President Muhammadu Buhari has begged the government and people of Benue State to exercise restraint over the killings in the state, assuring that all the perpetrators will be made to face the wrath of the law.
The president made the appeal yesterday when he received a delegation of political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of Benue State led by Governor Samuel Ortom at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari assured that all those involved in the conflict that culminated in loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state. This was as the Benue delegation insisted that the state was not in possession of any empty land for the establishment of cattle colony.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, in a statement later, said that Buhari commiserated with all the victims of the attacks and the families who lost loved ones and properties, noting that government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims.
He said relevant agencies had been directed to start catering for the humanitarian needs. “Your Excellency, the governor and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people.
I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished. “I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried and concerned with the situation,” he said.
The president told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.
Buhari said the Inspector- General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had been directed to relocate to the state to provide security of lives and properties, urging all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.
Following the killing of over 70 persons on New Year day in Logo and Guma local government areas of Benue State, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had, penultimate Monday, announced that government has concluded plans to establish cattle colonies that would solve the continued herdsmen/ farmers’ conflict.
Ogbeh said that the facilities will be provided to take care of the herdsmen and their cattle. But speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting which lasted over an hour, Ortom, who was joined by his deputy, Benson Abonu, said they were at the Presidential Villa at the request of the leaders to raise their concerns over the continued attacks and killings of farmers and other innocent citizens by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
Also joined at the briefing were the paramount ruler of Tiv, His Royal Majesty, Professor James Ayatse; former Senate President David Mark; former Governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume; Senator Banabas Gemade and the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh. Ortom explained that although the state and its leaders were open to any solution that would end the on-going crisis, the idea of colony will not work in Benue State as there was no such massive land for cattle colony.
“As for the solution to the problem, we are open to suggestion from the Federal Government to find how we can find a lasting solution. The Minister of Agriculture happens to be a son of the soil. There are many options that are put on the table.
“Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches in one place; restricted in one place.
“So, for us in Benue State, there is no 10,000 hectares. We have no 10,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take place. Other states have the land, but we in Benue State, we don’t have and that was what led to us enacting this law,” Ortom stressed.
The governor explained that he and the entire leadership of Benue State, members of the National Assembly, the Tor Tiv, Ochi Idoma and the leadership of Benue State House of Assembly and other very distinguished sons and daughters of Benue State, came to engage President Buhari on the challenge the people have faced since January 1. He said several people were killed, over 60,000 people displaced and still counting.
“We thought it was wise as the father of the land and as the president of our country, there is need to meet and interface with him. “So, the situation as at today is relatively calm, although there are pockets of issues.
For the past five days, we have witnessed two killings compared to what was happening before. Other places are relatively calm, the security men and the Inspector-General of Police and the Benue State government has been working day and night to ensure that we bring the situation under control and stop the killings. “So, we are here to appreciate Mr. President for providing security.
On Sunday, we also received relief materials based on his directives to NEMA and is being shared among the five Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) camps that we have in Benue State. “But beyond that, we made strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, because they are not above the law; they made inciting statements against our people and they came and perpetrated this act.
“And until this time I speak to you, they are still issuing threats and it is not just anti-grazing law, it is occupation. We believe in the leadership of Mr. President and we believe he will be able to sanction these people.
He did assure us that there is no room for impunity, the law of the land must take its course. So, the president directed the IG to arrest the perpetrators and prosecute them according to the law,” Ortom added.
The governor also denied insinuations that the state was arming militia groups to counter the Fulani herdsmen. Also present at the meeting were Senator Joseph Waku, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Brig-Gen. John Atom Kpera (rtd), former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Terkimbir Kyange, and state members of the National Assembly and members of the state Assembly.