the said statement. President Buhari wouldn’t have given approval for such a reckless and insensitive press release.”
Akase asked what was wrong with Governor Ortom’s call on the President to address the nation, convene a national security summit and declare a state of emergency on security, following the spate of killings taking place in Benue and the remaining states of the federation?
“Governor Ortom is not the only one who is worried by the worsening security situation in the country and has called on the President to rise to his responsibilities by declaring a state of emergency on security and convening a summit to address the numerous security challenges bedeviling the nation. Many other Nigerians of good conscience have at different times made similar calls. What the governor therefore deserves is commendation and not condemnation.
“If Garba Shehu claims that the President is disappointed in the Benue State governor for speaking against the sustained attacks on his people, we wonder how he feels about the killings in North-east, North-west, South-east, South-west and other parts of the North-central. Are those killings occurring as a result of the comments of governors of the affected states?”
He stated that it was shocking that Shehu would make a statement regarding an attack evidently carried out by Fulani herdsmen and there won’t be a single sentence of reproach directed at the violent Fulani herders. Adding that such a deliberate omission smacks of complicity and tacit support for the killer herders.
“Shehu is aware that Governor Ortom has on several occasions raised alarm against activities of the rampaging herdsmen whose sole aim is to take over the ancestral lands of Benue people and other Nigerians. The governor has written letters to the federal government and made other spirited efforts to have the government at the centre take preventive measures against further attacks on Benue communities. The federal government has repeatedly ignored such patriotic calls, insisting rather that cattle routes of the 1950s be re-opened to grant easy passage to the pastoralists and their animals,” the statement said.
He revealed that the posture of the federal government had made many Nigerians to conclude that it was complicit and its inaction had emboldened the armed herdsmen to cause greater havoc across the country.
“The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The job of a Governor is to support security agencies to perform their duties, and this, Governor Ortom has done efficiently to the admiration of many Nigerians. When President Buhari gave a shoot on sight order to security agencies against persons bearing AK47, Governor Ortom was one of the first to support the presidential directive. Minister of Defence came out a few weeks later to counter the President’s order and we expected a reaction from the Presidency but till this minute, no such reaction has been heard.
“What Garba Shehu ought to know is that Governor Ortom has no personal grudge against the President. “The Governor is only being patriotic by calling for justice, equity, fairness and above all the rule of law. He expects the President to be the leader of every Nigerian and treat all as his people”