Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged fresh plot by a group of herdsmen under the auspices of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to attack and kill him.
The governor, who disclosed this while speaking with journalists in his office at the Government House, identified former MACBAN Coordinator in the state, Alhaji Garus Gololo, as the alleged leader of the killer herdsmen, which he said have been threatening his life.
Ortom said he had reported the planned attack on him to security operatives. He expressed optimism that the killer herdsmen will not succeed as God who gives and takes life is with him and cannot die in the hands of Fulani herders who are against him for promulgating the anti-open grazing law.
“There are threats to my life and I have reported that to the security agencies that one Gaurus Gololo and his team, who are members of MACBAN, are planning to attack me. But I always said life belongs to God.
It is God that gives and takes life. So, my life is not in the hands of any Fulani man who is not happy with the promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in the state.” Herdsmen recently attacked and destroyed Ortom’s farm house in Gbajimba, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
Meanwhile, the governor yesterday reconciled with his predecessor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, whom he has not seen eye-to-eye with since assumption of office about three years ago.
The gesture, according to the governor, is for the common good and development of the state. This followed a reconciliatory meeting convened at the instance of paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, to mediate in the protracted face-off between the two politicians of Tiv extraction.
The peace meeting, which took place at the palace of the Tor Tiv, started about 5p.m. last Sunday and spilled over to the early hours of yesterday. In attendance were traditional rulers from both Sankera and Minda geopolitical axis from where the ex-governor and his successor hail from.
Although, journalists were barred from the meeting, sources privy to the discussions disclosed to New Telegraph that the Tiv monarch expressed deep sadness over the continued disagreement between the two illustrious Tiv sons, whom he said are supposed to be attracting development to their people instead of being at loggerheads, hence the need to hear from both sides and reconcile them.
Suswam, it was learnt, had told the Tor Tiv that when he handed over to Ortom in 2015, he told him to feel free to approach him on any issue concerning his government, but what followed was the setting up of a panel to probe him and noted that the panel came out with frivolous allegations against him and that the governor went ahead and reported him to the EFCC and ICPC while all his appointees were sacked.
But Ortom, the source said, denied ever petitioning the two anti-graft agencies on Suswam. The governor also said he did not detail the EFCC and ICPC to seize Suswam’s property, stressing that “they are doing that as part of their duty.”
Speaking with journalists on the outcome of the meeting in his office yesterday, Ortom said he personally agreed to put behind his animosity against his predecessor and work together for peace and development of the state.
He quoted the Tor Tiv as attributing some of the challenges confronting his administration to their inability to synergise and work together as a team. According to him, the monarch stressed the need for them to bury their hatchets and contribute their quota to the development of the state and Tiv nation in particular.
“The meeting was convened at the instance of the Tor Tiv and I was there, former governor Gabriel Suswam was also there and, principally, it was a peace meeting. The Tor Tiv told us he noticed that for a while, the relationship between me and that of the former governor is not good and he needed us as his Tiv prominent sons to work together, that whatever is our differences, we should sheathe our swords and work together for the common good of the people of Benue State.
“He also attributed some of the challenges we are having today in Benue as a result of our inability to synergise and work together as a team and we agreed to work together to see how we can make Benue better than where we are,” the governor said.
Ortom debunked claims that the reconciliation was because of 2019 political calculations, saying for now he has suspended all political activities pending when the killings by Fulani herdsmen is put to rest and thousands of internally displaced persons return to their ancestral homes.
In another development, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has directed security agencies to begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of Fulani herdsmen caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.
The governor gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at dousing the tension triggered by the incessant herdsmenfarmers clash, which was attended by the representatives of farmers, Fulani herdsmen, security agen-cies and other stakeholders, at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan. Ajimobi also directed the immediate registration of herdsmen and possibly their cattle to separate genuine pastoralists from criminal-minded herders, as well as the convocation of a monthly stakeholders’ meeting at the state and local government levels.
Besides, the governor said that a surveillance unit would be created under the Oyo State Joint Security Outfit, Operation Burst, to curtail the menace of cattle rustlers, murderous herdsmen and farmers who may take the laws into their own hands by poisoning cattle grazing on farmlands. He said: “Fulani people are good people; if not I will not allow my only son to marry a Fulani lady. We must separate criminals from the good people.
“Why will a herdsman be carrying gun? Henceforth, any herdsman found with guns should be arrested and prosecuted. Owners of cattle found grazing on farmlands and destroying crops should also be arrested and prosecuted. Any farmer that poison cattle should also be arrested and prosecuted.” Also, the Tor Tiv has pledged the support of the traditional rulers and the entire people of Benue to the Nigerian Army as its conducts Exercise Ayem Akpatuma – Cat Race in the state.
“We welcome the exercise. We believe it will help peace to return to Benue which has suffered series of attacks from herdsmen,” the traditional ruler said as he received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai yesterday.
He, however, said the people were apprehensive of the exercise, recalling the clashes between the army and Tiv people at Zakibiam in the past and called for adequate enlightenment on the exercise. Ayatse said that the herdsmen attacks which affected Guma, Logo, Gwer West, Makurdi, Kwande, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas of the state had resulted in loss of lives, property and farmlands.