Senate dithers, Army deploys men as IGP sues for peace
From Fred Itua, Abuja, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
MINISTER of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said he will meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to “solve, once and for all,” the alleged invasion of Benue State communities by Fulani herdsmen. Ogbeh said in Abuja that the invasion and massacre of indigenes by herdsmen is no longer acceptable to government.
Meanwhile, 24 hours after hundreds of Idoma protesters stormed the National Assembly and demanded justice over alleged on-going massacre in Agatu community in Benue South senatorial district Senate, yesterday, failed to take a clear position on the issue.
The aggrieved members of the community stormed the National Assembly on Wednesday and told newsmen that their sole aim was to draw the attention of government to the situation in the state.
A day after, Senators during debate of a motion tagged “Tackling the perennial conflicts between farmers and cattle herdsmen”, only condemned in general terms, criminal activities of some elements among cattle herdsmen, who use the cover of their trade to perpetuate harrowing despoliation of people’s farms and engage in other sundry criminal activities. In the motion sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, Senate expressed worry over increasing cases of armed robbery, human savagery, rampant rape, maiming and kidnapping of people by suspected herdsmen. In a unanimous decision, Senators urged the Federal Government to reclaim designated grazing areas that have been taken over by farmers in various parts of the country.
They also urged government to establish green reserves across the country. Security agencies were also mandated to investigate the proliferation of arms in the country and how some Fulani herdsmen have access to them to carry out deadly attacks. Back in Benue, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase called for ceasefire in the renewed hostilities between the Agatus and Fulani herders even as he encouraged them to embrace peace. The IGP made the call yesterday at the Police Officers Mess, in Makurdi, when he paid a working visit to Benue to assess the level of destruction of lives and property by suspected Fulani herdsmen who invaded Agatu in the last two weeks and to hold a meeting with all stakeholders in the crisis.
While maintaining that the police does not have sufficient men to man the Nigerian security space, Arase said it was for that reason that the police had to liaise with communities to help through the establishment of community policing. He, however, assured that the police had recently deployed four mobile police force unit to Benue to quell the incessant clashes between farmers and herders. Representatives of both Agatu and the Fulani herders as well as other stakeholders took turns to address the gathering after which the IGP entered a closed-door meeting with few but critical stakeholders. Similarly, Executive Director (ED) of Victim Support Fund, (VSF) Prof. Sunday Ochoche has described the invasion as a humanitarian crisis which must be tackled through the deployment of adequate security to safeguard lives and property of the people. Ochoche, who stated this during a working visit to Agatu communities, of the state to ascertain the level of damage and need assessment of the people likened the carnage to Boko Haram insurgency in the North-Eastern.
But, Benue State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Augustine Akpen Leva has described the incessant attacks on farmers by suspected Fulani herders as a calculated attempt to dislodge farmers from their lands. The CAN chairman stated this yesterday when Arase visited Makurdi. David Mark donates relief materials Immediate past Senate President, David Mark, has decried the continued hostilities between Agatu community of Benue state and Fulani herdsmen of Nasarawa that has claimed hundreds of lives and properties worth millions of naira destroyed.
Thousands of families have been displayed just as the hostilities continued unabated. As a palliative measure, Senator Mark donated relief materials worth millions of naira to the displaced persons in Aila, Aku, Okokolo, Odugbeho and other war ravaged communities in Agatu local government area of the state. Materials distributed include: 100 mattresses, 100 bags of rice, 100 blankets, cooking oil, 100 cartons of Indomie noodles, 50 large mats, Maggi cubes, and cooking salts among others.
The Benue state Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) Deputy governorship candidate in the 2015 election Chief John Ngbede, in the company of some Agatu Chiefs and clan heads, received the items and distributed the materials on behalf of Senator Mark at the Internally Displaced persons ( IDP) camps in Otukpo and Apa local government areas . Mark lamented the carnage and called for calm. He appealed to the combatants to sheathe their swords and embrace peace because “we need to co-habit with each other to make life worth the while.” Mark expressed optimism that the hostilities would soon be a thing of the past since the federal government is now aware and isexpected to intervene just as security has been beefed up.