A group of campaigners against open grazing of cattle in Benue State called the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO), has faulted a report by Amnesty International’s where it allegedly put the number of deaths in Benue State between 2016 and 2018, at 726.
According to the group, almost 10,000 farmers have been killed within the time frame, as against the figure mentioned by Amnesty International.
The legal adviser for the group, Mr Terence Vembe, at a press briefing on Saturday noted that over 3,900 persons were killed in Agatu alone, while scores of persons had been killed in Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Logo, Buruku and Kwande Local Government Areas.
“In view of the above and many other observations, MAFO wishes to state as follows: the casualty figure of 726 for Benue State, has been strategically downplayed in order to water down the impact of the crisis of Benue communities and present a different picture to the rest of the world, especially coming from a globally known organization like Amnesty International,” he said.
Vembe, therefore, called on Amnesty International to re-evaluate its report by conducting fresh investigations in the affected Benue communities.
The group also faulted comments credited to Senator George Akume, alleging that the Benue State government is responsible for the killings.
The Secretary-General, Miyetti Kautal Hore, Mr Saleh Alhassan, has demanded an apology from the Benue State Government for linking the association to the attacks and killings in the state.
Alhassan made the demand on Monday during his appearance on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.
According to Alhassan, the recent arrest of the Commander of the Benue State Livestock Guards, Aliyu Teshaku, has vindicated the association.
“Today, they have arrested Aliyu Teshaku who is alleged to be the Head of the Livestock Guard in Benue who is behind those killings. He is arrested now,” he said.
“People that killed the two clergymen and 17 others in the church are being tried in Makurdi and they are all Tiv people. And they are all members of the livestock guard working for Governor Ortom.
“So we expect by now there should be an apology from the Benue State Government to our association because we have never promoted violence. We have always advocated for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.”
Apart from linking Tiv people to the attack on the Catholic church in Benue State that left two priests and 17 other worshippers dead, Alhassan accused the state government of propaganda against the association.
“I have always insisted that Governor Samuel Ortom is on a voyage of propaganda against our association,” he said. “And today, if you look at the arrest made in Benue, with respect to the perpetrators of the conflict there, you look at their ethnicity and background and you look at who is employing them, we have been vindicated.”
Alhassan’s comments come in the wake of attacks that have gripped the north-central state in which many people have been killed and many others displaced.
Allegations making the rounds say that the killings may be connected with the Anti-Grazing Law signed by Governor Samuel Ortom last year that led to a faceoff between the state government and herdsmen.
War of words
Since January 1, 2018, when suspected herdsmen attacked villages in Benue State killing 73 persons, Governor Ortom has repeatedly accused the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore of being responsible for the attacks, vowing not to go back on the prohibition against open grazing.
The governor has also rejected claims that the state government armed militia groups in the state and that it had a hand in the attacks.
To back its claim, the state government said it had documentary evidence linking the association to the killings and it engaged the police in a war of words earlier in the year over the failure to act on the evidence.
The Police in Benue State, on Friday, said they have recovered 10 bodies suspected to be that of the victims of an attack, scattered around bushes in some villages in the state.
Fresh attacks were earlier reported in some communities in Benue State on Thursday night. The attack was carried out by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen.
The Police in a statement signed by Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Moses Yamu, said the bodies were found in the bush around Tse-Adudu and Enger villages in Gwer West Local Government Area of the state.
“Eight dead bodies were found in the bush around Tse-Audu and Enger villages in Gwer West local government. This is in addition to the two bodies that were removed from the same area on the same day.
“They were believed to be victims of armed bandits, suspected to be cross-border insurgents and cattle rustlers. The Mobile Police Force Unit deployed in Naka general area, had in the course of their patrols, encountered the same Insurgents,” the police said.
The police said security operations have been stepped up in the affected communities with reinforcement of the Police Special Forces to counter insurgency and criminal activities of the gunmen.
The police, therefore, asked members of the public to report any suspicious movement in their areas to security agencies.
Benue State has witnessed several conflicts involving farmers and herdsmen with increased killings since January 2018.
The General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye has called for an end to the killing in Benue State and other parts of the country by suspected herdsmen.
Pastor Adeboye made this call on Friday when he alongside his wife, Folu, paid a visit to the Benue State.
The cleric believes only God, however, can stop the killings and give the people victory over the ‘battle’.
“We want these killings to stop. Happily, we know someone who can stop it, He is the Almighty God, He does not fail nor compromise, He is the God of all. We will continue to call on Him to fight this battle and you can be assured that victory will be certain,” he said.
Pastor Adeboye also prayed for the people, saying Benue State is very dear to him.
He explained that he did not visit the state earlier before President Muhammadu Buhari visited, to avoid politicising the incident.
Reacting to the recent killings on behalf of Ortom, Agerzua said the people of the state expected the Commander-in-Chief to assure them of chasing the ‘invaders’ from the state.
Referring to the Miyetti Allah Kuatal Hore, he alleged that the group had issued a threat to resist the Anti-Open Grazing Law being implemented in the state.
“What we expected from the President was to give us assurance that the invaders would be chased out; there are presently 170,000 displaced people in eight counts across the state, that is a huge humanitarian crisis.
“We thought that there would be some word of chasing these people so that the displaced can return to their houses,” the governor’s aide said.
He further dismissed claims that the state government had sent the herdsmen parking from the state, in retaliation for the reported killings.
Ortom’s adviser, however, maintained that the status of the grazing law remains the same while the herdsmen are advised to abide by it.
According to him, the move s to avoid cattle from further destroying farm produce that might result in more clashes between the farmers and the herders.
Earlier, President Buhari had during his visit to Benue on Monday, appealed to leaders of various groups in the state to convince their constituents that the Federal Government was doing its best to end the recurring attacks by armed herdsmen in various parts of the country.
On his part, Governor Ortom had asked the President to upgrade Exercise Cat Race to a full military operation to further tackle the farmers-herdsmen crisis.
The Governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, has faulted the Federal Government’s response mechanism and poor handling of the herdsmen killings in Benue state.
Fayose said contrary to the believe in some quarters that the Anti-Grazing Law implemented by the state government was responsible for the killings, the Federal Government’s handling of security matters was to blame.
“The constitution has given you powers to make laws to protect your people. I made that law, I stand by it. Stand by your own. You are not saying you are making laws for other people, you are making it for your people. For the protection of your people, the peace of your people.
“The anti-grazing law must not be compromised,” he stressed.
He made this known on Thursday, when he visited the state to commiserate with the government and people over the death of over 70 residents.
The Ekiti governor also criticised President Muhammadu Buhari over comments he made asking Benue residents to accommodate their countrymen.
“How can a governor give you advance warning under secrete security information.
“How can you tell a governor in a situation like Governor Ortom has found himself, to go and accommodate people killing you, god forbid bad thing o.” he said.
Governor Fayose who was received by Governor Samuel Ortom from the airport, alongside top officials headed to the site of the mass grave where a minute silence was observed in honour of the victims of attacks on New Year ’s Day.
Thereafter, they headed to the Government House where he made a donation of N10 million to help support the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The Senate has rejected a report by its ad hoc committee mandated to find out why the IG of Police did not comply with an earlier directive from the Senate to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of killings in Benue State.
The Upper Chamber rejected the report presented by the Chairman of the committee Senator Abu Ibrahim for failing to speak with the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, to get his own side of the security issues in the state.
The Upper Chamber has refused to consider the report, instructing the committee to speak with the state governor and report back in one week.
The Senate had on January 16, 2018, issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Ibrahim Idris, to investigate and arrest the perpetrators of the Benue attacks that led to the death of over 73 persons.
The two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday, condemned the wanton attacks by suspected herdsmen as they resumed plenary for the first time this year.
On its part, the House of Representatives also noted that it will set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the killings in Benue and other states of the country and report back in four weeks.
About a month after shocking killings erupted in Benue State on New Year’s day, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, has said that 24 suspects have been arrested with 19 arraigned in court in connection with the incident.
Owoseni stated this on Thursday during a telephone interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily where he vowed to ensure that justice would take its course to serve as a deterrent to others.
“A total number of 24 suspects that have been arrested in connection with some of these cases which borders on culpable homicide, grievous hurt, and mischief by fire, the total number is 24. The number that have been arraigned in court are 19 while five of the cases are still being investigated,” he said.
The CP said there would be no sacred cow in the fight against crime.
He also promised to completely eliminate criminals as all those found guilty will be made to face the full weight of the law.
He, however, noted that the state is currently enjoying relative peace due to the collaborative efforts of the police and the public.
The police boss, until his assuming duties last month as the police boss in the state, was in charge of Administration at the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID) at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
A new week, same issues. The third week of the year continued a dominant trend with reactions to the killings of several persons in Benue State by suspected herdsmen. The issue got the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari who met with a delegation of Benue leaders led by Governor Samuel Ortom on Monday in Abuja. Addressing the leaders, President Buhari said: “ I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.” Meanwhile, Nigeria joined the rest of the world to honour fallen heroes and members of the military who have fought and are still fighting in various theatres of conflict. At various events across the country to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Senate President Bukola Saraki, as well as state governors paid tributes to fallen soldiers by laying wreaths.
In Abuja, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the Nigeria Police Force, for the second time, to unseal the head office of the Peace Corps of Nigeria. Justice John Tsoho also directed police and other security agencies laying siege at the premises vacate immediately, as well as hand over possession of the office to the organisation.
The second day of the week also had more reactions to the Benue killings both from the government’s side and that of the citizens’. Reports had emerged that Governor Ortom warned Professor Osinbajo while President Buhari was on medical vacation against the imminence of the killing in Benue State. The Presidency, however, denied the report while Mr Ortom, on his part, warned those raising false alarms and making inflammatory statements to desist from such acts or face arrest.
As part of efforts to find a permanent solution to lingering fuel challenges, the House of Representatives summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru.
Both men were directed to appear before a Joint Committee of the House to explain the rationale behind the payment of fuel subsidy and to account for the funds spent on subsidy payment since January 2017.
Friday was clouded with controversy when President Buhari’s wife, Aisha, reposted the videos of two senators criticising her husband’s administration with her official Twitter handle @aishambuhari. In the said videos, Senator Isah Misau – who represents Bauchi Central – faulted the appointment of the Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), while Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (Bayelsa East) lambasted government over what he termed Nigeria’s ‘lawlessness’. Meanwhile, the President explained why he doesn’t make decisions hurriedly in addressing burning national issues. “I decided to drop the uniform and come back here (to be President of Nigeria), so I have gone through it over and over again. This is why I am not in a hurry to do anything. I will sit and reflect, and continue to (operate) with my clear conscience,” President had told some APC chieftains in Abuja.
News of suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, also known as Evans, might have been fading away but his trial alongside five others continued on Friday at the Ikeja High Court in Lagos. After series of proceedings, the court adjourned hearing till March 2 for the continuation of trial and ruling on a bail application brought by the sixth defendant. In Oyo State, the installation of 21 kings by the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, was nullified by a State High Court. The court declared as null, void and unconstitutional, the review of the 1957 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration as well as other Related Chieftaincies in Ibadan land by the Justice Akintunde Boade Review Commission set up by the state government.
Weekend In Summary
Nigerians woke up to the cheery news of the freedom of the four foreigners – two Americans and two Canadians on Saturday – about four days after they were abducted by gunmen in Kaduna State. The Commissioner of Police, Mr Agyole Abeh, said the foreigners were rescued at Jere Area in Kagarko Local Government Area of the state. The Delta State Police Command, however, confirmed the kidnap of five oil workers by gunmen in the state. The Command’s spokesman Andrew Aniamaka told Channels Television on Saturday that the hoodlums seized the workers on Wednesday at an offshore location near Ajoki, a border community between Delta and neighbouring Edo State.
Meanwhile, the leadership of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) in the South East rejected the proposed plan by the Federal Government to establish cattle colonies in states as a means to tackle the farmers and herdsmen clashes. Vice President of PFN in the region and former Chairman, Imo State branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Cosmas Ilechukwu, stated this after the national leaders of PFN met in Owerri. However, the umbrella body of Muslims in Nigeria, Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI), said it was absurd and wicked for CAN to blame herdsmen for the murder of more than 70 persons in Benue State and other parts of the country. Secretary-General of the group, Dr Khalid Abubakar, cautioned the Christian body against attributing crimes or criminals to religious and ethnic lines.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina has explained why President Buhari has not gone to Benue State to commiserate with the government and people of the state over the recent killings saying the President will eventually visit the state and other troubled states.
Adesina, who was a guest on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, however, did not state when exactly the President will visit Benue. He also reacted to claims by some Nigerians that the Presidency has been slow in action towards the herdsmen attacks noting that the President reacted immediately and has directed top security officials to the state.
“Before I talk about visiting, you need to also recall the things the President has done. Apart from condemning, the Deputy Inspector General in charge of operations was directed to go into that theater of unrest. After that, the Inspector General himself was directed to go, after that, the Minister of Interior was sent, then the military, so a lot has been done.
“Tomorrow (Monday), the President is receiving 35 elders from Benue at the State House. He has received the governor of the state, last week. So, a lot is been done on that issue.
“In terms of visiting, the President will eventually visit, not just Benue. Recall that killings are taking place in Taraba, Kaduna, Rivers. The president will visit most of these theaters of killings, not just Benue,” he said.
Adesina said the Presidency is not sluggish in reacting towards the attacks as much efforts has been taken by the Federal Government. The President, according to Adesina, is saddened by the killings and has not only condemned the attack but also ordered security agencies to take speedy actions.
”If killings happened on January 1 and the President reacts on January 1, then I don’t see anything sluggish in that. If you call it sluggish, it will just be your opinion. Anybody that says sluggish, it will be that person’s opinion and they will have a right to it. But what we know and it is on record that on the day it happened, the President condemned it and directed security agencies on what to do.
”It is a very sad development in our country. The President himself has expressed his sadness about it. You would recall that right on the day the incident happened, he caused a statement to be issued from the office of the Special Adviser on media and publicity that the development was condemnable, that the security agencies must move in immediately and put it in check and then he directed that the malefactors must be arrested and brought to justice,” he said.
Reacting to Red card movement led by the former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili giving a warning to the two major political parties in Nigeria and other dissatisfaction from Nigerian citizens, Adesina said everyone is entitled to their opinion.
“In a country of 180 million, there is no way you won’t have dissatisfaction from some areas. But, every news of dissatisfaction that comes to the President, he looks into. If anybody is waving a red card and the Nigerian Referees Association recognises her as a referee, then she can wave the red card,” he said.