The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, and his Nasarawa State counterpart, Tanko Al-Makura, have disagreed on the location of the Fulani herdsmen, who attacked several Benue State communities last week, killing no fewer than 71 residents.
While Ortom alleged that the marauding herdsmen launched their attacks from their Nasarawa base, Al-Makura faulted the Benue State governor’s assertion, asking Ortom the source of his allegation.
Ortom spoke with State House correspondents after a meeting he had with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
The Benue State governor said he would support any move, including military option that could put an end to the killings being witnessed in the state.
He however said he would not support the Federal Government’s plan to establish cattle colonies until he understood the concept.
The meeting, which was the first between the two leaders since violence broke out in the state on January 1, afforded the governor the opportunity of briefing Buhari about the security development.
He said although he had briefed the President on the telephone immediately the incident took place, he felt there was the need for him to meet Buhari personally after he had succeeded in restoring normalcy to a level.
When asked for his position on the suggestion that full blown military operation be applied in his state, the governor said, “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, I will support it because this cannot continue.”
The governor explained that the law on prohibition of open grazing and establishment of ranching was made out of the need to ensure that there was a peaceful coexistence among herdsmen and farmers.
Ortom said he did not understand the concept of the cattle colonies being proposed by the Federal Government.
He added, “I am waiting to be briefed about what colonies means. I don’t understand it.
“Like I keep saying, for us the way forward is ranching and until this time I am talking to you, the way forward is ranching because it is a global best practice.
“It is not just being 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.”
The governor said the state had been witnessing peace since the implementation of the law started up until the militias from the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore came and attacked the people.
He further claimed that the attackers and their location were known.
The governor disclosed that the attackers were camped in Tongua in the Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, from where they launched their attacks.
He said the gunmen still succeeded in killing two riot policemen on Monday while one other was injured in another attempt to attack the people in the Logo LGA.
The governor stated, “It (the situation) is taking a different dimension. Just yesterday (Monday) in the Logo Local Government, mobile policemen that were deployed in 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.
“They shot another one, inflicted machete cuts on 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?”
He said he had been writing to the leadership of the nation’s security agencies since June 2017 on the need to arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who he described as threats to the state’s collective interest.
Ortom attributed the killings to the failure of the security agencies.
He insisted that the leaders of MAKH must be arrested and prosecuted because his government could allow impunity to continue to thrive.
On the claim by the Chairman of the Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Benue State chapter, Garos Gololo, that the killings were in retaliation for the theft of 1,000 cows by some people in the state, Ortom said, “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 that the herdsman decided to commit suicide by jumping to the river. He has not come out to justify what he said.”
But Al-Madura described Ortom’s statement that those who attacked his state were camped in Tango, Awe LGA of Nasarawa State, as unfortunate.
Al-Makura, while speaking to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, said it was unfortunate that Ortom could make such a weighty allegation at a time his government was supporting him to tackle the security challenge in his state.
He explained that the town that Ortom claimed was serving as a base for the attackers was currently occupied by Internally Displaced Persons.
The governor said, “I am really taken back. This statement is most unfortunate. I will like to use this opportunity to say that there is nothing like that whatsoever.
“If anything, the Tonga that the governor is talking about in the Awe LGA is now the safe haven for displaced persons. As I speak with you today, there are more than three IDP camps in the Awe local government that cater to the number of people that have migrated from Benue to Nasarawa.
“To be specific, there are more than 7,000 people that are camped in Tonga. So, it is very ironical that a place that is supposed to be an area that has become a safe haven for IDPs can now be called militias’ camp.
“In that case, the militia do not need to go as far as Benue. They have the prey within the vicinity of Tonga to attack. I think this is most unfortunate.
“With the efforts we, as a state, are making and collaborating and supporting the governor to find ways and means of solving this problem, that Nasarawa State can be identified as an area where some of these militants are coming from, is unfortunate.”
Al-Makura recalled that he and six other governors met the nation’s service chiefs and some ministers for over seven hours on Monday on how to solve the problem.
He expressed surprise that Ortom did not find it worthy to approach him and tell him of such finding.
“He could not approach me and give me an idea if there is anything that he saw or he is worried about.
“Besides, from all the discussions we had yesterday, there was no concrete security report stigmatising any part of Nasarawa State as harbouring people that are coming to attack Benue.
“I feel what should be of concern to us as leaders is the plight of the people and any such statement that is inflammatory is likely going to cause more confusion than what is already there,” he added.
The Nasarawa State governor attributed the violence in Benue State to the implementation of the state’s anti-grazing law.
He added, “As it is, it is the implementation of the anti-grazing law in Benue caused the problem and now Nasarawa State is being infected by the problem. Notwithstanding that, we are being our brothers’ keepers and good neighbours.
“I had to cut short my vacation and come to find ways of helping my colleague. We have called all our security agencies to meet to find ways and means of helping Benue.”