President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday called on the government and people of Benue State to exercise restraint following the recent attacks on some communities, assuring that all the perpetrators of violence in the state will be made to face the wrath of the law.
Speaking when he received a delegation of political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of the state led by Governor Samuel Ortom at the Presidential Villa, Buhari said all those involved in the conflict that culminated in loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state.
The President commiserated with all the victims of the attacks, and the families who lost loved ones and properties.
He said the federal government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims pointing out those relevant agencies had been directed to start catering for the humanitarian needs.
“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished,” he said.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,’’ the President said.
Buhari told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.
He said the Inspector General of Police had been directed to relocate to the state to provide security for lives and properties, urging all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.
We Won’t Give Any of Our Land for Cattle Colonies-Benue Leaders Insist.
However, answering questions from State House correspondents, after the meeting, Governor Samuel Ortom, who led the delegation, said “In Benue, we don’t have ten hectares for colonies, other states may have, but we don’t have in Benue state”.
“Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him (Ogbe) and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches in one place, restricted in one place.
“So for us in Benue State there is no 10,000 hectares. Not even 5,000. We have no 10,000 hectares to allow for that kind of a thing to take place. So people are free. Other states have the land but we in Benue State we don’t have and that was what led to us enacting this law,” the governor said.
“We have made it known that for us in Benue State there is no room for anyone taking laws into his hands. It is expected even when you are offended or someone violates the law, the best thing to do is to report, by that we will be able to meet our sanctions on such people.
“But when you take laws into your hand you are inviting anarchy and we will not accept this,” he said.
He said “But beyond that we made strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, because they are not above the law, they made inciting statements against our people and they came and perpetrated this act.
“And until this time I speak to you, they are still issuing out threats and it is not just anti-grazing law, it is occupation because the manner with which they come and invade the man and take over the land it is something”.
Ortom who expressed confidence in the leadership of President Buhari added that banking on his antecedents as a disciplined and an upright man “we believe he will be able to sanction this people and he did assure us that there is no room for impunity, the law of the land must take its cause.
“So those perpetrators, the IG were in the meeting, he directed the IG to arrest those who perpetrated this act and prosecute according to the law”.
“And assured us that he would do everything possible to ensure that Benue State live peacefully and there is no further killings. So basically that is why we came to see Mr. President,” he stated further.
“We need assurance from Mr. President; we are part of his constituency in the country. As you know Nigeria is a federation and Benue State is part of the federating unit.
“There is division of labour, there are specific responsibility given to each of the tier of government as enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
“So we don’t have powers over the security of this country except the federal government, it is expected that the federal government will support us to enforce our laws and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“And so as the father of the land, we needed to communicate this to him. We have not committed any offense rather we are looking for a solution to a problem that has become an epidemic to Nigeria and we need a solution,” the embittered Ortom said.
He dismissed the claims that the enactment of the anti-grazing law was responsible for the killings saying that even before the law horrendous killings had taken place in the past.
“For us, we have seen that even before the law killings were taking place even more than what we are witnessing today, that is why we are looking for ways of getting out of it and today we have found a way and that is the law which seeks to protect all. We are not seeing anyone away from Benue State.
“The herdsmen whether you are Igbo, Fulani, Hausa, Idoma, Tiv, anywhere you come from you are free to follow the law, obtain permit and then do the ranch and you are protected”.
Meanwhile, the governor said several people have been arrested and arraign before the court both herdsmen and the natives.
“We have also arrested more than 18 herdsmen who violated the law and they were arraigned before the court of law. So as far as we are concern the law is being implemented without any hitch.
“These killers that came from the 1st of January about eight of them have been arrested and are going to be prosecuted. And that is what Mr. President said that he is not going to protect any criminal and we are happy about this. So that is where we are”.
Present at the meeting were former Senate President David Mark, former Governor George Akume, members of the National Assembly, the Tor Tiv, Ochi Idoma, leadership of Benue State House of Assembly and other very distinguished sons and daughters of Benue State.