Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State following his resumption after his annual vacation spoke on issues on various issues including the institution of criminal proceedings against the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who he said are sponsors of the ongoing killings in the state pledging that he was determined to get justice for the Benue people.
By Peter Duru
While you were away, some of your security aides were transferred and before this, you alleged that there were threats to your life. Some have linked this action to a plot to eliminate you, what’s your take on this?
I was on vacation, and I also heard and saw it, but I did complain through the Commissioner of Police here in Makurdi that this was not right. In the whole country, you have the right, as governor, to select the immediate security personnel that work with you, and I think the attention of the authority of the Nigerian Police was drawn to this, and it was corrected the following day.
So to me, whether it was made in error or by mischief or whatever means, the important thing is that it was corrected, and today, all my aides are with me because I also saw the letter that was written that cases of transfer of Police officers, as far as Benue State was concerned, should be suspended indefinitely and I have all my aides.
So I don’t want to read meanings into that for now. As you’re aware, I had to come back, and I resumed today, so if there are any other things, I’ll still let you know, but for now, an error was done which I drew the attention of the management of the Nigerian Police to, and it has been corrected. So that is where we are.
What steps are you taking to prevent further attacks on Benue communities by the invaders?
Since the invasion from January, we’ve not rested. To complement the security agencies, we’ve also empowered the Vigilante Groups and Livestock Guards to complement what they do.
And we’ve identified all those flash points that these invaders come and attack our people and we’ve adequately made presentations to the Federal Government and as I speak to you, there’s already a reinforcement going on by all security agencies to ensure that we’re able to surmount this challenge especially of attacking our people because Mr. President, in my last discussion with him, was deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis that we’re facing today in Benue State. A committee was set up to assess the damage and to see how these IDPs can be rehabilitated to go back to their various communities.
But one thing that was identified was that areas that were attacked were not yet safe, and while the committee was going round, despite the fact that they had adequate security personnel with them, they were also attacked in several places and thank God, the security personnel were able to repel all the attacks that came upon them and no one was hurt till they finished their assignment and went back. So, Mr. President had indicated that he wants a rehabilitation of these homes because even when they go back, how are they going to stay in these places?
So we raised the issue of security in these areas, and he did assure us, and I’ve seen the sign.
nvasion and massive destruction in Naka, vis-à-vis the failure of the military to react in the same manner when Fulani militia killed their men like it happened in Yogbo years back and Tyulen recently? Will Benue seek redress?
I condemn the invasion in its totality; this is unwarranted. I must also condemn the killing of the army personnel in Naka, and that was why my deputy, who was then the acting governor, swiftly took action by directing the chairman of the local government and the traditional rulers of the Gwer West Local Government to ensure that the perpetrators were arrested and brought to justice. And this was done.
Even while I was away, I was keenly following up until these suspects were handed over to the Commanding Officer of 72 battalion; and so the action of government was very clear. Five people were arrested. The chairman of the Local Government and the traditional council came together and arrested these people and handed them over. And so there was no basis whatsoever for an invasion.
We’ve reported this to the Chief of Army Staff, and he has already directed an inquiry to be made, and they assured me that anyone found wanting will be dealt with according to the laws and so I’m waiting for the outcome. I don’t want to pre-empt what will be but this is not right, and I’ll continue to tell our people that criminality in all its forms is not allowed. Reprisal or revenge of any type will not be accepted by this government.
The National Economic Council, NEC, prohibited open grazing and it was done in just few states including Benue. Don’t you think the Benue Anti-open grazing law should be adopted and enforced nationwide?
You know that Nigeria is a federation comprising of 36 states and Abuja. And of course, the 36 states are federating units, and these units are independent of each other. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandates each federating unit to make laws for good governance of their citizens.
This is what we did as far as this law is concerned. You’re aware that this challenge between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State and other parts of the country preceded the current administration whether at the federal level or Benue State. The steps we took were to forestall crisis finally for farmers and herdsmen, and we remain committed to this in Benue State.
We cannot talk about any other state. But I must congratulate the Benue people; I must congratulate all of you – the media for standing with us in defence of this law. You appreciate the fact that since May 22, 2017, when we signed the bill into law, it became so contentious.
The coordinator of the Livestock Guards was arrested by security agents on suspicion of being a member of Boko Haram. What’s your reaction to this in the light of the repeated calls for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for making threats to attack the state?
Let me say that as a law-abiding Governor and someone who believes in the rule of law, I’ll always support due process. Security agencies are at liberty to arrest, detain and investigate anyone, who they may suspect to be involved in security breach or perpetuating insecurity.
The arrest of Tershaku is one of such and as for me as I always do, and you are witnesses to the fact that when it comes to issues of security and prosecution, I don’t interfere.
I’ve made a statement through my assistant after his arrest that due process should be followed; he should not be victimized, but security men should be fair to him. He should be investigated, and if at the end he is found culpable, he should be prosecuted.
When my adviser was suspected of murder and a commissioner was also a suspect in a murder case I asked them to resign. Although they were not convicted, I said for credibility of this government they needed to give way, and they gave way.
They had to resign. You are also aware that even when one of my appointees was convicted, I asked him to resign. Later though, he appealed the decision of the lower court and was exonerated and is now a free man. If I have another opportunity I’m going to appoint him again. So I don’t want to talk about the arrest other than to say let the needful be done; let there be no victimization. If at the end an investigation is carried out and he is culpable, let that be.
On Miyetti Allah, I’m also dumbfounded. I’ve said it repeatedly; I’ve written and will continue to write and continue to raise the alarm that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is responsible for the killings; for the mercenary work that is going on in Benue State. I still want to repeat that they are responsible. There are shreds of evidence; they are on tape, they have done press conferences, and none of them have come out to refute what was credited to them in the media. They’ve said it is about Jihad; it’s not about grazing. They said it is about occupation; about taking over the land. They’ve said it and the evidence is there.
I’ve presented this to security agencies, and I want to believe that it is a whole process; they’re still working on it and at the appropriate time, these people will be apprehended because they cannot go free.
After killing my people, they’ll not be allowed to go free. I’ll continue to say it that these people must be arrested because they’re responsible for killings in the state.