The Coalition Of Civil Society Groups For Peace And Security (CCGPS) has condemned the illegality of State sponsored militia in the country.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Lagos, the National President of Coalition Of Civil Society Groups For Peace And Security, Otunba Kola Salawu therefore called for State of emergency in Benue and Taraba States as well as setting up Judicial Commission of Inquiry
Excerpt is the full text of the press conference:
EXCERPTS OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS FOR PEACE AND SECURITY (CCGPS) HELD AT DE’MORRIS HOTEL, LAGOS ON THURSDAY JANUARY 11, 2018 TO ADDRESS STATE SPONSORSHIP OF MILITIAS IN CERTAIN PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.
The Coalition of Civil Society Groups for Peace and Security (CCGPS) has followed recent events in Benue state, where the state government is in a death tussle with rampaging herdsmen, with keen interest and is genuinely worried that the situation is being manipulated to make it fester. We also note with concerns the revived hostilities on the Mambila Plateau, which has now been proven to be part of a larger plot by some politicians to pave the way to their own wealth with human corpses.
We do not in any way condone the atrocities committed by those that have taken the laws into their own hands and engaged in wanton destruction of human life and property. The extra-judicial execution of even one person is condemnable under any circumstance so we condemn the killing of scores of Benue state indigenes as abhorrent and reprehensible. We warn that what happened was unacceptable and must never again be repeated irrespective of the provocation.
CCGPS however wants to squarely place the blame for what happened on the doorsteps of the political leadership, the state governors of the affected states. We have no other option than to indict the Governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, for spending more energy in stoking the fires of division as opposed to delivering the dividends of democracy to those that elected him. Instead of empowering the people of his state by creating economic opportunities he has brought the hapless people a harvest of deaths, avoidable deaths. He seems to have succeeded in using the farmers/herders’ crisis to divert attention from his failure to deliver governance to the people of the state arising from his dearth of ideas.
In our view, Mr. Ortom is able to pursue this vampirism agenda of bloodsucking because no persons or group sufficiently held him to account when he first embarked on this ego trip of offering human sacrifice with scores of souls. It has been insinuated in some quarters that the governor is pursuing a goal of spilling seven drums of human blood that his voodoo priests have asked him to drench Benue state land with in order to win re-election. As enlightened people, this is an allegation that we are ordinarily quick to dismiss but for the questionable way Mr. Ortom has been behaving to provoke more crisis that will only lead to the shedding of more blood.
Our group is in custody of credible information that the Benue State Government through its arming of the State Civilian Joint Task Force after passing a law to restrict open grazing is responsible for the renewed hostility between the Fulani herdsmen and Farmers across the State. The youths he misled with the uniform of Livestock Guards, after signing the law, brazenly went on an extortion spree against herders while not a few of them appropriated the said law to engage in cattle rustling. The logical thing was for the governor that empowered them to urgently call them to order but instead it appeared Mr. Ortom was in competition to project himself as a bigger tout-governor than another tout that is pursuing a similar agenda.
In the aftermath of the hostile reaction of herders to the extortion and pillaging by Livestock Guards, Mr. Ortom should have sought patriotic solution but it appears that he has now rather resorted to plotting mayhem with any willing politician and colluding neighbors. We saw the Benue state governor’s reaction of throwing tantrums when his Nasarawa state counterpart refused to be join his proposed destructive alliance, Mr. Ortom resorted to name calling and leveling unfounded allegations as a means of hitting out against Nasarawa state.
He is not alone in this brash behavior that is costing human life. Gentlemen of the press, recall that it was earlier reported that the Taraba State Government through the Governor, Mr. Darius Ishiaku used the state’s security agencies and armed militias commit the Mambila genocide, killing members of a particular ethic group in large number. Till date this atrocity too has not been investigated in order to see that justice is done to the victims of this crisis. Taraba has is consequently an inspiration to Benue state Governor.
Even more frightening is the intelligence available to this Coalition that the Taraba Stage Governor is recruiting another set of ethnic militias for the purpose of enforcing his version of yet to be passed anti-open grazing law. The groups he has assembled are primed to take the laws into their hands and mow down innocent citizens of a particular ethnic stock. He has reportedly boasted that the pogrom earlier orchestrated by him and executed by his minions would be child’s play compared to what he has in stock for anyone that dares crosses his path to the grazing law.
The essence of the briefing is therefore to call on the Federal Government to immediately declare a State of Emergency in Taraba State and any other state where the governor as the Chief Security Officer willfully allows the security situation to degenerate to the point where mass murder is committed. The declaration of a State of Emergency in Taraba State will allow for full scale investigation and also stop the militias armed by the governor from further harming any ethnic group to cause unnecessary crisis in the polity for political reasons. Benue state must similarly be placed under emergency rule since its governor has not only confirmed his lack of capacity to arrest the situation but has proven beyond reasonable doubt that he is a core part of the problem.
The Federal Government must show leadership since the blame will grow to become its own if it allows ethnic militias to fester unchecked. Aside the international odium it will pour on the country, the current crop of federal officials may find themselves as guests at The Hague since there is all possibility that any indifference would equal an active support for the crimes being committed by officials of the second tier of government; there is the additional risk that the militias being armed by these governors would one day take on federal law enforcement personnel. Not too long ago we felt the negative consequences of using ethnic militias on citizens as was the case with the Ombatse militia in Nasarawa state, which makes the militias recently apprehended in Benue State a great concern.
Such constitutional breaches in governors using militias is a slippery slope Nigeria must not again navigate as we must be reminded of the judicial killings that took place under the so called Bakasai Boys in Anambra State under the then Governor Mbadinuju, the state remains chaotic till date because of that ill-advised intervention.
Having investigated and verified that Mr. Ortom did arm those youths to cause mayhem in Benue state, we demand that he immediately steps aside as Governor of the State to allow for full investigation into the matter as he has demonstrated total ineptitude in protecting even those he once referred to as indigenous Fulanis in his own State. He is now heavily compromised and his impartiality can no longer be guaranteed in this whole process, he should resign to allow for genuine peace building to take place in the state. We make this demands with all sense of responsibility because the fire being stoked by Mr. Ortom in Benue state would eventually spread to engulf the country if not urgently contained.
Furthermore, we premise our demand on the fact that Mr. Ortom, with his Taraba side-kick, has breached Section 227 of the Constitution (as amended) that states “No association shall retain, organize, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organized and trained or equipped for that purpose.”
In the meantime, we urge the Presidency to fully deploy a combined team of the military and the civil police to these two states for as long as it takes for sanity to be restored. The directive to the personnel so deployed must be clear: they are there to defend Nigeria and not pander to any State Governor.
We warn governors that are nursing the ambition of copying the criminal act of arming militias to immediately give up the ill-advised plan.
Otunba Kola Salawu