FUNERAL ORATION BY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM AT THE STATE FUNERAL OF 73 BENUE SONS AND DAUGHTERS (FROM GUMA AND LOGO LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS) AT UTUR MEGA LAYOUT PHASE I, MAKURDI ON THURSDAY, 11TH JANUARY, 2018
I am a sad man. I speak with heavy heart on today’s event which is the mass burial of 73 corpses of our children, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers as well as our friends. Others have already been buried in their communities. Their massacre marks a sad phase in the history of herders’ attacks on our people in this State.
2. This mass burial which is coming on the third and final day of mourning in the State for these heroes is the first of its kind. This event is therefore relevant for several reasons. Firstly, it marks the State Government’s concern for our people and the determination to preserve the painful memory of those killed for no offence of theirs. Let it be known also that what affects all Benue sons and daughters and indeed all law abiding people in this State will be taken very seriously by our Government.
3. Secondly, facts and figures do not lie hence we are immortalizing for posterity, the most sordid and heartless killings in recent history of our people who hail from Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the State in cold blood. These are people who were killed while they were in a celebratory mood to usher in the 2018 New Year.
4. Thirdly, we are not in doubt as to the motive for the wanton killings of our people and the destruction of their farms, crops, properties and houses. This is all about land. If these killings by our enemies are to deter us from operating the Anti-Open Grazing Law in Benue that was legally processed, they have failed because we will not be cowed. If anything, we are ready to pay the supreme prize while operating this law for the good of our people, the good people of Benue State.
5. In addition, it is important at this point to expose to the whole world the lies, propaganda and distortion of facts by the enemies of the State who claim that our people were killed in retaliation to the rustling of their cows. Nothing can be further from the truth than these lies which have brought to the fore many salient facts and issues.
6. For instance, the statements credited to Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore in the media that over one thousand (1000) cows were stolen while they were moving out of Benue State as justification for the attacks, killings and destructions are after thoughts. What has been in the public domain is that the Miyetti Leadership has vowed repeatedly, to make sure that Benue State Government does not implement the Anti-Open Grazing Law. The killings and destructions being witnessed are products of that vow.
7. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, no one is in doubt now about those behind the killings. Our worry is that sacred cows are being created by the failure to bring to book those behind the killings and destructions. We call on the Federal Government to arrest and prosecute Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for planning and executing the massacre of innocent citizens of Benue State. We call on Nigerians to note the grand conspiracies of the high and mighty to promote outdated practice of open grazing.
8. At this solemn moment in the life of our State, our pains have been increased by the insensitivity, careless statements and foot-dragging by those who should protect or provide succour and hope to our people as citizens of this country. Where are Leaders of Nigeria? Where are Nationalists who will rise and condemn this behavior?
9. These 73 citizens should not have died. These innocent farmers who are contributing their quota to feed Nigeria should not have been murdered if our anti-open grazing law was accepted as a permanent, win-win solution for farmers and herders. Let me say again that Ranching of animals is international best practice everywhere in the world. In Africa, in Europe, in Asia, in America, people ranch their cattle. I am not aware of any place in the world where there are Cattle colonies. Let us have the patriotic courage and accept Ranching as immediate and permanent solution to the problem of farmers and Fulani herdsmen in our country.
10. Even in the face of all these, my appeal to those who have lost their loved ones and indeed all Benue people is not to embark on reprisal attacks. As Christians, we believe that vengeance belongs only to God. Romans Chapter 12 v 19 admonishes us “Never avenge yourselves; but leave it to the wrath of God. As it is written “Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord”.
11. We are ready to work with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to find a lasting solution to the herders’ farmers’ clashes especially in our State. We are equally determined to support the law enforcement agents in the discharge of their duties in Benue. We also call on the International Community to come to our aid.
12. I call on all the Livestock Guards not to be deterred by the deaths of their colleagues. They should be encouraged by the fact that no sacrifice is too much in the service of one’s people. I assure you all of our support at all times to carry out your duties well.
13. Painful as the killings are, we urge those who have lost their loved ones to be consoled by the fact that the shedding of the blood of the innocent will never go unpunished. Even though they were killed in cold blood, we believe that God would use the sacrifice of their blood to come to the rescue of the State. The names of these our fallen heroes will always be remembered in our history, because their blood facilitated the end of Open-grazing and associated killings in Nigeria.
14. We pray for the quick recovery of all the injured who are recuperating in our hospitals. We will continue to pray and remember the over 60,000 of our people who are now internally displaced and are in the four Internally Displaced Peoples, (IDPs) camps set in Guma and Logo.
15. Finally, we say good bye to our son, Terkaa at age four, you paid supreme sacrifice. Good bye Mrs. Sarah, our mother, with eight months pregnancy you are murdered. Good bye Pa. Iorkaa Igbudu, at 76 you were still slaughtered. Good bye all of you the 73 dear heroes of our State. May your souls rest in peace with God Almighty in heaven. With God on our side we will overcome and must overcome.
16. Adieu! Adieu!, my dear people. AMEN.
17. In God we trust.