Governor Samuel Ortom in his reaction to the comments of Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali on the invasion of the state and killings by Fulani herdsmen, stated that they were an indications that the minister was part of the conspiracy against Benue State. He spoke with newsmen at the Benue Peoples House recently. AUSTINE TULE, provides excerpts:
What’s your reaction to comments credited to the Minister of Defence that Benue and Taraba killings are as a result of Anti-Open Grazing Laws?
It’s unfortunate but I want to console myself that that thing is not coming from the Honourable Minister, but if it did, I’ll say that it is very very unfortunate. Then the solution to the security challenges we have in this country is not in sight having those kinds of people in position who are not able to give quality advice and to also proffer solution to the security problems we have here.
Take for instance, if you say it is because of the law that killings by herdsmen are going on in Benue, is there any law prohibiting open grazing in Adamawa State? Is there any one in Plateau State? Is there any law in Kaduna, Ondo, Bayelsa, Imo, Ebonyi, Delta or Edo States? In Edo state, cattle have taken over even schools. This is provoking. It is like dancing on the graves of those people who were murdered and slaughtered in this state on the first of January. It’s unfortunate that you have those kinds of people who are saddled with the responsibility of providing security for our country. I do not want to join issues with him but I will personally see him and try to find out why he had to say that.
The other day, a report came from the Department of State Security, DSS that it was the Islamic State of West Africa, ISWA Terrorist Group Organisation that is taking over and I also heard that the minister was quoted as saying we should accommodate foreigners; foreigners who come here illegally should be accommodated? So if a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is coming out to encourage our citizens to do illegal things, I now begin to see why they have given immunity that is the prerogative of the President and the Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors to herdsmen who kill and to even cattle. So cattle in Nigeria have immunity more than human beings. This is unfortunate and I look forward that he will apologise to us and retract what he said because it is an insult on our collective leadership. It is wrong and let the minister know that we are more intelligent than what he thinks we are. We will continue to do the right thing, we’re not asking for anything outside the laws of this land. The law prohibiting open grazing that we have enacted was legitimate as enshrined in the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and as law abiding citizens, we will continue to do this.
I want to advise the federal government to face this challenge squarely because it is their responsibility to provide security for lives and property because we as a state don’t own security apparatus of this country, so it is their responsibility. So instead of diverting attention, today they will say that Ortom is arming 6,000 militia and tomorrow they will go and sponsor people to write rubbish about me and all that just to try to divert attention. Why not face the real issue that is confronting us? This is a monster that has the capacity of consuming the entire country and we must arise as leaders and support Mr. President to ensure that we surmount this.
Don’t you think some of these comments coming from appointees of Mr. President and agencies of the Federal Government are indications that they are acting his script?
Well, I’ll see what Mr. President will do because I’m sure that he must have also heard what the minister said and I expect that he’ll respond to that because it’s wrong. But I don’t want to believe that the Mr. President I know and whom I supported and I’m still supporting is an upright person who is always truthful and he’ll say the right thing and caution his minister because I can’t believe that a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at this time will come and add salt to our injury. We are pained by what this man came out to say yesterday.
Are you not scared that these people might be ganging up against you?
Whatever it is I say that it does not matter as long as I’m on the side of the truth and doing the wish of my people, I’m satisfied. I don’t care about any gang-up. It doesn’t matter. But I heard it – gang up to do this and that but it doesn’t matter.
We understand that apart from the 73 people that were given mass burial, people are still being killed. Can we get an aggregate figure of those killed since the renewed attacks on Benue communities on first January, 2018?
I’ve not gotten the complete figure but there is a committee working on that. But even on the burial, I did say that the deaths were more than 73. Even yesterday, there were some killings in Guma including a police man, one police man was wounded and one is still missing. You see these people are joking. If terrorists that are hired by herdsmen under the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore that are known by the Federal Government have gone beyond killing our people who are civilians to killing security personnel, if security men are being killed in this manner, where is our safety? That is what the minister of Defence should be concerned about. They know where these people are so they are making me to believe that the Minister of Defence is also part of the conspiracy against Benue State and is not about grazing. It’s about occupation, taking over the land and that is what Miyetti Allah said and they have accepted that it should be so. This is not correct.