DAYS after granting an interview to The ICIR where he claimed that security agents told him the Federal government gave them an order not to fight Fulani herdsmen, Benue State governor Samuel Ortom has come under heavy criticism from the Presidency.
The Presidency on Wednesday challenged the governor to name those who told him that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered security agents not to move against herdsmen responsible for violent attacks across the country.
Ortom made the allegation in an exclusive interview with The ICIR in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
The Presidency reacted to Ortom’s claims in the interview through a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu.
The statement was titled ‘Ortom’s Lies Insult Nation’s Security System’.
The Presidency described the governor’s claims as not only “disappointing” and “ridiculous” but “patently untrue.”
The presidential spokesperson said Ortom should forever shut up if he cannot name the officials that informed him that Buhari gave the alleged order to the security agencies.
Parts of the statement read: “In a recent interview, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, claimed that high-ranking security personnel had informed him personally that President Buhari had ordered security forces not to move against the Fulani herdsmen responsible for recent violence.
“These ridiculous claims are patently untrue. If he is as brave as he claims to be, let him name names. Let him name the military personnel who told him this story, or forever shut up.
“It is disappointing that Ortom, who in the same interview describes himself as a child of God who believes in being lawful and respects the Nigerian Constitution, felt the need to spread such a divisive lie.
“In a period of heightened insecurity, our politicians should be working to bring us closer together, not risking further violence by dishonestly seeking to further divide us along ethnic or religious lines.
“Fortunately, the cheap, dog whistle politics behind Ortom’s falsehood are plain for all to see. He is not the first opportunistic politician who has attempted to sow discord amongst his country’s people in the run-up to an election; sadly, he will not be the last.
“The Nigerian people will see him for what he is: an opportunist flaunting his wares as the country prepares to elect its next President; a man fond of posing in military fatigue who expects the country to believe Nigeria’s top security personnel would share high-level confidential information with him. To be clear: they do not.”
In the interview with The ICIR, Ortom alleged that armed Fulani herdsmen cannot be brought to book for violent attacks on agrarian communities across the country because of a Federal Government order prohibiting security agents from apprehending and arraigning them.
The governor equally said those being referred to as bandits are members of Miyetti Allah.
Ortom also alleged that all Miyetti Allah does is claim responsibility for attacks and collect huge sums of money from the government. He claimed that the Federal Government was protecting them.
“I have spoken to some security men who told me the Federal Government gave them directive that they do not have to move against these Fulani men. That is why I keep saying that the Federal Government’s action and inaction clearly show that they are complicit in the criminality that is going on in Nigeria. They call them bandits because they do not want people to call them Fulani herdsmen.,” he said.
The relationship between the Benue State governor and the Presidency has not been cordial in recent times, as the governor has always blamed the Federal government for the high rate of insecurity in the state.
Ortom also accused Buhari of shielding the Fulani herdsmen from prosecution.