*Shocked IGP flouted his Benue relocation order
*1,878 killed, over 99,427 households displaced by herdsmen – Ortom
*Appeals for halt to herdsmen bloodshed in Benue
By Chesa Chesa (Abuja) and Austine Tule (Makurdi)
President Muhammadu Buhari appeared to have dropped hints of his re-lection bid on Monday when he told leaders of Benue State that he would only make promises to them when he comes back for campaigns.
After listening to the avalanche of requests by Governor Samuel Ortom and other stakeholders, the President enjoined them to pray for the economy to improve, declaring that he would not make any promises during the trip.
He, however, said rhetorically that, “when coming back on campaign, if coming back on campaign, I may promise.”
He nonetheless appealed to the leaders of various groups in the state to convince their constituents that the Federal Government is doing its best to end the recurring attacks by armed herdsmen in various parts of the country.
At a Town Hall meeting in Government House, Makurdi, during his one day visit to Benue State, the President urged them to show restraint and allow the security agencies handle the untenable situation.
According to him, “the governor and I, and others here know that we will leave one day, but the relationship between farmers and herders will continue.
“I urge you to keep in touch with them and advise them to live peacefully. Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups with different cultures and nobody can question God for putting us together”.
While noting that he was not in the habit of publicly rebuking his appointees as many would desire, Buhari said that he preferred to quietly “read the riot act” as he did to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) when the Benue attacks began.
The President also said he was not aware that the IGP did not spend up to 24 hours in Benue State as directed by him, but rather relocated to Nasarawa State and hinted that the information only got to him in the course of his interaction with the Benue stakeholders.
Buhari added that he even shared the IGP’s security report on the Benue crisis with Senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade, who are from the state.
Recalling his Civil War memories with military officers from Benue State, the President noted that his nostalgic experience with such persons would never allow him to do harm to the state.
In his response, Governor Ortom said: “You are our father and we appreciate your visit here in the hope that our lingering challenges will be over.
“You are known as a man of integrity and uprightness and you have always fought for justice.
“Your Excellency, on January 11, 2018, we buried 73 citizens, including women and children. All of them were brutally slaughtered in their sleep by armed herdsmen in the early hours of the New Year 2018.
“At least 65 more have been killed in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas after the mass burial.
“Just a few days ago, 26 of our men, women and children in Okpokwu Local Government Area were killed. Also over 5,000 people were displaced in Mbatoho Community in Makurdi Local Government Area.
“Attacks by armed herdsmen have continued in various communities in the state leading to the displacement of over 170,000 people.
“More than 60 per cent of these figures are children who have been forced out of school. These and many others now live in the eight Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps scattered across the state namely: Abagana, Daudu1 and 2, Gbajimba, Tse Ginde, Anyiin, Abeda and Ugba. Their homes and farms have also been destroyed and taken over by armed herdsmen.
“Mr. President, thank you for your response to these attacks. You quickly directed the Inspector -General of Police to relocate to Benue and stop the killings.Issues of capacity and integrity may have accounted for the disobedience of your orders but you responded swiftly.
“At your directive, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also distributed some relief materials to the IDP Camps. Given the enormity of the situation, this was like a drop in the ocean.
“Thank you for the deployment of the Police Special Forces which proved useful in reducing the attacks. Some of the gallant Police and Civil Defence Officers paid the supreme price in trying to keep the peace. Our sympathies go to their families and loved ones.
“Your Excellency, we plead with you to take steps to reduce the suffering of the over 170,000 of our countrymen in the eight IDPs’ camps.
“The Federal Government should compensate them and assist in the rebuilding of their homes as promised by the Committee on Displaced People headed by the Vice President. The primary and secondary schools, churches and health centres destroyed in several communities should be rebuilt for use again.
“Although concerted attacks on communities in the state commenced in 2011, between 2013-2017, 47 attacks were recorded and over 1,878 men, women and children were slaughtered in cold blood across 14 local government areas of the state.
“Another 750 were seriously wounded while 200 were missing. Over 99,427 households were affected. We have lost an average of 47 per cent of Internally Generated Revenues due to attacks by armed herdsmen in the State.
“This underscores the problem between herdsmen and farmers. It was clear to us that increased population, shrinking arable land, global warming and desertification as well as the need to diversify the economy through farming, all make open grazing unattractive,” he said.
Governor Ortom maintained that ranching remained the best global best practice and called for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for the being responsible for the killings.
He also called on the Federal Government to take over the management of the Benue University Teaching Hospital, College of Education Katsina-Ala and Benpoly.
The representative of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Benue State Chapter, Shettima Mohammed, said that they were not involved in the crisis in the state.
He blamed the attacks on Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH), stressing that the MACBAN was peace loving which was the complete opposite of the MAKH, a militia group.