Benue State Governor today interacted with journalists on the New Year attacks and killings on account of the anti-open grazing law as well as consequent protests. He stated that those who sponsored the attacks and killings in cold blood live with the Federal Government in Abuja and must be arrested and prosecuted. Below are excerpts:
What started as a very peaceful demonstration from the students of Benue State turned into rowdy situation but I understand, I can feel the anger of the people. Even me as a leader, I had to control myself when I saw the level of damage that is done against my people but in situations like this, the simple message I was trying to pass to the youths and the rest of Benue people is to remain calm.
This government is proactive and will continue to be proactive in ensuring the security of lives and property. The prohibition of open grazing law was an initiative of the Benue people and it’s very popular among the people. For us, that is the only way we can ensure peace for farmers and herdsmen to coexist and live together.
Ranching is the global best practice, there is no other alternative and even up till today, I know that there’s no other alternative. I want to appeal to my people to remain calm. In situations like this you can not think of reprisal or anger to be a solution to the problem that has been caused. As a law abiding people, let us continue to be law abiding and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book. I have reported this to the President, I have reported this to the security agencies and they are working towards it and I have repeated my call that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore should be arrested. I had earlier given this notice to the security agencies and reported these people to the Presidency because they came out boldly and said they were going to resist the law and they will do everything possible to sabotage what we are doing.
Since yesterday when we got wind of this incident, we did not waste time, I had to break from our Security Council meeting and I personally visited two scenes of the incident in Guma Local government and Logo. I was to complete the remaining two scenes today and unfortunately time has caught up with me now but we have already, with the security Council, done deployment to all the places and I appeal to people not to begin to run away from their villages until we are able to handle this.
I think the right thing to do is for the Federal Government to rise to its responsibility and arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who did not hide their feelings and came out and said this. If the federal government does not do this, they are telling us that we are not part of Nigeria and it will be unfortunate because it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide security for us. The security apparatus of this country belongs to the Federal Government and they have the capacity.
These people are known, I have reported them to the President and currently, they have taken us to court. They issued several press statements and threats against us and their threats have become reality. They are living in Abuja with the Federal Government so why can’t the Federal Government do something? Until they are arrested otherwise they are throwing us into a state of anarchy which is wrong. We have done everything to ensure that peace prevails here. I want to assure all people living in Benue that we will continue to protect them, provide security for lives and property. But let us restrain our anger although it is painful. I understand and feel the pains of Benue people, I feel the pains of Benue youths, I feel the pains of mothers, I feel the pains of fathers whose relations have been murdered in cold blood but I want to assure them that justice will take its course. This law remains a law in Benue State and there is no going back on it. The perpetrators must be brought to book and I can assure you that Benue will be well.
There is a debate going on about community policing, I can see from the crisis that you are handicapped, you cannot command anybody to do anything and it is done immediately; does that make you see the need for state police in the country?
I will like to know, aside the communities that were attacked between December 31 and yesterday, are there other new ones that have been attacked?
While you were going round to inspect some flashpoints in Tomatar yesterday, you came across some bullet proof vests with the colours of the Nigeria Army, how true is this?
You went out to address the youths that were protesting the killing of their brothers, their mothers and their fathers, an incident took place where you were almost killed, having told the Federal Government that there is a level to which you can control your people, can you say it has reached that level?
Concerning the issue of state police, I remain committed to democratic principles. It is not for me to decide whether we should have state police or not but if the people, the stakeholders of Benue State agree together, I will have no objection to having state police. But this is something that has to be subjected to a debate and we get the inputs of all stakeholders so that we weigh the various options. The federal and state police, what are the implications, what are the implications that will be when we have state police? We will weigh them and once we agree, we can make our position known. Whether state police or federal police, what is important is for the police to enforce the law. That is what I am saying. Police must enforce the law, let there be no sacred cows as we are seeing today.
I have reported Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, their President and Secretary, these two persons who persistently had alerted us that they are going to come after Benue state to cause havoc and they have done it. I am repeating that call, if there is another place where I can take my case I will do it. I have no option but I believe that I reported this to the President yesterday and he assured me that he will get the Inspector General of Police to act and I believe that that will be complied with and until that is done I am not going to rest.
The attacked communities, like I said yesterday, we visited Tomatar where a lot of people were killed, this is also part of Guma but on the other side of the river and I also visited Azege in Logo local government where people were also killed and some wounded. I also visited the temporary refugee camps in Tse Abi and Agenke in Guma local government and Ayilamo in Logo local government. There are other two places that were also attacked in Umenger in Guma local government. This is the other side of the river and also in my council ward, in Ako so these are the two sites that I’m yet to visit but I intend to do so. Here too people were wounded and people were also killed, I’m yet to get the full brief from there. On the bullet proof vest I was also told but I’m yet to see it. I’m waiting, it was when I left that I received a phone call but in situations like this, you don’t act on rumour. I’ve heard a lot of things but I’m waiting to confirm because coming from me will mean that it is an authentic information and so you have to be careful to be sure of what you are saying as a leader otherwise you will create other challenges that will come which you may not be able to control.
On the incident this afternoon, you can feel the anger, you can see the anger of the youths so I also feel the pains, I’m also angry but the Bible says be angry but do not let the sun go down on your wrath. So even when you are angry, you have to find a way of controlling it otherwise you will mess up yourself. So that is why I’m appealing to youths, for it is said that two wrongs cannot make a right. We can’t solve this problem by creating another wrong. Government is on top of the situation as at today.
Yesterday the security council met, the security council is meeting now. It was as a result of the blockage that the security council decided to move to the scene and appeal to the youths to allow free movement but it became rowdy but like I said, these are really very sad days for Benue State. Yesterday, corpses were brought to the mortuary, when we visited more corpses were being brought in and even today more corpses were discovered. So you can see the anger of the people and that is why government must act.
One thing that will give the people confidence is when the President and Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore are arrested and prosecuted because there is enough evidence about what they’ve done and I am accusing them directly and I expect that to be done and since I have reported to the President, I’m waiting to have a response from the security agencies because people should not operate withimpunity, if we do that and everybody decides to take laws into his hands then we are calling for anarchy and you don’t know the extent that can go.
Challenges are meant to be overcome and I believe that God will help us to definitely overcome this and I believe that tomorrow those who are resisting this law will celebrate the law for there is no way of moving forward arising from the challenges that we have today in Nigeria on land. The land is no longer there and I will continue to say it. We are farmers and there is no way we can surrender our land again for grazing but all business people who are willing to go into cattle rearing business are free to obtain permit and do ranching in Benue State.