President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to fish out the herdsmen who killed no fewer than 73 farmers in New Year’s Day in Benue State.
Victims of the incident were buried last Thursday in Makurdi amid a nationwide outrage.
Governor Samuel Ortom told reporters that the President gave the order during a meeting with the state’s leaders of thought on the security situation.
At the meeting were Deputy Governor Benson Abounu, Tor Tiv Prof. James Ayatse, Ochi Idoma, former Senate President David Mark, Senator George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), Speaker Terkimbir Kyambe and Senator Joseph Waku, amog others.
Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina quoted President Buhari as telling the delegation:
“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 Security 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 country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.’’
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.
The Tor-Tiv, said his domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.
“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation.’’
Ortom said Benue leaders demanded that the killer-herdsmen be arrested and prosecuted.
His words: “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 IGP and the Benue State Government have been working day and night to ensure that we bring the situation under control and stop the killings.
“There are still security issues from one town to the other, like some few days ago we had an uproar in Makurdi Local Government, headquarters of Benue State where some hoodlums wanted to take advantage. That is one of the things we have discovered in trying to create confusion so that they can go in there and loot.
‘We have made it known that for us in Benue State is that there is no room for anyone taking laws into his hands. It is expected even when you are offended or someone violates the law, the best thing to do is to report, by that we will be able to meet our sanctions on such people. But when you take laws into your hand, you are inviting anarchy and we will not accept this.
“So we are here to appreciate Mr. President for providing security. Yesterday (Sunday), we also received relief materials based on his directives to NEMA and is being shared among the five IDP 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. We are law abiding citizens; we are not going to let our people go out of control.”
The governor was full of praises for Buhari. He said: “We believe in the leadership of Mr. President because he is disciplined and is an upright man and we believe he will be able to sanction this people and he did assure us that there is no room for impunity, the law of the land must take its cause. So, those perpetrators…; the IG was at the meeting; he directed the IG to arrest those who perpetrated this act and prosecute them according to the law.
“And he assured us that he would do everything possible to ensure that Benue State lives peacefully and there are no further killings. So, basically, that is why we came to see Mr. President.”
Asked if the issue of arming militia groups came up, Ortom said that the allegation was false.
He said: “It is not true. I see that as distraction, completely from the main issue that we are talking about. These people were not even arrested in Benue State. If we are being killed in the magnitude that we saw and we had weapons of what I saw in the media, I know that five AK 47s can sack a whole community. So if we had such weapons and I as governor my local government had been attacked and people killed, property destroyed and so on, so will I go and sponsor militia in Taraba State? I organised an amnesty programme, which saw the disarmament of over 800 youths and more than 700 weapons were turned in which were destroyed in the presence of security men and the UN and the committee on small weapons and light arms from the Presidency.
“So it is not true; it is false. It is meant to turn facts away from the reality that is happening on ground.”
Ortom said the meeting with the President was at the instance of Benue State as he defended the anti-open grazing law made by his administration but which the Fuluni are opposed to.
“The law is a win win; it provides security for the herdsmen and the farmers. And as far as we are concerned the implementation of the law is going on smoothly.
“We have also arrested more than 18 herdsmen who violated the law and they were arraigned before the court of law.”
Ortom said that the state is open to suggestions from the Federal Government on finding 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 cattle 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; they are looking for 5,000 hectares, we have no 10,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take plac.”
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said the Federal Government had very clear plans to end herders/farmers clashes in the country.
The governor told reporters after laying a wreath to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Kaduna that the issue was being tackled head-on.
“We met with the Minister of Interior. There are very clear plans to curtail these issues. I want to assure everyone, the President and other security agencies are doing their best.’’