Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday stunned Nigerians with his confession that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris flouted
presidential order to relocate to Benue State in the wake of the wanton killings by suspected herdsmen.
Buhari who spoke in Makurdi in continuation of his tour of security-challenged states said as soon as the pogrom took place and he was visited by senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade, he directed the IGP to immediately relocate to the state.
“As leaders, we have to be loyal to people below us. What I did was to call the IGP and gave him directive to come to Benue. I didn’t know he didn’t stay here for more than 24 hours in the state as directed by me. I am getting to know in this meeting. But, I know I dispatched him here,” the president said.
Buhari gave the explanation following demands by Governor Samuel Ortom that the IGP should steer clear of partisan politics and desist from holding an opinion on which law to implement or not.
Buhari said further that as a leader loyalty is very important, but failed to say what sanction awaited the IGP for the insurbordination.
Shortly after 73 people were killed by Fulani herdsmen killed in January during clashes between herdsmen and farmers, Buhari had asked the IG to relocate to Benue in January and remain there until peace was restored.
While noting that the relationship between farmers and herders would continue no matter what, President Buhari said he had friends from Benue and there was no way he could deliberately overlook whatever was happening in the state or any part of the country.
Buhari who met with various groups and stakeholders including Miyetti Allah Group, representatives of farmers and Livestock guard, Benue joint socio-cultural group, Mzough U-Tiv, among others, in the bid to find a lasting solution to the incessant attacks and killings in the state, appealed to Benue people to exercise restraint and learn to cohabit with others peacefully.
Governor Ortom while welcoming the president had informed him that after the burial of the 73 people killed in the state on January 11, 91 more people have been killed by herdsmen in Guma, Logo and Okpokwu local government areas.
Ortom who posited that Buhari cannot be held responsible for the killings because the attacks predated him, noted that following the New Year attacks, over 170,000 people who were displaced from their homes now live in internally displaced peoples (IDP) camps scattered across the state while over 5,000 more people were recently displaced by the same Fulani herdsmen in Mbatoho community.
Ortom noted that only on Sunday, two policemen were killed by the marauding herdsmen in Guma LGA and appealed to the president to change the Exercise Ayem Akpatuma to an Operation so that the attacked communities could return as soon as possible.
Ortom who said he had no armed militia recalled that on assumption of office in 2015, his administration instituted an amnesty programme during which those who had illegal weapons surrendered them, adding that Terwase Akwaza (alias Ghana) who initially surrendered his weapons and later went back to crimes was declared wanted by the police.
He also urged the president to order the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH) for making good their threats to mobilise Fulani all over West Africa against the Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law.
Tor Tiv, clegies, others speak
meanwhile, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse has appealed to President Buhari to support the Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law.
“The Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law is very dear to the heart of Benue people. It is a people’s law. I appeal that the president should do everything possible to support the law,” he said.
The Tor Tiv noted that security challenges concerning herdsmen did not start with Buhari’s administration but expressed dismay over the responses of some government agencies to the problem.
“I want to advise that in sensitive issues like that, they should exercise restraints in their comments and statements. Security is not just work for the president alone but that of the whole nation. I’ve observed security seem to be on you. I therefore advocate the redesigning of the security system to include the traditional rulers.”
Also reacting, spiritual leader of the Tiv nation, Wantareph Paul Unongo urged the president to do everything in his power to degrade the Fulani herdsmen phenomenon in the country.
“If you don’t do something now, you will discover that you will end up having a terrorist country far beyond your dream.
“Our governor (Ortom) is not your enemy but he is under threat. He is very competent and loyal to you. The law was not made to antagonise you. Your son, Ortom is misunderstood by some of your security aides, especially the Inspector General of Police (IGP). He is under threat,” Unongo stated.
Generals Atom Kpera and Lawrence Onoja (retd), in their separate speeches commended the president for swiftly responding to the killings in Benue by sending the IGP to relocate to the state in the heat of the attacks.
“I know how swiftly you acted when it was reported to you that there was a problem in Zamfara State. I believe that you would have done the same when it came to you that Benue was in trouble. You swiftly directed the IGP to relocate to Benue but he did not do the work you sent him. He stayed for less than 24 hours in Benue and relocated to Nasarawa and then said what he saw was a mere communal clash. Few days later, his men were killed too.”
Former governor George Akume posited that the Benue people massively voted for President Buhari in 2015 and urged him to reciprocate the gesture by ensuring an end to the incessant attacks and killing even as he appealed for government’s presence in the state.
Both Bishop Wilfred Anagbe, Catholic Diocese of Makurdi and Bishop Akpen Leva, CAN chairman who both spoke on behalf of the church harped on the need to upgrade cattle rearing in the country.
“As a nation, we have upgraded systems in Nigeria because we felt they are no longer useful to us. We feel we can also upgrade cattle rearing too. I believe you are here to seek peace but if you had just said a word from Abuja, the problem would have been solved. We are pursuing ideology in this country and not history, that is why we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.”
The clergies who lamented that there was so much bloodshed in the country, urged the president to act fast to nip the problem in the bud. They also demanded adequate compensation for the rebuilding of over 500 churches that were destroyed by herdsmen.
Mrs. Elizabeth Shuluwa who spoke for the women lamented that most of those killed were women, children and the elderly.
“As we speak, the women and all Benue people are still crying because no day goes by without us hearing about killings somewhere in the state. I hear that military personnel, in war, don’t kill children and women. I believe that if you were here earlier than now, this genocide wouldn’t have occurred. Today, as I was coming here, I saw scores of soldiers, policemen and other security agents all standing over Makurdi town and I felt if they were here before now, the genocide wouldn’t have taken place. Just yesterday, two policemen were killed in Guma.”
Others who spoke included Chief Edward Ujege on behalf of the Benue Socio-cultural groups, Speaker Terkimbi Ikyange, John Dyer, Terumun Akputu for the farmers, Aliyu Tershaku and Shettima Mohammed for the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.