Samuel Ortom has blamed the negligence of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the spate of killings orchestrated by Fulani herdsmen that has led to the death of over 50 people in the state.
He said, “Let me be frank. The Federal Government has not done enough. When this incidence started with the threat from the president and secretary of Miyetti Allah, Kauta Hore, who addressed a press conference and issued threats that they will do everything possible to frustrate the Benue State Government from implementing the anti-open grazing law, we quickly drew the attention of the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the Department of State Services, DSS, and even the office of the National Security Adviser.
“The leadership of Miyetti Allah called the law names; that it was draconian and had no place in the 21st century. We saw that as a threat to our existence and in June 2016, we reported to the then acting president (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) and to our surprise, these people were not apprehended.
“When they saw that no one was going to apprehend them, they went further to issue more threats. In October 2016, we reminded the IGP, the DSS and the NSA of the potential violence that we faced in Benue State as a result of the threat from the Miyetti Allah. We, specifically, demanded that the two officers of the Miyetti Allah, the secretary and the president, be arrested, but unfortunately, they were not arrested. I do not know why the Federal Government has abandoned us. If they had acted that time, we would not have gotten to where we are today.
“I have suspended everything about campaigns and all that, even for myself. Yes, I am contesting in 2019 but I don’t want to be campaigning for now. I cannot campaign for myself or any other person until this matter is resolved. I cannot preside as governor over dead people.
“The lives of my people come first before politics. In fact, I have decided that I am not going to engage in any political activity, whether for myself or for anybody until this matter is resolved. I cannot be talking about 2019 when my people are being killed.
“If I win, will I preside over dead bodies? If that will make other people to take the governorship from me, so be it. I must not be governor.”
He said, “You can see that it is getting beyond me. Even when there was protest against the recent killings in Makurdi, and I went there, there was massive resistance. It became violent and it is even God that saved us. I would have been attacked.
“When I came into office, there was proliferation of arms and ammunition in the state. I declared an amnesty programme that saw massive retrieval of arms from our youths.
“I pleaded with them that the way to develop is not by taking the laws into their hands but by obeying the laws. I have resisted the temptation to say that our people should protect themselves because I trusted the president.
“I believed that he has the capacity to protect us. But from what is happening, I am sure some people around him are frustrating our communication with him and the actions to be taken.
“Otherwise, the president I know will not allow this kind of thing to be happening. We have not committed any offence.
“We have no regret passing the anti-open grazing law. The law came as a necessity because of the killings in Benue State by the herdsmen.
“We sought peaceful ways of resolving the matter but we could not. We tried everything under the sun to ensure that we stopped these killings but it was not possible so we prayed and God gave us wisdom to enact that law, which gives protection to the farmers and the herdsmen.
“We have not sent cattle rearers away from Benue, we are simply saying there are modern ways of rearing cattle, which is to ranch them.
“With that, farmers can go their legitimate ways of doing their business and those who are rearing cattle can also continue. I am surprised at the resistance of the herders.”
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