From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Deputy Governor of Benue State, Engr. Benson Abounu has called on Governor Henry Umahi of Ebonyi State to state where in the constitution or any of Nigeria’s laws a Governor of another state is permitted to deploy indigenes of his state to provide security in another state.
Abounu made the call in a statement he personally signed in response to a statement credited to Umahi that he would deploy Ebonyi youths to protect troubled part of Benue that is sharing Boundary with his state.
“We are going to send our youths to that place (Benue State) to go and protect the people over there, it doesn’t matter who own them, the most important thing is to protect their lives,” Governor Umahi was quoted to have said.
But in a swift reaction, the Benue’s Deputy Governor described Umahi’s statement as shocking and a deliberate attempt to destroy the fraternal relationship between the governments and people of the two states.
“The holder of an exalted position of State Governor ought not only be cautious in his public utterances, but should also ensure that he is properly informed on any issue before going public. In the case of the killing in Benue communities on the border between our state and Ebony, His Excellency Governor David Umahi got it all wrong,” Abounu said.
The Benue Deputy Governor maintained that he did not at any point say that Benue State government found it difficult determine whether the victims of the attack were either from Benue State or from Ebonyi State.
“We knew from the onset that the killings took place in Benue State, and that all the victims were indigenes of our State. The Chairman of Ado local government council, Chief James Oche reported the attack soon after it happened, and our Security Adviser immediately put all security measures in place.
“What I said was that, when soldiers from Operation Whirl Stroke were sent to the area on Sunday, same day of the attack, they couldn’t access the troubled spot in order to see the bodies of the victims due to the conflicting signals they were getting on the ground concerning the location of where they were; whether it was in Benue State or Ebonyi State.
“With the memory of the Killing of 12 soldiers by a local militia in Konshisha local government area still fresh in everyone’s mind, the soldiers pulled back, not wanting to be caught in a trap. It is also important to note that soldiers that came in from Ebonyi State faced the same dilemma, as they were also told that where they were was in Benue State, and they, therefore had to withdraw,” he stated.
While positing that the issue of security was too sensitive for anyone to play politics with, Abounu said it was rather unfortunate that Governor Umahi was tagging of Benue State indigenes as indigenes of Ebonyi State.
“We don’t know what makes His Excellency Governor Umahi think he has the powers to unleash “youths” from Ebonyi into Benue State to come and carry out his bidding. We hope he is not trying to ignite another conflict, which outcome, no one can foretell.
“His utterances and actions in recent times have created more tension along the volatile Benue/Ebonyi interstate boundary, and we are worried that the Chief Security Officer of a state could act and speak in such manner.
“It is pertinent to let the world know that following the unfortunate incident, I, Benue State Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu visited the area on Tuesday, 1st June, 2021 to sympathise with the victims and assist them overcome the problems of their displacement.
“That those injured in the attack were taken to Abakaliki, which is closer to the communities than Makurdi does not translate to a lack of commitment to the welfare of the people by the Benue State Government.”
Abounu therefore stressed the need for both Benue and Ebonyi State Governments to work in synergy at all times to collectively confront the problems that face the people of the two states.