A battle line could not have been more drawn in the sand than when a Chief Security Officer of a state, Samuel Ortom, the Benue State Governor, has said that he ordered for Fulani herdsmen to leave his state because he could no longer fold his arms and watch while they continue killing his people.
During the military era, the message would have been taken down to mean, ‘shoot at sight’ any Fulani herdsmen seen in Benue State after the order to leave the state has been given by a military governor.
But, this is not the era.
Ortom was fielding questions from State House correspondents shortly after attending a meeting of the National Economic Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He described the herdsmen as unfriendly to the people, adding that he needed to take the decision because his responsibility as the state governor is to ensure safety of lives.
Ortom said, “I ordered armed herdsmen out of my state. They are not friendly to my people. They kill them and I cannot tolerate that. My job as governor is to provide security for lives and property. I cannot watch seeing people being killed unprovoked. It is not right.
“The only thing my people are living on is farming. When you go to their farmlands and destroy their crop and then when they complain, you kill them. That will never be acceptable. I will not fold my hands to watch this happen.
“I have told the security men to ensure the arrest of all those who have arms. You are aware that through my amnesty programme, I was able to disarm the criminal
elements in my society because I believe in the rule of law and due process.
“Without the rule of law, there is no way we can govern. A stronger person will come
and take over the affairs of the state from where ever you are. And so, we must abide by the rule of law.”
Ortom said apart from corruption, governments at all levels must be ready to fight
impunity which he said is worse than corruption.
“Another thing is impunity, it is worse than corruption. So, why we are fighting corruption, we must also fight impunity. This is not right.
“Those armed herdsmen, are they above the law? So, the security men must track and arrest them and prosecute them according to the law.
“I have told my people that as farmers, they have no business carrying arms. And so,
I will protect them as long as I am governor is my state.”
The governor added that since the arms with the herdsmen were not licensed, they must be apprehended.