From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Following renewed spate of attacks on Benue communities by suspected herdsmen, stakeholders in the state have resolved to engage the services of community volunteer guards popularly known as vigilante to assist the conventional security to better secure Benue communities.
This formed part of the resolutions reached at the end of an expanded stakeholders meeting held at the Government House in Makurdi on Thursday.
Reading the resolutions to newsmen at the end of the meeting, Governor Samuel Ortom who is Chairman of the meeting explained that the decision became necessary as a result of the increasing spate of attacks on the state in the last few weeks.
“The meeting resolved that the renewed attacks by armed herdsmen have overstretched the security agencies and posed a lot of challenges. When it’s happening in multiple places, it becomes a challenge.
“Therefore, the Benue State Government should fully enforce the “Law to Provide for the Establishment of Community Volunteer Guards (Vigilante) and for the Purposes Connected Therewith” which was enacted in the year 2000.
“Benue State believes in the rule of law and due process and so, we looked at other ways of trying to help the security agencies posted to Benue and we adjusted the law establishing volunteer guards known as vigilante.
“The stakeholders meeting has adopted the law to come in full force. Volunteer guards would be constituted at the local government levels with council Chairman as chairman with the DPO and others as members and social welfare person as secretary.
He added that while the State Government has been mandated to support the Vigilante with logistics as provided in the Law, recruitment of the Vigilante should be carried out in the 23 Local Government Areas of Benue State.
The Governor explained further that the meeting which was attended by stakeholders across political and religious lines reinforced the commitment of Benue people to the enforcement of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017.
“The meeting emphasized the need for all stakeholders to join hands in tackling insecurity in Benue State devoid of political, religious and ethnic sentiments.
The Governor explained further that all recruitments would be done at the community level stressing that those to be recruited should be between 18 and 50 years of age.
“They must be people who have lived in that community for a minimum of six months and they must be people of impeccable character and not ex-convicts.
“They (recruits) must have weapons that are recognised or linsenced by the law so that they can rise up and defend the people in times of external aggression. The recruitment would be done immediately at the local government level,” Ortom said.
Highpoint of the meeting was the unanimous passing of a vote of confidence on the Governor by leaders of the three main Socio-Cultural Organizations in Benue State; Mzough-U-Tiv, Ochetoha, K’Idoma and Omini ‘Igede for his efforts in providing security in the State.