By Philip Dzeremo/Makurdi
The Benue Government will bury 73 victims of the Jan. 1 attacks by suspected herdsmen tomorrow.
The victims were killed by yet-to-be identified gunmen who invaded five villages in Guma and Logo Local Governments on New Year’s day. Many others were injured while 50,000 people were displaced.
Gov. Samuel Ortom announced government’s decision to hold a mass burial for the deceased at a stakeholders meeting in Makurdi on Wednesday.
The meeting focused on insecurity in the state and the way forward.
Ortom, who called for prayers, said that the deceased would be remembered for sacrificing their lives to protect Benue farmlands.
He appealed for calm during the burial, and cautioned Benue residents against reprisal attacks against anyone.
Ortom vowed to ensure that the attackers were apprehended, and promised government’s support to the security agencies to actualise that.
He accused security agencies for being indifferent to his demand that they protect the state against its aggressors after several complaints of planned attacks reported to them.
“I saw the attacks coming and we wrote several letters of complaint to the police and complained to the presidency, yet nothing happened.
“We called for the arrest of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) but nobody responded; we have facts that can be used against them.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris and top police officers including the DIG operations, Habila Joshak, two commissioners of police for Benue and Nasarawa states were in attendance at the stakeholders meeting.
The governor expressed regret that after repeated complaints to the police and other security agencies in the country on the threats of attacks by MACBAN, nothing was done to secure lives and property in the state.
“We called for the arrest of leaders of the association; we had evidence to support our claims but nobody paid heed to us.
“We wrote to you IGP three times but received no response. We briefed the presidency yet to no avail,” he lamented.
Ortom said the refusal of the security agencies to act and their lackadaisical attitude on the matter led to the mayhem of Jan. 1.
He wondered why open statements of intended aggression against the state on national television, radio stations by members of the association had not been investigated and arrests effected.
He vowed to continue with the anti open grazing law, stressing “there is no land in Benue for open grazing”.
Ortom said he would not adopt the cattle colonies as suggested by the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh.
He appealed to the IGP to immediately order for the arrest of leaders of MACBAN to give hope to the ordinary citizens that all people were equal before the law.
The governor said that the herdsmen that attacked the state came from their bases in Nasarawa State and challenged the police to refute his claims.
Responding, the IGP said he had not received such letters of complaints from the governor but promised to investigate the claims and fish out the aggressors.
He said the police had deployed 663 police operatives and created 10 mobile units to deal with the insecurity in the state.
Idris said the police would deploy helicopter surveillance to monitor the movement of such miscreants across the state and pledged to be diligent in discharging the presidential assignment.
He explained that the situation was not yet beyond the capacity of the police, stressing “there is no need for the army to be invited”.
Other speakers at the meeting include the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, called on the IGP to ensure the arrest of the aggressors.
They rejected the suggestion for the establishment of cattle colonies in the state and affirmed their support for the implementation of the anti open grazing law.
They also called on the Federal Government to commence the process of establishing ranches across the country as a panacea to farmers/herdsmen clashes.
The high point of the meeting was the open apology by the IGP for describing the Benue killings as “communal clashes”, following insistence from participants.