Presidency, Ortom trade blames over Benue killings

GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom and the Presidency are trading blames over the endless killings perpetrated in Benue State by suspected armed herdsmen.

The presidency, in a statement released on Wednesday, April 19, by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, had labelled Ortom ‘incompetent’ as a result of the lingering insecurity in the state.

Shehu, in the statement, said President Muhammadu Buhari should not be held responsible for the attacks on Benue people.

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“It is they who have experienced first-hand the mass killings, the torture, the litany of atrocities as Benue’s security situation plummeted ever further. It is they who buried their loved ones while watching their careless, irresponsible and incompetent governor politicise on those freshly dug graves.

“And it is they who turned to the last privilege they had left: their democratic privilege, to resoundingly kick out Ortom and his so-called Peoples Democratic Party in favour of a new governor, Reverend Father Hyacinth Iornem Alia from Buhari’s party, the APC.”

The presidential spokesman said the Buhari administration had taken several steps to tackle the killings in Benue, noting that more results would have been achieved if Ortom had cooperated.

However, reacting to the statement, Ortom said the Presidency’s attempts to twist events and history in Benue is “unfortunate and reprehensible”.

Ortom described Buhari as a failure, noting that he was not able to secure the country.

The governor also accused Buhari of endorsing the killings in Benue State.

“Shehu Garba’s infantile statement on the security situation in Benue State has once again confirmed our position that the killings, mass murder in Benue has the full endorsement of the Buhari government. It also goes to confirm that the presidential spokesman does not only speak for Buhari but for some terrorist groups too.

“Indeed, the presidential spokesman’s futile attempts to twist events and history in Benue State is unfortunate and reprehensible. It shows how much he and others in that league have misled the government and Nigerian people in the last inglorious eight years.

“It is common knowledge that as the Commander-in-Chief, Buhari has empowered and emboldened the Fulani pastoralists in their expansionist agenda including killings. It is equally a known fact that President Buhari has failed woefully in securing Nigeria, and Benue state in particular,” he said.

Ortom added the Benue people will not forget the atrocities caused by the Buhari administration.

“What the Buhari administration has done to our people through the militants as confirmed by Shehu Garba is to spit on the graves of our compatriots mowed down needlessly by militia. We shall not forget these atrocities.”

He further stressed that besides unleashing killers on his people, the Buhari government denied Benue State any meaningful project in the last eight years, including the repair of Federal Government roads in the state which he said are now death traps. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Samuel Ortom was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 to defend the interest of the people of Benue and never to be a lackey in the hands of expansionists using every means to perpetrate evil against the Benue citizens.

“By Garba Shehu’s latest statement, the Presidency has clearly demonstrated that Governor Ortom is right when he consistently accused the APC-led Federal Government of complicity in the killings orchestrated against Benue people by the herdsmen as represented by  Miyetti Allah Kautal, Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM and other Fulani socio-cultural groups.

“If the Presidency can find it convenient to lay the blame of the massive killings that the Fulani have continued to perpetrate in Benue on Governor Ortom, what can it say of the massacre and kidnappings in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto and President Buhari’s home state of Katsina among other states where the killing of innocent citizens has continued unchallenged?

“The Presidency has shown in this recent public statement that they have placed cows above human lives and made the animals to urinate on the graves of those they massacred in Benue and elsewhere across the country. If not, they wouldn’t have gone to town to mock the slain in their graves.”

Trends of Insecurity in Benue state

In March 13, 2023, The ICIR reported that 5,138 people were killed and 18 local government areas attacked by suspected herdsmen under Governor Samuel Ortom’s administration.

The Executive Secretary of the Agency, Emmanuel Shior gave the figure in Makurdi during a press briefing on the humanitarian situation in the state since the inception of Ortom’s administration about eight years ago.

Shior noted that the attacks which happened in 18 of the 23 LGAs of the state led to the death of 1,177 and 809 people in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Also, according to him, 43 were killed in 2017; 440 in 2018; 174 in 2019; 88 in 2020; 2,131 in 2021; 172 in 2022 and 104 since January 2023.

About two weeks after the report, scores of people were reported to have been killed while many others sustained injuries as suspected armed herders stormed some Benue local government areas.

Also, on Wednesday, April 5, at least 46 people were killed in an attack by suspected armed herdsmen on Umogidi in the Otukpo LGA of the state.



    In another report, suspected herdsmen attacked Mgban community, in the Guma Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue state on Friday, April 7, killing dozens of residents.

    Following the attacks, Ortom, on Tuesday, April 11, suspended the operations of Livestock Guards, the state’s security outfit that prosecutes herdsmen and impounds cattle for violating the Benue anti-open grazing law.

    He also gave a two-week ultimatum to herdsmen who invaded rural communities after the 2023 general elections to leave the state.

    According to the report, about 130 villagers were reportedly killed and several communities plundered as the state witnessed renewed attacks by suspected armed herdsmen few weeks after the election.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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