By Johnson Eyiangho
More than 1,000 militias with 700 armed in various camps in Benue state have been unveiled.
Each of them is paid a monthly stipend of N15,000 by the state government, an allegation that the government had denied.
The militia, known as civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), was unravelled following the arrest of nine of them by the military personnel deployed in the area to stop the killings allegedly being carried out by herdsmen.
Troops of 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army stationed in Takum, Taraba, effected the arrest of the nine members of alleged sponsored armed militia known as Civilian JTF at Arufu, a boundary town between Taraba and Benue.
Mr Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, said in Makurdi that government had not recruited any militia group.
Akase said in a statement that the governor was widely recognized for his disarmament policy which brought the amnesty programme leading to the recovery of about 700 arms and ammunition with over 800 youths laying down their weapons to embrace the programme across the State.
“It is also on record that the present administration inherited the State Civilian Joint Task Force from the previous government but later proscribed it. ‘’
He said following the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in the state last year, the government set up Livestock Guards to help in implementation of the law.
“The Livestock Guards are not armed personnel. Their job is to ensure compliance with the regulation of ranches establishment and prohibition of open grazing of animals in the State.
“The Benue State Government believes in the use of conventional security agencies to protect the people. Even in the face of renewed killing of innocent people by herdsmen in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas, Governor Ortom did not let the people resort to self-help. The Governor acted swiftly to get the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the deployment of more troops to troubled parts of the State,’’ Akase said.
A top military source in Abuja, confirmed that five of those arrested were armed with AK-45 rifles fully loaded.
The source said that shortly after their apprehension, a reinforcement of CJTF came to prevent troops from transporting the suspects to the Battalion Headquarters.
“However, when the soldiers stood their ground the armed militia’s reinforcement withdrew.
“During the preliminary investigation the arrested CJTF claimed that the weapons were issued to them by Benue State government through one Alhaji Aliyu Tashaku.
“The suspects also confirmed that they were 60 in number in their own camp located at Gbeyi, Benue State,’’ the source disclosed.