President Muhammadu Buhari will today meet with Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and other stakeholders from the state – in a bid to resolve the crisis sparked by the herdsmen killings.
No fewer than 73 victims of the herdsmen’s actions were buried at the weekend. Over 60,000 displaced persons are in five camps.
About 60 injured people were on admission at the Benue State Teaching Hospital in Makurdi. Some of them have been discharged.
A victim with a broken skull has been taken to Primus Hospital in Abuja for referral service.
The state government has released more than N100million to take care of the victims and the displaced.
Ortom, in a chat with The Nation in Makurdi, said he had ordered the arrest of those instigating the Tiv-Hausa clash or any form of ethnic crisis.
He also insisted that those who attacked innocent farmers in the state are known. Besides, the governor stressed that the state will reject the creation of cattle colonies as a solution to attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
Ortom demanded the arrest of the leaders of Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore, especially its President Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, and National Secretary Saleh Alhassan.
He said he raised the alarm of impending attack in a memo to the then Acting President, the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Inspector-General of Police, and the Directorate of State Security Service(DSS).
The governor added that when President Muhammadu Buhari returned from his medical leave, he sent to him another memo in October 2017.
Ortom said: “We are meeting on Monday. The stakeholders are going to meet with the President. The stakeholders will see whatever the Federal Government is able to put on the table and if the stakeholders accept, I will abide by it.
“It is Benue stakeholders. It is at our own instance; we requested that we are going to meet with him.
“So far, we have over 60,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), but we are still counting. We look forward to these people going back home very soon. Some had to run away out of fear because of the way these people came to attack. They came around 2am, 3am, 5am in the dead of the night.
“It was more of a guerrilla war against the people. In some cases, they did not even shoot guns so that the next person would not hear. They come to your house, wake you up and slash your throat.
“We are doing our best but the situation is under control. For the past four days, we had no news of any killings. It was only on Saturday that I heard that one person was killed. I am yet to get full briefing on that.”
Asked of what will be his response to offers by the Presidency, Ortom replied: “I am very open, I am a democratically elected governor; it is what the people want that I go with.
“So, if you are able to convince my people that we can tinker with the law or do whatever, I am ready to go. I have no hard feelings about it .
“ I will do whatever can bring progress and stop these mindless killings whether they are Fulani or herdsmen, Hausa, Igbo or Tiv, Idoma or Igede; whatever can stop the killings, I am ready for it.”
The governor said he saw the killings coming and took proactive measures to alert the presidency and security agencies.
He said: “Yes, I saw it coming. The bill was signed into law on the 22nd of May 2017 and in June, Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore did a press conference and threatened that they will not accept the law and the law will not be implemented in Benue State. Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore.
“This was in the papers, they are on video, they are also on audio, it was an open thing; it wasn’t anything hidden. One would have expected that in a normal situation, the security agencies would have picked them because threatening not to obey the law and inciting people should an offence under the constitution of Nigeria. And this was not done.
“But as a law-abiding citizen, I decided to formally report them to the then Acting President in writing, the NSA, the Inspector-General of Police, the Directorate of State Service (DSS), and called for the arrest of the leaders. This never happened. They continued the threat and I reminded them again.
“Later, the President had come back. Again, in October, I wrote to the Presidency and all the security agencies, reminding them of the need to arrest these people. And these people continued with their threats that they will make it impossible to implement the law and that they will mobilise their people all over the world to come against us.”
Ortom blamed the leaders of Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore as the masterminds of the killings.
He said: “It is not as if the attackers are not known. The attackers are known. These people are responsible, I mean the Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore. Their activities are not hidden; they are in the open. So, that is where we are.
“Even if it is unknown mercenaries, they were hired by Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore because the evidence is that they did threaten that they will not allow the law to see the light of the day.
“That is why I am calling for the arrest of the President of Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bello Bodejo and the National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan. These are not good people, they are trying to destroy Nigeria and the image of Mr. President.”
On the proposed cattle colonies by the Federal Government, Ortom insisted that it was unacceptable to the people of Benue State,
He said: “On my perception on cattle colonies, maybe in other states. In Benue State, it is not possible; ranching remains the best because I don’t have 5,000 hectares of land to offer to the Federal Government to do cattle colonies.
“The Minister is from Benue State; he is the Minister of Agriculture, and he is into agriculture too as his private business, let him come and show me one place where you have 1,000 hectares of land that is free for people to come and do colony. There is none. That is my problem.”
Concerning Tiv-Hausa clash on Saturday in Makurdi, Ortom said the state government had curtailed it.
He said: “No, no. There is no need for that. In fact, I have directed the security agencies that anyone that violates the law, anyone that they see instigating or fighting against any other person should be dealt with according to the law.”