By Oluwatobi Enitan and Fatunmbi Olayinka
BENUE State governor Samuel Ortom has 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.
In an interview with The ICIR, the governor 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 is 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 bandit because they do not want people to call them Fulani herdsmen.
“Remember what the Sultan of Sokoto said some time ago: anywhere you arrest ten bandits, most of them are Fulanis. That is a Fulani man himself, and that is why when I am talking, I try to differentiate it by saying that those people who are coming against us here because we have lived with Fulani before. These are from Mali, Niger, Senegal, and other parts of the world who had chosen to relocate here and take over. We have not sent any Fulani man away from Benue State. Some are still here, and some are even in my government.
“These people called Miyetti Allah have no job other than collecting huge sums of money from the government. The Federal Government is protecting them, which is why they have been talking in the manner they do because even when they do, nothing will happen to them. Even when we do, nothing has taken place. Nobody has called them to question why you are doing this and taking responsibility for attacks.”
The governor also reacted to Miyetti Allah’s claim that he has neglected his responsibilities and become an errand boy for Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike.
“I am the governor of Benue State, and I am not lacking in any area of my responsibility. Despite all the challenges I have we have been able to provide basic infrastructure. Go round despite all the challenges I have, we have been able to provide basic infrastructure, go around Makurdi. You will see the road, the urban renewal we have done, and the road construction we have taken key responsibility for.
“Go to the teaching hospitals to see our work; go to lands and surveys, see what we are doing; go to the Ministry of Housing and see what we are doing. We have provided roads in Zone A, Zone B and Zone C. We have provided clinics, and everything is functional. We have been able to establish primary health care, some of the states, up till today they have not been able to do that, and it is functional. We have been able to provide facilities that serve the people. We are not lacking in any area in sports.”
He added, “My relationship with Wike pains them. You know your true friend when you are in distress. When the same Miyetti Allah came with their people and attacked and killed our people, Wike came here with stakeholders from Rivers State.
“I was not close to Wike before. We disagreed on a number of things. I looked at it and said this is somebody that can be a friend, and we are working together. Nobody will stop me from being friends with Governor Wike.
“We speak to ourselves frankly. He is not happy with what is happening in the country today, and nobody is happy about this, so we are on the same page. Birds of the same feather flock together. He has spoken to condemn this administration and what Miyetti Allah is doing. He followed us in Benue and established the law prohibiting open grazing in Rivers State. They are annoyed because I have taken the lead in guiding people. I know that some states are already asking me about the process of establishing the Community Volunteers Guard, which they will adopt. Very soon, you will see it.
“If the Federal Government had listened to us, because you see the security men are doing their best, but they lack capacity, manpower, equipment, training and funding, they do not have it. We have been talking about restructuring and trying to have state police for a long time. The Federal Government does not want it. They want to control the security at the centre so they will do what they want.”