• As Buhari sues for tolerance
• Osinbajo denies earlier warnings on killings
By Lawrence Olaoye
The Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom has said his state lacks the expanse of land required for the establishment of the proposed cattle colonies in his state.
This is just as President Muhammadu Buhari has counseled leaders from Benue state to accommodate their countrymen, assuring them that the perpetrators of the New Year day killings in the state would be arrested and prosecuted.
Ortom who led the state delegation, in a press conference held after the closed door meeting with the President, asked on the way forward, said “As for the solution to the problem, we are open to suggestions from the federal government to find how we can find a lasting solution. The minister of agriculture happens to be a son of the soil. There are many options that are put on the table.
“Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches our in one place, restricted in one place. So for us in Benue State there is no 10,000 hectares, they are looking for 5,000 hectares we have no 10,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take place. So people are free. Other states have the land but we in Benue State we don’t have and that was what led to us enacting this law.”
Ortom described as untrue and a distraction the allegation that his government armed militia men to fight the herdsmen in the state. He however added that the government was about to create vigilante groups to provide security in the state just as he admitted that he had Livestock Guards in place in line with the prohibition of open grazing in the state.
“On his not getting response to a letter he wrote the Presidency wearing ahead of the new year attack, the governor said “I believe that if no attention was given to my letter, I was told that it was being processed and I hope by now it has been processed and that action will be taken now that the entire delegation from Benue State is here and Mr. President is directing the IG that something will be done about this matter because we cannot allow lawlessness and we cannot allow impunity. When people violate the law and they are not sanctioned it becomes a problem. People should be investigated and I believe that these people will be arrested because there is enough evidence against them.”
The Benue governor also said the tension would be reduced with the Federal Government’s intervention to find a lasting solution to the herdsmen attacks.
“We will leave here to rebuild confidence in our people,’’ he said.
The Tor-Tiv, Prof. James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse, said his entire domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.
“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation,’’ he added.
Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, commiserated with all the victims of the attacks, and the families who lost loved ones and properties, noting that the government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims.
The President said “Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,’’ he said.
He told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said Ortom’s claim of writing a letter to the Presidency warning the federal government ahead of the suspected herdsmen attack on Logo and Guma local governments in the state, was untrue.
Responding, the Vice President said he was shocked by the governor’s claim that his letter was not replied.
Osinbajo in a statement made available to newsmen by his media aide, Laolu Akande, said the letter he received from Ortom was not a warning against the new year day killings in Logo and Guma local governments as he claimed.
The Vice President described Ortom’s claim as ‘terrible falsehood’
Osinbajo explained:“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 mobilise 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!”
According to him, the letter written by the governor, there was no mention of any threat to any specific one of the 23 local governments of Benue State.”
Present at the meeting were Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, former Senate President, David Mark, former Benue State Governor, Sen. George Akume and Sen. Barnabas Gemade. Others include Sen. JK Waku, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Brig. Gen. John Atom Kpera (rtd), former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Terkimbir Kyambe, and other members of the National and State Assembly from the State.