By James Ibechi
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday held a meeting with Governor Samuel Ortom and other state leaders at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Other Benue leaders at the meeting with President Buhari were Senator David Mark, Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh, George Akume, and Barnabas Gemade.
Governor Ortom said the visit was to appreciate what the president had done so far to help restore peace to the state.
He said the visit was also to appreciate the president for his directive to the National Emergency management Agency, NEMA, to provide relief materials to those affected by the conflict between herdsmen and local communities in the state.
The governor told the State House correspondents after the meeting that the Benue delegation was also in Aso Villa to make a “strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.”
The governor’s words: “As you can see I’m here with the entire leadership of Benue State, members of the National Assembly, the Tor Tiv, Ochi Idoma and the leadership of Benue State House of Assembly and other very distinguished sons and daughters of Benue State.
“You are aware of the challenge we had since the 1st of January up to this moment. Several people were killed, more than 60,000 people displaced; we are still counting.
“We thought it was wise as the father of the land and as the president of our country that there is need to meet with him to interface with him.
“At a personal level, I spoke to the president on phone on the 1st of January when this incident occurred and he responded promptly. And I followed it up with a visit and he directed the relocation of IGP to Benue State in addition to sending additional troop from the military.
“So, the situation as at today is relatively calm although there are pockets of issues. For the past five days, we have witnessed two killings compared to what was happening before. Other places are relatively calm, the security men and the IGP and the Benue State Government have been working day and night to ensure that we bring the situation under control and stop the killings.
“There are still security issues from one town to the other. Like some few days ago we had an uproar in Makurdi Local Government, headquarters of Benue State where some hoodlums wanted to take advantage. That is one of the things we have discovered; in trying to create confusion so that they can go in there and loot.
“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 (that) 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 mete our sanctions on such people. But when you take laws into your hands, you are inviting anarchy and we will not accept this.
“So we are here to appreciate Mr. President for providing security. Yesterday (Sunday) we also received relief materials based on his directives to NEMA and is being shared among the five IDP camps that we have in Benue State.
“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. I am not sure we are willing to join issues with anyone. We are law abiding citizens, we are not going to let our people go out of control.
“We believe in the leadership of Mr. President because he is disciplined and is an upright man and 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 was 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.”
On the letter written to the president whether the governor got any response, he said “Like I said, the president renewed his directive to the IG in our presence that those who are perpetrating this should be arrested and prosecuted. And I believe that enough attention was given to my letter. I was told that it was being processed and I hope by now it’s been processed and that action will be taken now that the entire delegation from Benue State is here and Mr. President is directing the IG that something will be done about this matter because we cannot allow lawlessness and we cannot allow impunity. When people violate the law and they are not sanctioned, it becomes a problem. People should be investigated and I believe that these people will be arrested because there is enough evidence against them.”
On whether the issue of arming militia groups came up in the meeting, Ortom said “It is not true. I see that as distraction completely from the main issue that we are talking about. These people were not even arrested in Benue State. If we are being killed in the magnitude that we saw and we had weapons of what I saw in the media, I know that five AK 47s can sack a whole community. So if we had such weapons and I as governor my local government had been attacked and people killed, property destroyed and so on, so will I go and sponsor militia in Taraba State? Then you should go back to history; from 2015 when I took over, I organised an amnesty programme which saw the disarmament of over 800 youth and more than 700 weapons were turned in which were destroyed in the presence of security men and the UN and the committee on small weapons and light arms from the presidency. So it is not true, it is false. It is meant to turn facts away from the reality that is happening on ground.