Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has raised concerns over an invasion and attack by armed herdsmen on his farm located in Makurdi, the state capital, last weekend.
The Governor who disclosed this in a chat with reporters on Wednesday explained that a vehicle belonging to the state Livestock Guards was riddled with bullets and the tyres deflated by the herdsmen whom he said came into the farm with sophisticated weapons.
He said it took the swift intervention of men of the Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) who were called upon to repel the weapon-wielding herdsmen from the farm after almost one hour.
The Governor noted that the development further gave credence to the fact that criminal herdsmen were returning to the state on hearing about the planned withdrawal of OPWS.
“Today, as I talk to you, they are occupying many parts of Benue. They’re in Agatu, Makurdi, Guma, Logo, Katsina-Ala, Kwande and so on. They’re there in their numbers with sophisticated weapons. So, you see where the situation is headed,” the Governor said.
“We don’t want to begin to look for self-help. So, we want the conventional security apparatus of the state to support us completely to either withdraw the weapons from these people and send them away because, in Benue State, the law prohibiting open grazing is still in force.”
The Governor revealed that he had personally met with President Muhammadu Buhari and appealed to the Federal Government through him to allow OPWS to stay in the state for at least another year.
“When we heard the plan to withdraw OPWS, I immediately protested. I personally met with Mr President and delivered my protest letter and he acted on it by sending it to the Defense Headquarters that constituted OPWS.
“What I have received here today is the delegation from the Chief of Defense Staff to verify the presentation I made to Mr President. So, they have received reports. They are going around. They are visiting the IDP camps themselves, they’re talking to stakeholders.
“They have also spoken to me and I told them my recommendation that at least for the next one year OPWS should still remain here in Benue because, since that plan to withdraw them went out, criminals have started flooding back to Benue State and herdsmen have come in their numbers with sophisticated weapons.”
The Governor expressed optimism, however, that the visit of the team from Defense Headquarters will have a positive impact so that OPWS will continue their work in the central Nigerian state.