Police Confirm Militia Groups ‘Armed With AK-47’ In Benue

Police have confirmed the existence of armed militia groups in Benue State which they said investigations would reveal soon.

Speaking on Thursday during an interview on Channels Television, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Jimoh Moshood, countered claims by Governor Samuel Ortom that there was nothing of such.

“Yes, they were armed with AK-47 (riffles); we have records, we have footage and you can’t just start arming people,” he said when he appeared on Sunrise Daily.

“There are a lot of militia groups equally in Benue and we are looking at all those areas to ensure that the actual perpetrators of this mayhem are promptly arrested.

“People who are supposed to ensure that when they observe (you say you have a guard) and report back to the police that would probably do the appropriate thing; if such a guard is armed with AK-47 rifle, how do you control that, how do you prevent such AK-47 (riffle) from going into wrong hands?” Moshood questioned.

He also disputed claims that the ranch guards who were inaugurated by the state government were unarmed, insisting that the police have their evidence.

The Force spokesman noted that it was unlawful for any person to be in possession of arm without the consent of the Federal Government.

He added that the said ranch guards were meant to take note of any suspicious activity and report to the police, stressing that investigations had revealed that they were carrying prohibited weapons.

On Ortom’s claims, Moshood said: “Yes, I’m disputing that because we have evidence that they were armed with AK-47 rifles.”

“It is equally important for people to know that we are investigating that, we must know the source of these AK-47 rifles.

“Any organisation that you are setting up before you can carry firearms must be approved by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it shouldn’t be a prohibited firearm.

“When you don’t draw the police into this and you arm people, you turn them into militias because you don’t control what they do with these firearms,” he added.

The Force spokesman, however, said the police have been supporting the Benue State government in terms of implementing the law on prohibition of open-grazing in the state.

According to him, the police have a responsibility to support any law made at all levels of government, as well as the ones made by the leadership of any community towards keeping the peace in the society.

Moshood said, “Even when you look at the international law, it’s like picking a cutlass and cutting a footpath and everybody is compelled to pass the footpath; so if that is the norms of the people, we should enforce it for them.”

Osinbajo Denies Receiving Letter From Benue Govt Over Herdsmen Attacks

SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT AGAINST LIES, FALSEHOOD AND MISINFORMATION

OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT – PRESS STATEMENT

BENUE KILLINGS: REPORTS VICE PRESIDENT IGNORED BENUE GOVERNOR’S LETTER ABSOLUTELY FALSE

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, was shocked by a news report ostensibly quoting the Benue State Governor Sam Ortom as saying that the VP was warned of the savage and inhumane killings by alleged herdsmen in Logo and Guma local government areas which took place on the 1st of January 2018

Although the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo, does not believe that the Governor could ever have said so, it will be a terrible falsehood to suggest that the VP was ever informed by the Governor or anyone else of the imminence of the killing of citizens of our country in those or any other local governments in Benue State.

Governor Ortom wrote to the Vice President, then Acting President, on 7th June 2017 protesting a newspaper publication where the leadership of Miyetti Allah was reported to have stated that it was opposed to the Open Grazing Prohibition law of the State and that they would mobilize to resist the law. The Miyetti Allah had written to the Vice President on the 5th of June 2017 on the same law protesting several sections of the law. The Governor went on to say that the leadership of Miyetti Allah should be arrested because they used words such as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive,” to describe the law, and because these were “utterances that are capable of undermining the peace…”

The Vice President subsequently met with the Governor, discussed the matter and the security situation in the State and then ordered law enforcement agencies to be on the alert to prevent any attacks or violence. This was in June 2017!

In the said letter written by the Governor, there was no mention of any threat to any specific one of the 23 local governments of Benue State, so the best the law enforcement agencies could do even then was to await information or intelligence of an imminent attack. Nonep came. Since then the VP has held several meetings with the Benue State Governor, including a visit to the State on the 6th of September, last year at the behest of Mr. President during the tragic floods in the state last year. At all such meetings, the Vice President discussed the security situation of the State with the Governor.

Following that, the then Acting President convened a major national security retreat which was attended by all State Governors, service chiefs and heads of security agencies. The Retreat featured very detailed discussions on the herdsmen/ farmers’ clashes.

To the best of our knowledge, neither Governor Ortom nor the Federal Government was aware of the imminence of the cowardly attack on Logo and Guma on the 1st of January, and therefore any suggestion that the President or the Vice President ignored the State Governor’s warning is both absolutely false and certainly misleading.

Laolu Akande

Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity to the President

Office of the Vice President

15 January 2018

Benue Clash: FG Implores Media, Others Not To Worsen Situation

The Federal Government has implored the media and public commentators to exercise utmost restraint in their coverage of the fallouts of the recent farmers/herders’ clash in Benue State in order not to further inflame passion and worsen the situation.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that while the Federal Government was working hard to address the situation with a view to preventing a recurrence not just in Benue State but everywhere across the country, it was incumbent on the media and public commentators not to engage in actions that can aggravate the crisis.

“’Lest we are misunderstood, we are neither saying the media should not cover the crisis nor asking public commentators to desist from commenting on it. All we are saying is that both must be circumspect.

“The current poisoned atmosphere of incendiary comments, unrestrained use of pictures and footages that offend human sensibilities as well as finger-pointing can only exacerbate the situation and complicate ongoing efforts to end the crisis,” he said.

Mohammed said the Federal Government was absolutely saddened by the loss of lives and the destruction of property resulting from the crisis, and recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, in commiserating with the Benue State Governor, unreservedly condemned the killings and also assured of the necessary security measures to prevent further attacks and bring the perpetrators to book.

He said the Federal Government had also mapped out short and long-term solutions to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders, including a planned conference of stakeholders, and assured of the government’s strong determination to find a lasting solution to the farmers/herders’ clashes.

Buhari’s Campaign For 2019 At This Time Is Political Sacrilege

Senator Shehu Sani, representative of Kaduna Central, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to forget his ambition of running for a second term next year and address the security situation of the nation and other national challenges.

The senator said: “It is wrong to be talking of the re-election of Buhari as President when hundreds of lives are being lost and people are being massacred in different parts of the country.

“In time of bloodshed like this, the issue should be how to come together and address the problem. But those marketing the President at a time of this bloodshed are like people dancing on the graves of Nigerians.

“Campaigning for Buhari for next year’s election when people are being killed, when orphans and widows are being produced as a result of the tragedy of these circumstances and people are being kidnapped, I think amounts to political sacrilege.

“It is an insult on the conscience of Nigerians and it is an insult on the moral integrity of Nigerians for anybody to ignore what is happening and simply walk to the President and tell him that what is important at this material time is his re-election campaign for next year’s election…

“If we allow this trend to continue, it would threaten the peace and unity of this country.

“I advise people advising the President and strategising for him to contest the elections to spare him some time, advise him well and provide a solid strategy to end the carnage and atrocities that is going on in the country today.

“Human life is more important than politics, because you cannot preside over dead people. The images we see in both social and traditional media is heart-rending and despicable.

“I can tell you that over a year ago, the President was in Zamfara State in military fatigue to address the problem of banditry and mass killing. The President should be seen in any part of the country where such violence occurs.

“The President must visit Southern Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, Taraba, Benue, Rivers and Adamawa states. It gives people some hope that their Commander-in-Chief is determined and committed to defend and protect them.”

The Benue Killings: Matters Arising By Dan Agbese

There has been a steady outpouring of grief, anger and condemnation in Benue State over the latest killings by Fulani herdsmen in Guma and Logo local government areas. For tens of families in those areas, the new year did not bring joy and happiness. It brought death, grief and loss. Official figures of the dead? 71 men, women and children who had no quarrel with these herdsmen and in no way provoked them into turning them into mere disembodied statistics.
I offer the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, my condolence. Their death diminishes all of us who are indigenes of the state. It is right for all those who come from that sad state to express our feelings over the attempts by the herdsmen to turn Benue, and indeed, three other states in the Middle Belt zone into killing fields. It is unacceptable. We are right to say so loud and clear.

Something appears to be stirring post these senseless killings. The minders of our state appear to have finally woken up to the real security challenges of enemies without borders menacing our state. The reaction this time is different from the indifference shown by the authorities when the herdsmen, not once but several times and with impunity, levelled several villages in Agatu Local Government Area, also in the state, in 2015 and 2016. We still do not know how many were killed in those attacks. Let us not pretend that the minders of our state failed to rise up to that challenge then. Guma and Logo are sad reminders of a simple fact: evil earns its capacity to spread when it is treated like a minor boil on the nose of the unfortunate.

Still, I welcome the outpouring of anger and condemnation by our big men. I can see that the reaction to such incidents has moved from the politically correct template of mere condemnation couched in jaded words by the important people in both the state and the nation at large into what I see as perhaps a move to address this growing problem and free the state and the nation from being hostages to these mindless killings and killers.

On October 30 last year, the former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, released bone chilling statistics on the killings and the destruction by the Fulani herdsmen in four states – Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Benue – in 2016. In only one year, according to the general, Fulani herdsmen killed 2,500 people and displaced 62,000 people in the four states. The states lost $13.7 billion and 47 per reduction in their internally generated revenue.

Since leaving office in a blaze of glory in 1999, Abubakar has become a tireless ambassador for peace in and outside the country. In releasing the statistics, he warned that the killings were spreading beyond the four states. What he did, and rightly so, was to confront the Nigerian state with the fact that its lethargy would make matters worse, much worse, and urged it to wake up. It seems to me that his timely warning appears to have been ignored. The consequence is that the killings are going on and have spread to Adamawa, Taraba and even Imo states.

Abubakar described these killings as clashes. In my reaction to his timely warning in my column for this newspaper, titled: Fulani herdsmen? The grim statistics, I pointed out that the killings did not and do not result from clashes between the herdsmen and the villagers because “there is no evidence that those attacked ever faced the attackers or that they had a chance to fight back. These attacks and killings are unprovoked and the attackers choose where and when to attack.” I also pointed out that “The real shock is not that these killings, maiming and displacements go on with impunity but that the federal government seems to be doing Rip Van Winkle in the face this critical national challenge.”

In these sad moments, it is naïve not to expect our people who believe they must be heard to bottle their emotions. A crisis is easy to be exploited and manipulated for political gains. It is in the nature of human societies. We must be careful not to reap such bountiful political harvests at the expense of the people. But make no mistake: when the emotions are spent and the dead are buried, the big people would once more padlock their lips and remain blind to, and silent on, issues that agitate us. Guma and Logo would recede into our collective memories overflowing with the sad victims of similar incidents in and outside the state.

Those who are calling on the president to resign are merely riding the tide of public emotion. The president has nothing to gain from the killings in Benue and other states. It is not right or fair to accuse him of inaction because he, like the herdsmen, is a Fulani. The tribalisation of a crisis such as this merely beclouds of our thinking and our sense of fairness and proportion. Let us face the fact and the fact is that the primary responsibility for the security of the state and its people lies squarely on the shoulders of Ortom, the state governor. Security is the number constitutional duty placed on the shoulders of the president and the state governors.

Consider the ham-handed official police reaction to the killings in Guma and Logo in early January. They might have been forgotten if the killers had not returned a few days later to Logo. The inspector general of police attributed the first wave of killings to communal clashes in those areas. I think he misadvised himself and his statement in the heat of the crisis was equally callous and ill-timed. I can find no where in the laws of our land where the police are authorised to treat communal crises with insouciance or levity. Perhaps, this mind set encouraged the killers to return.

Why did the state and the police fail to rise up to the immediate challenges of securing the affected local government areas? Interestingly, the Benue State police command informed the public they had arrested seven of the herdsmen involved in the new year attacks. Were they Tiv men in herdsmen’s clothing? It is such a great pity that the police chose to be mealy-mouthed about this grave problem.

The current killings throw up once more one of the fundamental problems with the operation of our military federalism. As horrendous as the Benue killings are, they are in no way worse than those in Borno and Yobe since 2009. Or worse than those in Adamawa and Plateau states. Whether they are perpetrated by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen or hired killers, these killings point to an uncomfortable but inescapable fact: our security system has failed us. This is not really about Benue. It is about the inability of the Nigerian state and the constituent units of the federation to make us safe in our own country. No one should take this lightly because the challenges posed by these pockets of crises are nasty and real; intractable even.

We need to take two urgent steps in this regard. The first is to take another look at the nature and the practice of our security system. Security is not entirely the responsibility of the Federal Government. It is a shared responsibility between it and the state governments. The states cannot effectively discharge this responsibility with our current single federal police force. Experience has amply demonstrated that it is not working or working satisfactorily. It argues for a state police.

Despite the generous security votes for which they are accountable to no one, the state governors do not feel sufficiently responsible for security in their various domains where most of them choose to enjoy privileges without responsibilities; what the late Churchill called the province of harlots. They throw it back on the Federal Government. In their failure they try to score cheap political points by making the president the scapegoat every time there is a security breach resulting in death and destruction.

I am afraid this would not wash. So, the second point is to hold the state governors primarily and unequivocally responsible for security in their domains. Their failure to do what they ought to do with their security votes and the security outfits available to them to make their states and their people fully secure and protected should attract constitutional sanctions. The Nigerian state ought not be complicit, by default, in the cheapening of the lives of its citizens. No band of killers can ever boast of the security arsenal in the custody of the Nigerian state.
Why do we feel so helpless?

Benue Buries Victims Slaughtered By Alleged Fulani Herdsmen (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

Tears flow uncontrollably on Thursday as the 73 people killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the new year attack in Benue state were given mass burial.

The victims were laid to rest at the Industrial Layout along Neka Road, in Markurdi the state capital.


Thousands of Benue residents including Governor Samuel Ortom were attended the burial to bid the victims farewell.


The event organised by the Benue state government was to provide a bit of succour to the family of the slain people.

The 73 people were gruesomely killed during an attack by some suspected Fulani herdsmen who invaded villages and farms at Guma and Logo Local Government areas of the state.

See the Video Below:

Benue Killings: Victim Losses 4 Wives, 18 Children

A livestock guard, Mr Akpenheen Amile, who sustained gunshot wounds in the January 2nd attack on villages in Guma, Benue State as cried out to the public about the loss of his four wives and 18 children.

He revealed that he had not been able to contact them after the attack.  Amile lamented to the News Agency Of Nigeria (NAN) in Markurdi saying;

“I am in physical pains from gunshot injuries, but such pains don’t hurt me like the inability to ascertain the fate of my four wives and 18 children,” Amile told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Makurdi.

Recall that about five villages in Guma and Logo Local Governments were attacked by unknown gunmen on Jan. 1 and 2.

According to the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), 73 people have so far been confirmed killed by the invaders.

Amile, who is married to five wives, told NAN that only his fifth wife was with him.

The livestock guard, who is being treated at the Benue State Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), said that he was shot on one of his legs.

“As it is, I don’t know whether they are among the dead or they have fled to some unknown destination for safety,” he said.

Amile, who claimed that the attackers were dressed in herdsmen attire, said that they arrived “around 5 p.m. and started shooting anyone on sight”.

Speaking through an interpreter, Amile said that he was with other Livestock Guards employed by the Benue Government to enforce the anti-open grazing law, when the gunmen descended on them.

“We were at our camp at a primary school at Iwer, in Guma, when the gunmen surrounded us and started shooting.

“It was while I was running for safety that I was shot on the leg. We had to flee because we were not armed. Besides, we were taken by surprise.

“They killed many Livestock Guards and many of us were wounded.

“Since the attack, I have not heard from my four wives and 18 children. Only my fifth wife is here with me. This is causing me sleepless nights; the situation is unbearable,” he said.

 

To Say Buhari Is Not Concerned About Benue Killings Is Unfair – Shehu

The Presidency on Tuesday said it was unfair and unkind for anybody or group to keep insinuating that President Muhammadu Buhari is condoning killings in Benue State and other parts of the country.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.

Shehu said the President was conscious of his duty to Nigerians, not least because he is held accountable for everything that goes wrong.

He said Buhari was also worried about public pronouncements and finger-pointing which he described as unhelpful to peaceful coexistence in the country.

The presidential spokesman said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has been concerned about these conflicts each time he received those very gruesome pictures of mayhem from several parts of the country, especially as it affected Benue and neighbouring states.

“He is equally worried about some public pronouncements and finger-pointing that are, in most cases very unhelpful to peaceful coexistence of our diverse peoples.

“The President is conscious of his duty to Nigerians, not least because he is held accountable for everything that goes wrong. He deeply sympathises with the families and all the other direct and indirect victims of this violence. He is determined to bring it to a permanent end.

“While there are many Nigerians who see the conflict between the nomadic herdsmen and peasant farmers as an ethnic problem, others point to religious differences and agenda. The President does not subscribe to such simplistic reductionism.

“President Buhari holds the view, as do many experts, that these conflicts are more often than not, as a result of major demographic changes in Nigeria. When Nigeria attained independence, the population of the country was estimated at about 63,000,000.

“Today the population is estimated at close to 200,000,000; while the land size has not changed and will not change. Urban sprawl and development have simply reduced land area both for peasant farming and cattle grazing.

“It is therefore both unfair and unkind, for anyone to keep insinuating that the President is condoning the spate of killings in Benue and other neighbouring states.

“President Buhari has publicly condemned the violence at every turn. He is prepared to permit every possible step that can lead to the stoppage of the killings.”

Benue Killings Has Claimed 80 Lives – NEMA

Eighty people have been killed in Benue State since December 31 following clashes between cattle herders and farmers, said an emergency official Tuesday.

“80 is the number we can say for now, the attacks have not stopped,” Benue State Emergency Management Agency executive secretary Emmanuel Shior told AFP.

AFP

FULL INTERVIEW: What Benue Gov, Ortom Told Journalists After Meeting President Buhari

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday to meet President Muhammadu Buhari as tension continued to rise in his state over the New Year Day attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

The attack left scores of villagers dead in two local government areas of the state.
Mr. Ortom spoke with State House correspondents after the meeting. Excerpts from the
interview.

On his mission to the State House
I had earlier briefed Mr. President when this incident took place on the first of January. After staying back on the ground to do the needful to ensure that we restore normalcy, I said it was important for me to come personally and brief him and that has been done.

Already, because of the communications we have been having when these incidents started, actions have been taken as directed by him (President Buhari). The movement of the DIG, the movement of the IG now to relocate to Benue State to ensure that this challenge is surmounted, was at the instance of Mr. President.

Of course, additional personnel of DSS and Police have been deployed and even the Army. We have additional personnel on ground now. We have adequately and fully given them the logistics support to ensure that our people are protected.

I had to brief him, he is also doing further investigation to know the next line of action. I believe that my request that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who has earlier threatened… and I accused them directly, since June last year I have been writing to the leadership of security agencies, that these people are a threat to our collective interest and they must be dealt with. They must be arrested and prosecuted because we cannot allow impunity to continue to thrive. And, of course, threat and no action has resulted in this killing and I think that Mr. President will also do the needful to ensure something is done.

On allegations that he hired mercenaries from Republic of Ghana to fight herdsmen
I am not aware of this and I don’t even know about that one, I am hearing it for the first time. If someone has done that, it must be this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, that have done it.

On the allegations that he was blocked from seeing the President
I have never accused anyone of blocking me from seeing Mr. President. I’m seeing Mr. President. I told him when this incident occurred, I spoke to Mr. President on phone and followed it up. I know what it entails being a president. Even as governor most times I am not with my phone, people cannot access me the way it used to be, talk less of a president. I didn’t say that and I have not said it. The truth is that I have access to Mr. President anytime I want, I speak to him on phone and I see him personally. I requested to speak to him on phone that day because I couldn’t come to Abuja and he gave me the opportunity and today I’m here and I have seen him.

On suggestion that full blown military operations be set up in Benue like other places
Anything that can stop the killings of my people, I will go for it, I support it. Any policy or any directive, anything that will help stop the killing of these innocent people who are not armed, because this cannot continue. We know that the continuity of this will create greater challenges. I don’t want it to continue. We are struggling with economic issues, we are struggling with political issues and we are struggling with several other issues in this country, security issues and all that, Benue State should not be part of this; there is no need for it.

On allegation that the anti-open grazing law in the state is at the roots of the crisis
The law on prohibition of Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranching was made out of the necessity to ensure that we have peace for herdsmen and farmers and that is what we have done. The law seeks to protect all and as I talk to you, except this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who are instigating people to fight and to kill us, there are Fulani men in Benue State as I talk to you doing their business.

On allegation by the Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN Chairman, Benue State chapter, Garos Gololo, that the killings were in retaliation for the theft of 1,000 cows by some people in the state

You know that man is a liar. Gololo is a liar, he is a wanted man in Benue State, we don’t even know where he is. He stays somewhere and makes allegations. The other time, he said 1,000 cattle drowned and the herdsman decided to commit suicide by jumping into the river. He has not come out to justify what he said.

On FG’s idea of setting up colonies to solve the problem
I am waiting to be briefed about what colonies means, I don’t understand it and until I understand it…But like I keep saying, for us, the way forward is ranching and up til this time, I am talking to you, the way forward is ranching because is global best practice. And it is not just practised in other parts of the world, on African soil in Swaziland, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, almost all African countries that rear cattle, they ranch. So why can’t we do the same thing here? For the colony thing I don’t know what colony is.

On how many ranches his administration has created
It is not for me to create ranches. I know that as a farmer, I have one in my farm. And there are several other people who have. The permits are available for people who want to ranch their cattle to access land and begin to ranch. So it is free for everybody and that is the right way to go.

And since we started the implementation (of the anti-open grazing law), there has been relative peace amongst farmers and herdsmen. They were doing well until this militia coming from this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore came and attacked us. And they are known, we know where they are. As I talk to you, they are in Tongua in Awe local government, that is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.

And it is taking a different dimension. Just yesterday (Monday) in Logo local government, mobile policemen that were deployed to Logo to keep vigil to protect the people and the land, these militia came, exchanged fire with them, caught two of them and slaughtered them like goats. Mobile policemen! They shot another one, macheted him and left him in the pool of his blood, but luckily, he did not die. We have taken him to the hospital, we are treating him. The other one that was declared missing was found today (Tuesday).

So when it gets to the level of militia killing security men who are armed and are trained to protect lives and property, is it not taking a dangerous dimension? Who is now safe?

Buhari Promises Ortom Improved Security In Benue

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said he has assured the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, of his commitment to the security of lives and property in the state and other parts of the country.

Buhari said he gave the assurance during a meeting he had with the governor at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He disclosed this in a message he posted on his verified Twitter handle, @MBuhari, shortly after he met the governor to review the security situation in the state especially as it concerns recent killings.

He said he was committed to ensuring that all those behind the recent attacks in the state were brought to justice.

He also promised that his government would do everything possible to forestall a recurrence.

The President wrote, “I just met with the governor of Benue State. I assured Governor Ortom of our total commitment to the security of lives and property in Benue and elsewhere.

“We have deployed additional security resources to fish out the attackers, bring them to justice, and prevent further attacks.”