*Declares attacks as ethnic cleansing
*We need military operation, not exercise – Ortom
By Chika Otuchikere
Leaders of the Middle Belt zone have accused President Muhammadu Buhari of abandoning them to fate as Fulani militia continued to kill them and destroy their property without any serious check from the Federal Government.
The stakeholders under the auspices of the Middle Belt Leaders Forum (MBF), lamented that even though they overwhelmingly voted for Buhari in 2015, the way and manner his administration handle matters relating to the region have made them believe they made a big mistake.
The leaders who met for several hours on Tuesday in Abuja and later addressed the press on the orgy of killings in the region, described the actions of the herdsmen as ethnic-cleansing aimed at wiping out the rightful owners of the zone.
The text of the forum was read by the MBF President, Bala Takaya.
He said: a�?It is no gainsaying to state that Nigeria of today is passing perilous times. More so, the Middle Belt region which is witnessing willful pogrom by way of ethnic-cleansing by the a�?foreigna�� Fulani herdsmen just to enable them wipe off all autochthonous nationalities from their ancestral lands.
a�?The most frightening part of it all is that the government, security and law enforcement agencies merely look the other way rather than chase, track and arrest them to face prosecution. These beg for a lot of questions.
a�?Why do the native communities of the Middle Belt region deserve such neglect from a government they entrusted their mandates through the ballot box?
a�?Is it not a wicked gesture of ingratitude that the Middle Belta��s citizens even in states such as Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Plateau, and Nasarawa, whose votes installed the All progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party, in their states, are even the most despoiled by the Fulani killers, while the government ignores the need to prevent the bloodshed?
a�?What we are experiencing under this dispensation is pure ethnic-cleansing aimed at disinheriting us of our ancestral landsa�?.
Takaya noted that although President Buhari in 2014 campaigned on three cardinal points of anti-corruption, economy and security, nearly three years into his presidencya��s life, the contrary is the real life experience of Nigerians.
He said that while the Presidency claimed victory over Boko Haram in the North East, there was the recent abduction of 110 girls from a government school in Dapchi.
Also, the forum condemned the Nigeria Police description of an incumbent governor as a a�?drowning mana�?, and observed that the killer-Fulani militia demonstrate their influence over the government by always choosing to strike as soon as the President rounds off a tour of the despoiled states, with even greater viciousness.
In a 10-point demand, the forum called for the immediate sack and prosecution of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, for alleged provocative statements over the Benue killings.
They also called for the proscription and declaration of the Fulani militia herdsmen as a terrorist organisation.
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has asked the Nigerian Army to upgrade the a�?Exercise Cat Racea�? to a full military operation to chase killer-herdsmen out of the state.
Ortom made the request on Monday when he visited the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPsa��) camps in Abagena, Daudu, United Nations and LGEA Gbajimba in Makurdi and Guma Local Government Areas (LGAs).
He recalled that the Army had carried out such operations in the East, South, West and North East which were not themed exercise.
The governor pointed out that what was happening in Benue was similar to what occurs in the North East where a�?Operation Lafiya Dolea�? was put in place to tackle the Boko Haram menace.
Ortom revealed that the herdsmen had sacked 50 communities and displaced over 170,000 persons, stressing that the camps were still witnessing the influx of the displaced persons.
The governor assured the IDPs that they would soon return to their homes to continue with their farming activities because the security agencies were working hard to ensure they restore peace.
He described the killer-herdsmen as terrorists, adding that it was a fact because they were well-armed.
He promised to continue buying drugs, food and other essentials to make them feel relatively comfortable in the camps.
The Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Emmanuel Shior, had disclosed that 120 births were recorded in the eight camps in the state.
He commended the state government for taking adequate care of the IDPs and sued for the continuous support of spirited individuals and groups to enable the agency take care of the IDPs.
The Parish Priest, St. Augustine Quasi Parish, Umenger, Rev. Fr. Godwin Tyagher, appreciated the governor for his swift action which reduced the calamity that would have befallen the people.
All the head teachers who spoke lamented that with the presence of the IDPs in their schools, the second term academic session had been hampered as the pupils were no longer going to school.
They urged the authorities to ensure that normalcy returns to enable school activities to commence.
A cross section of the IDPs appealed to the Federal Government to put in more efforts to ensure they returned to their homes.
Earlier, health officials at the camps had informed that 15 persons had lost their lives while staying at the camps.
*Declares attacks as ethnic cleansing