My State Under Siege, Governor Cries Out

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom

The governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom has cried out to the federal government to take decisive action to stop the continued invasion and occupation of the state by herdsmen or the people would be left with no option than to resort to self-help.

For several months, suspected Fulani herdsmen have reportedly terrorized communities in Benue State, killing and displacing hundreds of people, and destroying property and farmlands worth millions of naira.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, governor Ortom said Benue State is“completely under siege by Fulani herdsmen,” adding that the claim that the farmers were killing their cattle was not true.

He said, “We’ve heard the herdsmenaccusing our people of killing their cattle, which is not true.

“Two wrongs can’t make a right. We have been telling our people that there is no need going after Fulanis or their cattle.

“We are farmers and very enterprising. There is no way a herdsman will come into Benue without encroaching on somebody’s farm. There is no way grazing and farming can go together.”

Governor Ortom noted that his administration has given the security agencies all the support they need to restore peace and order in the state, “but it is unfortunate that up till today, there is no time the security men came and told me that one arrest has been made.

He said that the herdsmen go about freely and there is no sanction against them.

“The level of impunity exhibited by the herdsmen is very worrisome,” he added.

Benue State is known as the “food basket of the nation”, but the governor said that the issue of herdsmen/farmers clashes meant “our people can no longer go to their farms,” leading to more hardship in the face of the already challenging period Nigeria was going through.

Ortom said; “Benue State is the food basket of the nation. Now that we are talking about diversification of the economy to other sectors, what readily comes to mind in Benue State is agriculture.

“This is where we have comparative advantage. And it is unfortunate that the herdsmen are not allowing our people to go back to farm. It is a big challenge to me as the governor of the state.”

Reports have it that in some areas in Benue State, for instance, in Moon Ward in Kwande local government Area, the last time pupils went to school there was in October 2013, but the governor said the situation in his state has been grossly under-reported.

“I wish it is possible to go around to appreciate the magnitude of the destruction, killings and stealing that are taking place.

“The truth of the matter is that apart from Moon, there are several other communities that have no opportunity of getting their children back to school for several years.

“There are people who have been barred from going back to their homes for several years.

“I strongly wished that the federal government would collaborate with us to find lasting solution to this problem.

“As I speak, our people are in extremely distress situation and what is happening in the state today is worse than what is happening in the North-east where Boko Haram has ravaged the area,” Ortom lamented.

He added that the military, the Nigerian Police and all the other security agencies in the state seem to be overwhelmed by the situation, despite the numerous support so far given to them by the state government.

He said: “I must also admit that the security men are overwhelmed with the violence and destruction that herdsmen have unleashed on the state.

“The militia used by the herdsmen are well-trained and they are really sophisticated. They are conversant with modern technology of destruction.

“This is the more reason I have said that the federal government should take a decisive action against these herdsmen and their militia that are terrorizing and killing our people.






     

     

    “Of course, I do not control the military, the police and even the civil defence because all of them are federal agencies. That is why we are appealing to the federal government to give our security agencies the necessary support ranging from finance, weapons and other things that they require to deal with the challenge,” Ortom said.

    On what must be done to bring about a lasting solution to the killings and destruction caused by incessant herdsmen/farmers clashes, the governor said: “I want to say that they only way we can go out of this problem is for cattle to be ranched.

    “If that is not done, then there will be no land to graze and farm at the same time.

    “I hope that Nigerians would rise up and support Benue State in this very difficult time.”

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