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Benue News

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.
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Benue News, Speeches
TEXT OF STATEWIDE BROADCAST TO BENUE PEOPLE BY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM, ON THE INVASION OF FULANI HERDSMEN AND MASS FUNERAL FOR VICTIMS, ON WEDNESDAY, 10TH JANUARY, 2017.
My dear compatriots,
It is with a heavy heart that I address you this evening.
2.      We had looked forward to starting a new year with renewed hopes and aspirations when our land was invaded by merciless and mindless Fulani herdsmen. The delight of these people to murder in cold blood is as chilling as it is unimaginable. Their targets for annihilation include pregnant women, children of all ages, youths and the elderly be they men or women.
3.      From the beginning of the year to this day we have lost more than 73 people to these murderers with several others missing while many who sustained various degrees of injuries are receiving treatment. This figure does not include our security operatives who have also fallen at the hands of these enemies of peace. It does not even include those already buried in their communities.  Some of these gallant patriots who survived gun and machete attacks are receiving medical attention.
4.      Our hearts go out in sympathy with all families who lost loved ones, orphans who lost parents and bread winners, parents who lost children, as well as wives and husbands who lost their beloved spouses. We pray for God’s comfort at this difficult time of grief and pray that His judgement will be swift in response to the spilled blood which cries to Him day and night.
5.      For several years these attackers have turned our beautiful and endowed land into their killing fields. The main reason has been clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers. These attacks have been intensified with alarming devastation since 2011. The report of a survey conducted by the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state stated that in 2014 alone 10 of the 23 local government areas of the state lost hundreds of lives and incurred loses of over N95 billion. Since then more devastating attacks of wider coverage have taken place with the most devastating taking place in Agatu last year. So far, 13 of the 23 council areas of the state have been affected in these well planned and executed attacks on churches, schools, hospitals, markets, as well as private houses in addition to farms, foodstuff and all signs of progress in the affected communities.
6.      It was from this background that the people of the state desperately sought for a lasting solution and God gave us the inspiration to draw from the experience of other countries with expertise in livestock farming and animal husbandry. As a popularly elected government which is sensitive to the aspirations of our people, we crafted the law to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches. This law was enacted in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which empowers states to make laws for the welfare of their people. The major objective of the law is to ensure permanent peace between farmers and herdsmen as it makes provisions to ensure the interests of all the parties.  The law was not made against any particular group but was aimed at regulating livestock activities to eliminate friction usually generated when animals graze openly and stray into farms.
7.      The executive bill that eventually became this law went through due process with attendant public hearings at several locations in the state. This gave various stakeholders ample opportunity to make their required input before it was passed into law. By virtue of the constitutional powers conferred on me as the Governor of the state I gave my assent on 22nd May, 2017.
8.      On Tuesday, 30th May, 2017, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore held a press conference in Abuja which its National President Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, and National Secretary-General, Alhassan Salleh addressed. They stated publicly in very clear and unambiguous terms that the Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ crises in Benue State was “A STRUGGLE FOR THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE BENUE VALLEY.” They claimed that their ancestors arrived the valley before the present occupants. The two leaders threatened and vowed to mobilize herdsmen across the globe to invade the state and resist the law. This development was widely reported by the national and international media the very day and subsequently.
9.      The government and people of the state interpreted this clear handwriting on the wall as an open declaration of war on Benue State. The State Executive Council resolved that the matter must be reported to the Presidency with all urgency. As Governor I wrote a petition on the threats to President Muhammadu Buhari and other security chiefs in the country. These included the Inspector General of Police, the National Security Adviser, the Department of State Security, and relevant authorities calling for the arrest and prosecution of the Fulani leaders for making inciting threats capable of undermining the security of our state. We drew attention to the fact that from antecedents, coupled with the deadly reputation of the militia at their disposal, the Fulanis do not make empty threats. The State House of Assembly, leaders of socio-cultural organizations and other individuals and groups wrote similar petitions to the aforementioned authorities and also called for the arrest of those who made the threats. The national and international media reported these cries for help and calls for action to forestall the invasion of the state. But no action was taken.
10.    Our people would not have been massacred.  It would have been prevented.  Meanwhile, the state government delayed the implementation of the law until 1st November, 2017 so as to give a grace period for those who needed permits for the establishment of ranches to obtain them. However, no Fulani herdsmen or woman applied for the permit. Rather than make attempts to comply with the law their leaders continued to engage in more threats to resist the implementation. They also went to court to challenge the legitimacy of the law and the matter is still pending.
11.    On New Year Day, 2018 the Miyetti Allah leaders fulfilled their threats and started the invasion simultaneously in several parts of Guma and Logo local government areas. They invaded the camp of Livestock Guards charged with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with law at Tomatar, Shaghev Council ward of Guma in the dead of the night and unleashed a slaughter spree.  According to survivors, the attackers, after dealing with the guards knocked on the doors of villagers and killed those they found indoors as well as those they found on their way as they retreated. The dead bore the characteristics of Fulani militia brutality – slit throats, deep cuts from machetes on the head, chest and back of the neck with some of their private parts removed. It was well planned and clinically executed with specific targets.
12.    We took the decision to collectively mourn for those killed in the current attacks and also accord them mass state funeral to underscore the fact that their blood was spilled after a formal declaration of war on Benue State. Our sons and daughters, children, pregnant wives, fathers and mothers are victims of impunity and deliberately organized pogrom against our people. For six months we warned, we cried for help, we saw danger and sought protection from the security agencies of our land – but no one came to rescue them.
13.    We wish to draw the attention of the national and international communities to the fact that Benue State has come under a deliberate, well planned and well-funded siege. What has started in Guma and Logo is a grim statement of the evil and devastating plan against the state. Benue people MUST realize that these are not normal, ordinary times. We are under siege and the earlier we realize this the better.
14.    Our invaders do not care which political party we belong to, they don’t care where we worship.  They do not care about our age and gender.  All they care is to annihilate us, to obliterate us from the Benue Valley so that their cattle can graze and drink freely from the rivers in the state. An attack on one should be an attack on all. Pieces of the puzzle that featured Kwande, Katsina-Ala, Ukum, Gboko, Buruku, Tarka, Makurdi, Gwer, Gwer West, Otukpo, Okpokwu, Oju, and Agatu have completely fallen in place with Guma and Logo. We must bury our ethnic, political and religious differences to tackle this unprecedented challenge that may swallow us all. History beckons and we must rise to the challenge which our forefathers confronted and surmounted.
15.    The questions to answer are:  how could four year old Terkimbi who was slaughtered, rustle even just a single calf?  How could pregnant Sarah, rustle a herd of cattle?  How could 76 year old Pa. Iortimbir who could not walk without support, rustle cattle?  Why are these killers removing the private parts of defenseless women and children they slaughter? From these questions one can see that the claim that the attacks were reprisal for rustled cattle is baseless.
16.    What is happening in Benue State should be a lesson to all. The problem is surely not in our law. It is with the green grass and water wherever found in Nigeria. The implementation of our law is progressing steadily as those caught contravening have been charged to court.  States including Adamawa, Cross Rivers, Niger, Kaduna, Abia, Ebonyi, Anambra, Ogun, Zamfara have been attacked by Fulani herdsmen yet these States have not enacted anti-open grazing law.
17.    In Benue State the security situation appears to be getting out of hand as even trained security agents are becoming victims. Our people must however remain calm but alert and vigilant. They must not take the laws into their hands as the state government is collaborating with the relevant authorities to bring the situation under control.
18.    Benue State needs help to overcome this invasion. We need help to tackle the enormous humanitarian crisis on our hands.  We now have over 50,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in our State.  We appreciate the Federal authorities, individuals and organizations that have helped us to overcome similar challenges in the past and appeal to them to rally round us once again.  We call on the International Community to assist.
19.    Tomorrow morning, we shall all gather at the IBB Square in Makurdi to pay last respects to our fallen heroes.  Let me call on all citizens of Benue State to remain calm.  No one should betray his or her emotions tomorrow at the mass burial. The blood of our fallen heroes is crying out to the Federal Government and most importantly to God Almighty.  Be rest assured that our God will not fail us.
20.    May God bless you all.
21.    In God we trust.
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Benue News
Governor Samuel Ortom says attacks on farmers by herdsmen was a national challenge that required the cooperation of all Nigerians to surmount. He spoke in Makurdi at the weekend when he received a delegation from the Arewa Consultative Forum led by the Chairman, Senator John Shagaya at the Benue Peoples House.
Governor Ortom prayed that other states might not experience a situation in where more than 73 people lost their lives to the herdsmen attacks at the beginning of the year alone. According to him several states including Zamfara, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Ebonyi, Ogun, Abia, and Niger have suffered attacks which indicates that the problem transcended individual states. He stated that the photograph he saw of President Muhammadu Buhari at his ranch in Daura recently had given Nigerians the direction that ranching was the way to go in animal husbandry, noting that as a disciplined person, the President knows what is good for the country. Governor Ortom said he had forgiven all those whose actions and words had caused pains to people of the state including his Plateau State Counterpart, Simon Lalong, who is quoted to have made some uncomplimentary comments about the Benue killings. He expressed appreciation to President for making frantic efforts to end the attacks including the relocation of the Inspector General of Police to the State and directing the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to provide relieve materials for distribution to affected communities. The Governor reiterated his position that he had withdrawn from political activities to concentrate on finding a solution to the crisis and advised those politicising the issue to desist forthwith as it would rather aggravate the situation. Earlier,the leader of the delegation, Senator Shagaya who said they were in the State to mourn with the government and the people over the killings, urged the Governor to continue with his constructive engagement with the federal government, his colleagues and security agencies to find a lasting solution to the challenge. Senator Shagaya condemned the killings while commending Governor Ortom for maintaining calm, law and order despite the callous act, describing those that carried out the attacks as enemies of the State and agents of disunity.
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Benue News
When we read comments criticizing Governor Samuel Ortom’s handling of the recent killings in the state attributed to a group which calls itself Middle Belt Conscience Guard we found that they were baseless and unsubstantiated. Indeed, part of the comments indicated that those who made them were ignorant of the nation’s constitutional provisions. Contrary to the claims by the convener of the group, Prince Raymond Enero, and his Deputy, Dr Paul Itodo, at a press conference in Abuja that Governor Ortom’s petition to the President on the security situation in the state amounted to a blame game, the action was appropriate and constitutional. All the security apparatus of the county report to the President who has the constitutional responsibility of ultimate control over them, as such it was necessary for Governor Ortom to report security challenges in the state to him for further and preventive action. In the case of the current killings the Governor made the report six months before the attacks took place. If action had been taken against the masterminds of the attacks what happened could have been averted or nipped in the bud. The accusation that Governor Ortom has supplied arms to members of the Civilian JTF and Livestock based on the claims of some arrested people is ridiculous. His antecedents indicate commitment to the reduction of crime through an amnesty program through which hundreds of illegal weapons and ammunition were seized and publically destroyed in accordance with United Nation’s specifications. The Governor does not arm anyone as he collaborates with the conventional security agencies to fight crime. Anyone who makes any claim to the contrary has the burden of proof. For the information of the group major stakeholders in the state at different fora have expressed satisfaction with Governor Ortom’s proactive security initiatives including the prosecution of an amnesty program, collaboration with the relevant authorities and timely reports to security chiefs, purchase of vehicles, as well as the holding of joint security council meetings with neighboring states. It is clear from their utterances that members of the group who seem to be have been recently formed to act the script of detractors are not familiar with events in the state even as they lack knowledge of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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