Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari is suffering from guilty conscience especially with regard to the manner in which he had handled the 2018 Fulani pogrom in the state.
Ortom stated this on Sunday through his Special Adviser (Media and ICT), Tahav Agerzua, in his reaction to the allegation by the presidency that he was embarking on hate campaign against the president.
“Governor Ortom has not embarked on any hate speech against the president. Maybe it is the conscience of the president that has worried him. Otherwise, Ortom has never at anytime, said the president wanted to Islamise the state.
“Instead, Ortom had quoted Fulani groups including the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH) which addressed a press conference on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, saying that they would resist the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law (2017).
“They (MAKH) said that the crisis in Benue State was the struggle for the natural resources of the Benue valley. These are the people that Ortom had complained about and Ortom addressed a letter to the Presidency, Inspector General of Police, and the security services that these people had declared war against the state and that they should be arrested.
“Maybe Buhari’s conscience is worrying him because his support for these Fulani groups has not made him to arrest them up till now. When they threatened to invade Benue State in May 2017, he did not take any action until they carried out their threat in January 2018. So, maybe that is his conscience that is worrying him.
“Otherwise, Ortom has consistently commended the president for sending Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) that has chased away the invaders to neighboring states where they stage attacks now and go back. Ortom has acknowledged that the spate of attacks has reduced.”
On the allegation by the Presidency that the governor had not paid salaries and pensions for months, Ortom said the allegation showed that the Presidency was not aware of what was happening in the state.
The governor who insisted that his administration had been up to date with payment of salaries since January 2018 till date, said all that was left to be paid to workers was arrears being owed and for which funds were being sourced to offset within the shortest possible time.
“Now, when you say Ortom should concentrate on paying salary it means that the Presidency is not on ground and does not know what happens in the state. Ortom has been consistent in the payment of salary since January 2018 to December 2018.
“What is left now is arrears which he is sourcing for funds to offset. So, when you say that Ortom should concentrate on paying salaries and pensions, you are not up to date. It means that the Presidency is not even in touch with what is happening in the country.”
He further posited that the Anti Open Grazing law had nothing to do with the invasion and attacks on the state by Fulani herdsmen but an agenda by Fulani to conquer, dislodge and occupy lands belonging to other indigenous land owners.
“Farmer-herders clashes are not limited to Benue State. What is happening in Zamfara, Plateau, Kaduna, Adamawa and other states?
“There is a group that calls itself Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM). They issued a statement on the 14th of January 2018, in Kano that what was happening was Jihad. That they intend to deep the Quran in the sea but the Tiv people stopped them.
“Ortom is not against the Presidency. In fact, in several places, he commended the Presidency for Operation Whirl Stroke. So, for Garba Shehu to issue this statement, it means that the president has a guilty conscience because his ministers of Defence and Internal Affairs and IGP have all come out to say that it is our grazing law that is causing trouble.
“Not realising that these crises started in Benue State even before the signing and implementation of the anti grazing law. It is not the law that is responsible because in several other states where there is no such law, Fulani are carrying out the campaign to wipe out the indigenous population and take over the land,” he stated.