President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said he was not aware that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, ignored his instruction to relocate to Benue State during the crisis in the state.
He stated this at a meeting with stakeholders in Makurdi, during his visit to Benue State.
Shortly after 73 persons were killed in January following clashes between farmers and herdsmen, Buhari had asked Idris to relocate to Benue.
But during the meeting with stakeholders, Buhari was told that Idris did not spend up to 24 hours in the state.
Buhari, who expressed shock, explained that he did the needful by ordering the IG to relocate to the state.
“But I did not know that the IG did not stay in the state. I am getting to know this at this meeting. I am quite surprised,” he said.
He, however, stated that the meeting was not the best place to expose the inefficiency of his appointee.
Buhari told the meeting that he was doing his best to tackle insecurity in the land.
He expressed the hope that farmers and herdsmen would continue to coexist in the state, urging residents to learn to live together peacefully.
Buhari, however, denounced the insinuation that he abandoned the people of the state at their trying periods, saying, “I have friends here; there is no way I can deliberately overlook what is happening here and other parts of the country.
“Let me appeal to our people to apply more restraints. The relationship between farmers and herders will continue; it behoves us to keep encouraging ourselves to live together peacefully.”
He said his administration had cut down on importation of rice by 90 per cent because many states of the federation were cultivating rice in large quantity.
Buhari stated further that while he had taken note of what all stakeholders had said, he would not make any promise.
Earlier, Ortom had intimated the President that the state had lost many lives after the mass burial of 73 victims of the New Year attack.
“Sixty-five more people have been killed after the mass burial of 73 persons; 26 more were killed in Okpokwu with over 5,000 displaced in Mbatoho community.
“As of now, 170,000 people live in IDP camps across the state. Sixty per cent of IDPs are school children who should be in school.
“Yesterday (Sunday), two police officers were killed in Guma. Our appeal is that the Federal Government should compensate the people who have been displaced.”
Ortom denied the report that the state government owned militia, saying, “Ghana is the one that is known to own a militia and he has been declared wanted with N50m bounty placed on him.
“We hope the Ayem Akpatuma (an ongoing military operation in the state) can be upgraded from an exercise to an operation because the herdsmen have taken over the villages and our food has become feed for their cattle. If Ayem is upgraded, Ghana will be tracked down.”
Ortom also appealed to the President to order the immediate arrest and prosecution of leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who he accused of the killings.
But the representative of the Miyetti Allah, Benue chapter, Shettima Mohammed, denied responsibility for the Benue attacks.
He said the association was peace-loving unlike its public presentation by government officials.
The Chairman, Benue State Traditional Council, Tor Tiv, Prof. Ayatse, appealed to the President to support the anti-open grazing law of the state.
A second republic minister of steel, Paul Unongo, told the President to do something about the activities of killer herdsmen.
“If you don’t do something now, you will discover that you will end up having a terrorist country. The governor is not your enemy. He is very competent and loyal to you.”
The state Chairman of the state Christian Association of Nigeria, Akpen Leva, demanded compensation to rebuild about 500 churches burnt during herdsmen attacks in the state.
However, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, Buhari was reported to have told the stakeholders in Benue that he reprimanded the IG when the killings in Benue started.
He was quoted to have said he did not do that in the open as many would desire because he was not in the habit of rebuking his appointees publicly.
“The President disclosed that he shared the IGP’s security report on the Benue crisis with Senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade from the state.
“He appealed to leaders of various groups in the state to convince their constituents that the Federal Government is doing its best to end the recurring attacks in various parts of the country,” the statement read in part.
While thanking God for the good rain, the successful efforts of the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, an indigene of Benue State, the President said his administration would continue to empower farmers with loans.
Expressing delight that the agricultural policy of his administration had led to 90 per cent reduction in rice importation, he commended Ebonyi, Lagos, Kebbi, Jigawa and Benue states for “doing extremely well.”