Benue Killings: Ortom Indicts Buhari, Others
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom said, on Saturday, that the Presidency and the security agencies ignored security alerts provided by his government ahead of the many killings, particularly of the recent 72 Benue indigenes by Fulani herdsmen.
The governor, who made the claim while meeting with members of Senate Ethics Committee on Security and Infrastructure, which visited the state, said that President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, all ignored several warnings sent by the state government alerting them to the planned attack on Logo and Guma communities in Benue.
The governor told the Senate Committee led by the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, that security agencies were also guilty of the continued killing of inhabitants of the state by Fulani herdsmen since 2008.
According to him, once the state government got the information of planned attack by Fulani herdsmen, he wrote a letter to the Vice-President Osinbajo, who was by then the Acting President, while President Buhari was away for medical treatment in London.
He stated that attempts to get the then Acting President’s attention through the letter were fruitless, as he stated that he got no reply whatsoever.
He also stated that when Buhari returned, he also wrote severally, but received no reply as well.
The governor said when driven by desperation, he made additional efforts to draw the attention of the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno to the threat.
He said the message was contained in separate letters addressed to the NSA, which he said were not replied.
He said: “We wrote to the Vice-President on the planned attack on parts of Benue by Fulani herdsmen, because the word was everywhere on the street, but he refused to reply.
“And when there was no response, and when Mr. President came back, I personally went and intimated him, and I also wrote. The documents are here. I will hand them over to you. I wrote to him on the planned attack by Fulani herdsmen because these threats were [real] on the streets.
“I intimated Mr. President and it was put to writing. On the same October 7, 2017, I wrote to the Inspector General of Police. I told him of a planned attack on our people. When there was no response, on October 27, 2017, I reminded him that these people are planning to attack us. We are law-abiding; we have disarmed our youths, and we are looking unto security agencies. And the way to do it is to arrest those people who were inciting the herdsmen to combat us, and we knew they were going to come.
“These people were all over the place: on television, in papers, doing various press conferences, and they eventually took us to court. But we felt that it was a crime for anyone to incite people against us with the purpose of killing or causing harm, destruction. So, we expected them (security agencies) to act, but there was no action.”
“Of course, I wrote to the Senate President for information, and the Speaker. I also wrote on 7th of October. When I was writing to the Acting President and Inspector General of Police, I also wrote to the National Security Adviser on this planned attack against Benue people. I also wrote to the Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS). And when there was no action, I followed it up with a reminder on 27th of October, 2017. So, that was it, and also on the 17th of October, I wrote to the president and I copied the National Security Adviser. There was no response. Of course, the National Security Adviser invited us for a meeting two times, but it was put off.”
“This is very sad. Those people who are responsible for these killings, I know. I accuse them and I have evidence against them in newspaper publications; they are in video; they are in audio, and they are known.”
“If I had wanted to buy guns, I wouldn’t wait. But if I bought guns and gave to those people, would my people have been killed in the manner they were killed? I disarmed the people. I’ve not bought a single gun. I’m a Christian. If I bought, I would say yes,” Ortom said.
On the claims that the Governor of Plateau State, Solomon Lalong, warned him against introducing the anti-grazing law in Benue, Ortom replied: “So, the sponsored write ups in the papers and the sponsored speech by my colleague in Plateau State, he said he warned me. How can you warn me? Am I the governor of Plateau State, Or am I his staff? Do I work for him? I’m Governor of Benue State, and my responsibility is to do what my people want. That is what democracy is.”
“So, when you castigate people about because you were induced by someone, and you come out to make those kinds of statements, then it’s unfortunate.”
“Remember, this is the same man, a double standard person, who told me when I visited Jos three weeks ago, he told me that he is under pressure by his people to do the same law that I did in Benue State. He told me this. He never warned me anywhere. He’s just trying to use that to blackmail me. What crime have I committed?” he queried.
He added: “Is this how we want to continue as a country? Where some people are given privilege to be lawless?”
Senator Lawan, who heads the committee, had told the governor that his committee was in Benue to ensure a review of security infrastructure in the country.
He said: “This was necessary due to the current rise of insecurity in Nigeria,” adding that “the way our security apparatus is arranged, citizens are not properly and effectively protected.”
He commiserated with the governor and the people of Benue, adding that the Senate would partner with stakeholders and all security agencies to ensure a lasting solution to the problem.
The senator said: “I think something is amiss. It is either they have deficiencies or they are not cooperating between themselves.”
“It is our wish that these killings should be the last to happen in our country. We will cooperate and work with the executive arm of government, but we believe the state and Federal Governments must continue to work together on this. Those who perpetrated this crime must be apprehended and prosecuted,” he said.
The Senate Leader was accompanied on the journey by other members of the committee members, including Senators Abu Ibrahim; Sam Egwu; Abba Kyari; Barnabas Gemade; Biodun Olujimi; Joshua Lidani; Emmanuel Paulker and Yahaya Abubakar.
However, when the office of the Vice-President was contacted, the Senior Special Adviser, Dr. Laolu Akande, said he was yet to read the statement credited to Governor Ortom that he would need to check it out.
“I have not read what the governor said. It will be unfair for me to comment on it. I basically need time to check it out,” he said.