Molly Kilete, Abuja The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday said that it’s refusal from allowing a chartered flight carrying Southern leaders to a Middle Belt conference from landing at its base in Makurdi, the Benue State Capital, has no political undertone whatsoever. Similarly the NAF, has maintained that the runway at its Makurdi Base, is…
•Ortom: killers from Nasarawa •Your anti-grazing law caused it –Al-Makura
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Molly
Kilete and Magnus Eze, Abuja, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi and Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his Nasarawa counterpart, Tanko Al-makura, yesterday, traded words over recent killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Ortom fired the first salvo when he accused Nasarawa State of providing a launchpad for the January 1 attack that sent no fewer than 70 people to their untimely grave. He claimed that the Fulani herdsmen that carried out the massacre stormed the six communities of Guma and Logo local government areas from a camp in Tunga, Awe Local Government Area in the neighbouring Nasarawa State.
Ortom who made the disclosure at the Presidential Villa, Abuja shortly after he met behind closed doors for two hours with President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently accused members of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who have have opposed the anti-open grazing law recently signed into law in Benue of masterminding the massacre.
While responding to a question on how many ranches his administration has created, Ortom said: “It’s not for me to create ranches, I know that as a farmer I have one in my farm and there are several other people who are free to use it. The permits are available for people who want to ranch their cattle to access land and begin to ranch. So, it is free for everybody and that is the right way to go. And since we started the implementation, there has been relative peace amongst farmers and herdsmen. They were doing well until this militia coming from this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore came and attacked us. And they are known. We know where they are. As I talk to you, they are in Tunga in Awe Local Government. That is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.”
But in a swift reaction, Al-makura described Ortom’s allegation as unfortunate and inflammatory. He said the attack was instigated by Ortom’s anti-grazing law.
He said contrary to the claim, the Tungua place was not a militia camp, but a shelter for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Benue extraction.
Al-makura who spoke to newsmen at the Nasarawa State Governor’s lodge in Abuja said: “I’m really taken back; this statement is most unfortunate. I will like to use this opportunity to say that there is nothing like that whatsoever. If anything, the Tungua that the governor (Ortom) is talking about in Awe Local Government is now the safe haven for displaced persons. As I speak with you today, there are more than three IDP camps in Awe Local Government that quarters and caters for the number of people that have migrated from Benue to Nasarawa.
“To be specific, they are more than 7,000 people that are camped in Tungua. So, it’s very ironical that a place that is supposed to be an area that has become a safe haven for IDPs can now be called militias camp.
“In that case, the militia don’t need to go as far as Benue; they have the prey within the vicinity of Tungua to attack. I think this is most unfortunate.
“Yesterday (Monday) we held over seven hours of rigorous interfacing with seven governors, service chiefs and some ministers and all our security operatives within the states and around Benue, and my colleague (Ortom) could not tell me this, he could not approach me and give me an idea if there is anything that he saw or was worried about.
“Besides, from all the discussions we have had yesterday, there was no concrete security report stigmatising any part of Nasarawa State as habouring people that are coming to attack Benue. I feel what should be of concern to us as leaders is the plight of the people and any of such statement that is inflammatory is likely going to cause more confusion to what is already there.”
Al-makura said notwithstanding the “unfortunate remarks” by Ortom, his state will continue to render help to the internally displaced persons.
Meanwhile, the embattled Ortom has rejected Federal Government’s plans to establish colonies for cattle rearing.
Ortom said he would support any measure to stop the carnage, insisted on ranching of cattle by the herdsmen like is done in other African countries as against the option of creating grazing colonies.
“I’m waiting to be briefed about what colonies means. I don’t understand it..But like I keep saying, for us, the way forward is ranching and until this time I am talking to you, the way forward is ranching because it’s global best practice…For the colony thing, I don’t know what colony is,” he stated.
He, however, pledged to give all necessary support to the latest security deployment to the state as directed by the president, even as he lamented that the herdsmen only hours earlier attacked a contingent of mobile policemen in the affected area, beheaded two of them and severely injured others.
On suggestion that full blown military operational base be set up in Benue, he said: “Anything that can stop the killings of my people, I will go for it. I support it. Any policy or any directive, anything that will help stop the killing of these innocent people who are not armed because this cannot continue. We know that the continuity of this will create greater challenges. I don’t want it to continue. We are struggling with economic issues, we are struggling with political issues and we are struggling with several other issues in this country, security issues and all that, Benue State should not be part of this. There is no need for it.”
He denied allegations that he hired mercenaries from Ghana to fight herdsmen. “I’m not aware of this and I don’t even know about that one. I’m hearing it for the first time. If someone has done that, it must be this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore that have done it.”
While reactions still trailed the January 1 attack, two policemen were on Monday killed and another injured by suspected herdsmen at Awashuwa village in Logo council.
Daily Sun gathered that the herdsmen had earlier that day attacked the camp of a detachment of Mobile Policemen from Mopol 13 stationed at Awashuwa but were repelled only for them (herdsmen) to regroup and attack the camp in the evening.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) ASP Moses Yamu who confirmed the report disclosed that a reinforcement was sent to the area from 13 PMF led by the Commander, CSP Abubakar Garba.
In apparent deference to presidential directive to restore law and order in Benue State, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris has relocated to Makurdi, the Benue state capital.
The IGP, who left the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, at about 5pm, yesterday, was accompanied by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, Habila Joshak and other top police officers.
While in Makurdi, the IGP is expected to hold a town hall meeting with stakeholders and the state governor at the Government House at 9:30 am tpday. In a related development, the Nigerian Army also deployed special troops to Benue and Nasarawa states to check the spate of killings by suspected herdsmen.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, disclosed this in Abuja, during the presentation of farm implements and items to the Nigerian Army Farms and Ranches, Giri, Abuja, by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh.
He said the Army would continue to deploy special forces to ensure harmonious coexistence between herders and farmers, noting that there was a link between physical security and food security.