By Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Recently, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, inaugurated the Benue Volunteer Guards (BVG), presiding over the passing-out parade of the first batch of 500 volunteers of the paramilitary security outfit. It was sequel to the completion of a two-week capacity building on some basic aspects of their paramilitary assignment.
The governor explained that the establishment of the outfit became imperative following the worsening insecurity, not just in Benue State, but also across the country. He slammed the Federal Government for its refusal to decisively address the situation:
“It is owing to this failure that the Benue State Government decided to revisit the Benue State Vigilante Law of 2000, enacted to complement the conventional security agencies in the state.
“The law had to be amended to pave way for the volunteer guards to assist the conventional security agencies to curb insecurity in the state. By the provisions of the new law, the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards can therefore now carry legally approved weapons which we have duly provided.”
Fashioned after the regional security outfit in the South West, “Amotekun”, the BVG by the amended law, would pave way for the volunteer guards to assist the conventional security agencies curb insecurity in the state. It also empowered the BVG to bear legal weapons.
The governor promised that government would apply for a license to legally procure AK47, AK49 and other sophisticated weapons for them to enable them effectively tackle murderous terrorists. Government also procured 30 operational vehicles and 200 communication gadgets to enable the volunteer guards function maximally.
He was convinced BVG would further improve security: “Banditry, kidnapping, robbery and most of all, the issue of terrorist Fulani herdsmen attack will be reduced to the barest minimum. BVG operations will be strictly guided by the law. Any personnel found operating outside the said law will be shown the way out forthwith.”
Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Lt. Col. Paul Hemba (rtd), said the guards were trained in riot squad, unarmed combat squad and in intelligence gathering: “They are to work with the conventional security agencies at the grassroots to curb insecurity.
They should be professional in the discharge of their duties.”
Tor Tiv and Chairman, Benue State Council of Chiefs, James Ayatse, commended the state House of Assembly for enacting the enabling law while pledging the full support of the traditional institution to the security outfit.
President-General, Mzoughu Tiv, Iorbee Ihagh and President-General, Tiv Youth Organisation, Timothy Hembaor, described the establishment of guards as a welcome development. They pledged the support of the socio- cultural organisation.
Terdoo Emmanuel, a shop owner in Makurdi, said: “BVG is a welcome development. It will help in securing the state, especially the grassroots, which has been witnessing attacks. It is sad that Benue can no longer live up to its name as the food basket of the nation because of the activities of criminal herdsmen, which have left farmers and their families in IDP camps for years now.
“This farming population currently taking refuge in IDP camps can no longer go to farms meaning the food production capacity of the state has drastically dropped. It is hoped that with BVG to complement the efforts of the conventional security agencies, farmers can return to their farms and food production will improve.”
But James Iorpenda suspected that the governor might be out to score cheap political point with BVG: “The governor and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may be planning to use the BVG to rig the forthcoming general elections. Why he would be establishing such security outfit at the end of his eight year tenure?”
Fred Ede, a schoolteacher, feared that the establishment of the new security outfit could further plunge the state into more attacks.
State secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Ibrahim Galma, told Daily Sun on phone: “Any security outfit that is established to protect the citizens of the state is always welcome by us. But the emphasis by the governor that the security outfit is going to fight criminal Fulani is what we are not at home with.
“We should remember that we are all Nigerians. I cannot be displaced in Benue State. Some Benue people are in Sokoto and other northern states. We should recognise that we are all one.
“There are criminals in every tribe. All we need to do for development to thrive is for all of us to join hands and fight the criminals among us irrespective of tribal or religious affiliations.
“We all know that whether you are a cattle herder, medical doctor, lawyer, teacher or trader, whatever you do or whoever you are, without security, you cannot succeed. The safety of our lives and properties is very paramount. That is what we are all looking for.
“MACBAN is not in support of terrorism at all but political and tribal talks will not bring peace to the state. When I heard the governor saying repeatedly about the security outfit coming to fight murderous Fulani, I felt disappointed.
“It shouldn’t be about fighting only murderous Fulani but about fighting criminals and criminality no matter the tribe. Miyetti Allah is in full support of the BVG. We are ready to cooperate with them 100 per cent. We can even go to their office and give them information too.
“We hope that they are specially trained people too who will fight criminality in the real sense of it. Anything short of that may result to the unexpected, which no one prays for. All we need is unity to fight criminality in our society. If you’re buying AK-47 to give people to protect the state, it is okay, but it shouldn’t be about fighting a particular tribe.”