Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has vowed to use his second term in office to correct the mistakes of the past as he announced the setting up of an all-inclusive Peace, Truth, Reconciliation and Restitution (PTRR) Committee to reconcile the people of the middle belt state.
Governor Ortom who took his oath of office extended an olive branch to his political opponents as he called on them to join him in moving the state forward.
He, however, lamented that the state had witnessed large-scale violence perpetrated by armed herdsmen resulting in several deaths and destruction of properties.
According to him, “between January 2018 and today, armed herdsmen have killed about 700 people in Benue State. There are now about 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons, in eight IDPs camps located in Guma, Logo, Agatu and Makurdi local government areas. Besides, over 500,000 are living in uncompleted buildings and in host communities.
“The challenge now is how to get the displaced persons back to their ancestral homes as there are still sporadic attacks by the herdsmen. The situation is also a major threat to food security as we are already in another cropping season.
“In addition, the education of the future generation is also under threat due to the destruction of educational facilities by the herdsmen. This situation is also affecting maternal and child health as most of the primary healthcare centres in the affected places have been destroyed by the rampaging herdsmen.”
Regardless, Ortom promised to provide new security measures to address the situation and vowed that he would not surrender the state to criminals.
According to him, “new security measures must be in place to allow for development. The new wave of violent crimes, armed robbery assault, kidnapping, cultism and trafficking in persons cannot be tolerated. I will not surrender this state to criminals.
“Today, I call on all stakeholders in the Benue project to join hands to stop these dangerous crimes in our state. Our government is supporting security agencies to put in place, measures to eliminate kidnapping and other violent crimes in this state.
“Traditional rulers are enjoined to make extra effort to ensure that no one is kidnapped in their domain. I call on religious leaders to also pray and show uncommon interest in this issue.”
The governor warned that any politician found colluding with criminals to perpetuate crime in the state would be severely dealt with within the confines of the law, adding that, “our women and youth also have a role to play in their communities so that this all-inclusive strategy will help us save our communities from the emerging wave of crime.
“I call on the police and other security agencies to continue to work hard and closely with our people and communities to stamp out crime.
“The Chief Judge and the Judiciary should not take this call for action against kidnapping and violent crimes lightly. The Honorable Speaker and the members of the State House of Assembly should also consider a legislative onslaught so that kidnapping and associated violent crimes will be kicked out of our dear state.
“This is because these crimes have the capacity to destroy our social economy. They scare away potential investors and slow down our productivity. I am very serious about this and I repeat that as the governor of this state, I will not abandon this state to criminals.
“Political thuggery is not allowed in Benue. Our great PDP youths should serve as examples to others and help in promoting peaceful existence. Any criminal actions such as beating up people or disrupting meetings by our youth will be treated even more sternly to serve as an example to others.”
On the proposed Peace, Truth, Reconciliation and Restitution (PTRR) Committee, Ortom noted that the development and progress of the state would be enhanced by togetherness.
While commenting on the benefits of reconciliation, he stated: “The benefits that Benue state has derived from my reconciliation with the former Governor Rt. Hon. Dr. Gabriel Suswam is obvious to all. An institutional structure at the state level to reconcile individuals and parties in conflict will be a veritable instrument that will put our state on an irreversible path of growth and progress.”
The inauguration ceremony was witnessed by prominent Benue politicians including the three elected Senators for the state, former governor Gabriel Suswam, Abba Maro, former Senate Presidents, Dr. Iorchia Ayu and David Mark, elected members of the House of Representatives and House of Assembly, party chieftains and traditional rulers amongst others.