The massacre in Benue State calls for worry. In less than two years, over 500 innocent souls had been cut down and about 30,000 rendered homeless. The unending killings in the state are coming at a time the Federal Government is beating its chest for ridding the North- East of insurgency.
Last week, it was bloodbath when gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen attacked eight communities in Benue State. Scores of defenceless people were killed while several others were displaced.
The communities – Buruku, Kwande, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Guma and Gboko – are already counting their losses as no fewer than 500 lives were wasted, while property worth millions of naira were destroyed just as the survivors now live in palpable fear. Confronted with its greatest security challenge, it appears the government elected to preserve lives and property can no longer be trusted.
This seeming inaction by government with regards to the near-genocide attacks on the Tiv, Idoma and other ethnic groups living in Benue State no doubt contradicts the primary responsibility of the government elected to, among others, protect lives and property of its citizens as enshrined in Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution.
We are worried that if a government is failing in this all-important responsibility of ensuring adequate protection of people’s lives, defenceless people may resort to self-help and a state of anarchy will become inevitable.
The government must wake up from its slumber and take the issue of security very seriously by taking up the gauntlet with immediate enactment and implementation of appropriate legislation, urgent investigation and prosecution of parties behind the suspected genocide.
It is also worrisome that the Federal Government, which ratified several international laws and treaties such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Paris 1948) assented to on July 29, 2009, has allowed the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks to continue unchecked.
It is the duty of any elected government to advocate mechanism that would strengthen security in order to secure its region. But when such government is not doing the needful especially in this regard, a state of emergency may become in-evitable.
The wanton killings and destruction going on in Benue has shown that we value no life here; we don’t have regards for lives in Nigeria and if we cannot have absolute respect for life and we show no concern when lives are lost, it then means that something is fundamentally wrong even with our leaders.
We condemn the killings just as we want Governor Samuel Ortom to rise to the occasion and be on top of the herdsmen’s onslaught with a view to restoring the confidence his people reposed in him to secure their lives and property from the rampaging herdsmen.
One wonders why governors, who collect so much money in the name of security vote, find it extremely difficult to invest such fund to protect lives and property.
It was time Ortom woke up to his responsibilities and saw how he can secure the lives of citizens in Benue as joining issues with Rivers State Governor, Nyemson Wike, on his call for emergency rule in Benue State over the incessant killings of Agatu people was unnecessary. Ortom’s response to the Rivers governor that “Wike should realise that the killings in Rivers State are by far more than the killings in Benue State”, was nothing but an admission that he had no clue to the management of security in the state.
This also raises the concern of the structural failure of the country’s political arrangement, in which governors are rendered helpless with respect to stemming the tide of violence in their states.
Ortom may not be totally blamed for security failure in Benue. He has shouted in frustration and begged that the security agencies should rise to the occasion.
This is because as it were, the Commissioner of Police in Benue State under Section 215 of the Constitution does not take instructions from the governor.
He needs to take instructions with respect to what to do about the general situation of security in the state from either the Inspector-General of Police or Assistant Inspector-General of Police of the zone.
The massacre going on in Benue should be halted and perpetrators made to face the full wrath of the law. The carnage must be tackled head on. Our advice is that the issue shouldn’t be politicised but instead we must look at the lapses in our political structure, particularly about the devolution of powers.