Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the people of Benue to exercise restraint and learn to live in peace with one another.
The President, who was in Benue on Monday following the sustained attacks on the people of the state by Fulani herdsmen since the beginning of the year, notably neither condoled the people nor condemned the attacks.
While noting that the relationship between farmers and herders will continue no matter what, President Buhari said he had friends from Benue and there was no way he could deliberately overlook the crisis in the state or any part of the country.
It would be recalled that as soon as the Benue killings started, the President was visited by Senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade and he directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to immediately relocate to the state; the President however stated that he was not aware that the Inspector General only stayed a day before relocating out of state.
“As leaders, we have to be loyal to people below us. What I did was to call the IGP and gave him directive to come to Benue. I didn’t know he didn’t stay here,” he said while urging Benue leaders to return back to their various constituencies and appeal for restraint.
Earlier, Governor Samuel Ortom while welcoming the President to Benue State informed him that after the burial of the 73 people who were killed in the state on the 11th of January, 91 more people have been killed by herdsmen in Guma, Logo and Okpokwu local government areas.
Ortom, who said that Buhari cannot be held responsible for the killings because the attacks predated him, noted that following the New Year’s attacks, over 170,000 people who were displaced from their homes now live in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps scattered across the state, while over 5000 more people were recently displaced by the same Fulani herdsmen in Mbatoho community.
Ortom noted that as recently as Sunday, two policemen were killed by the marauding herdsmen in Guma local government area. He appealed to the President to ‘upgrade’ the Exercise Ayem Akpatuma into a full Operation so that the attacked communities can return to their homes as soon as possible.
“We hope Ayem Akpatuma can be upgraded from an exercise to an operation because the herdsmen have taken over villages and our food have become feed for their cattle. If Ayem Akpatuma is upgraded, they will also help in tracking down Ghana,” referring to the notorious armed bandit still at large.
Ortom, who averred that the middlebelt state had no armed militia, recalled that on assumption of office in 2015, his administration instituted an amnesty program during which those who had illegal weapons surrendered them, adding that Terwase Akwaza (aka Ghana) initially surrendered his weapons but later went returned to crimes and declared wanted by the police.
He also urged President Buhari to order the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH), the cattle herders association and lobby, for, according to him, making good their threats to mobilize Fulani people all across West Africa against the Benue Anti Open Grazing Law.
The Governor, who reasoned that it was not right to allow just everyone from everywhere to come into the country without valid papers all in the name of ECOWAS membership, stressed the need for the Federal Government to strengthen the enforcement of the ECOWAS protocol.