…says ‘we’re negotiating with Boko Haram on Dapchi girls’
- Herdsmen kill six policemen, others in Benue, Ebonyi
President Muhammadu Buhari has said he was unaware that the Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, disregarded his directive to relocate to Benue State after the killing of 73 people in Logo and Guma local government areas of the state.
Buhari spoke during a condolence visit to Benue State yesterday. The President had, on January 9th, ordered the IGP to immediately move to Benue and restore peace in order to prevent further loss of lives following tensions in the state as a result of the killings which took place on New Year day.
The IGP was expected to relocate to Benue alongside five units of the Police Mobile Force (PMF). Speaking at a town hall meeting with stakeholders at the People’s House in Makurdi, prominent sons of Benue State expressed concerns that the IGP refused to relocate to the state, but decided to stay in Nasarawa State.
Buhari said that he was surprised at the revelation that the IGP did not spend 24 hours in Benue, when he directed him to relocate to the state and remain there till peace was restored. “I am getting to know this in this meeting. I am quite surprised, but I know that I sent him here,” he said.
He, however, said that the meeting was not the best place to expose the inefficiency of his appointees, and appealed to Benue people to exercise restraint and live in peace with their neighbours.
Buhari explained that although he has been receiving security reports on the crisis, it was inappropriate for him to swiftly accuse his appointees of incompetence. “But what I will appeal to your various constituencies is a question of applying for restraint.
I and the governor and some of you holding public office will go, but the relationship between cattle rearers and farmers in Benue State will continue beyond us, as it was before us.
This is the reality of the situation.” He declared that he will not pay lip service in taking concrete decisions to tackle the increasing insecurity challenges confronting the people of Benue State and other parts of the country.
The President said: “I cannot overlook the killings in Benue or any other part of Nigeria. I cannot do that. I am genuinely worried about the attacks in Benue and we are doing everything to end them. “So, please, try to convince your constituency that through the processes of law enforcement agents, the police, the DSS, and the military, I’m doing my best, but I’m very loyal to people downstairs. “No one can question God why He brought us together as a people, we even fought war for several months.” On request of what he called “shopping list” by some stakeholders, the President enjoined them to pray for the economy to improve, noting that he would make any promises when he returns on campaigns to the state ahead of 2019 elections.
“When coming back on campaign, if, coming back on campaigns, I may promise,” he said. In his remarks, Governor Samuel Ortom told Buhari that the only solution to the killings in Benue State was to fish out the perpetrators of crisis, particularly the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal-Haure group and the adoption of the ranching system for cattle rearing in Nigeria.
The governor said 65 more people have been killed by the herdsmen after the 73 that were given mass burial while 26 others were killed in Omusu-Edumoga village in Okpokwu with over 5,000 displaced in Mbatoho community. Ortom also confirmed the killing of two Mobile Policemen in Guma Local Government area shortly before the arrival of President Buhari visit to the state. He urged the President to also upgrade the current exercise Cat Race (Ayem A Kpatema) by the military in the state into a full military operation in order to give specific directive that could lead to tackling the herders/ farmers’ clashes in the state.
The Benue State governor lamented that no fewer than 170,000 persons have been displaced and are being housed by the state government as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in different camps as a result of the attacks.
He said 60 per cent of the IDPs were sadly children who ordinarily should have been in school. “Your excellency, we plead with you to take steps to reduce the sufferings of these over 170,000 countrymen in the eight internally displaced camps.
The Federal Government should compensate them and assist in the rebuilding of their homes as promised by the committee on displaced people headed by the Vice President. “The primary, secondary schools, health centres and churches destroyed in several communities should be rebuilt for use again,” he added. The governor denied allegations that the Benue State government was keeping and training a militia group to fight Fulani herdsmen in Benue.
“As a born again Christian and someone who believes in the fear of God, I cannot and we have never encouraged the establishment of any militia group,” Ortom said. The Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, speaking at the event, urged Buhari to re-consider redesigning of the country’s security architecture with the states and traditional rulers having a role to play.
He said aside taking steps to address the security crisis in Benue, it was important for Buhari to increase federal presence in the state. Ayatse noted that government should also consider the dredging of the River Benue to create more economic activities for increased jobs for the youths.
Specifically, Unongo said Benue people are deeply hurt and bewildered over the killings of unharmed villagers and regretted that the people have been shortchanged in the national scheme of things after voting massively for the president during the 2015 general elections. Unongo appealed to the President to support the implementation of the antiopen grazing law in Benue.
“The Federal Government should insist that the law is implemented because it is the only way to end the clashes between farmers and herdsmen,” he said. Mr. Edward Ujege, President, Mzough U Tiv, a Tiv socio political group, called for compensation for the victims of the attacks. On his part, Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, regretted that the response of the Federal Government was “coming too late”.
The chairman, Benue Farmers’ Association, Mr. Terlumun Akputu, also called for compensation for victims of attacks and urged government to rehabilitate roads in the state. Malam Shetima Mohammed, a representative of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Benue Chapter, denied responsibility for the Benue attacks.
Those who accompanied the President to the stakeholders’ meetings were the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Mongunu (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin; Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali: Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Ibrahim: the Ministers of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe and the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS).
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