President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday expressed disgust at the revelation that the inspector general of police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris spent less than 24 hours in Benue State when he directed him (Idris) to relocate to the state and remain there till peace was restored.
It would be recalled that Buhari had directed Idris to relocate to Benue shortly after armed herdsmen killed 73 Benue citizens between New Year’s Eve and January 2.
Buhari visited the state to condole with the people over killings by herdsmen.
But when he met with leaders of thought, traditional rulers, stakeholders and government officials at the Peoples House, the Government House in Makurdi on Monday, the president was told that Idris did not spend up to 24 hours in the state.
“I am getting to know this in this meeting. I am quite surprised,” remarked the president.
He, however, said that the meeting was not the best place to expose the inefficiency of his appointees, and appealed to Benue people to exercise restraint and live in peace with their neighbours.
He said the federal government was deeply worried about the incessant attacks on Benue’s rural communities, and vowed to end the menace “very soon”.
The president, who met with farmers, herdsmen, government officials and other stakeholders in Makurdi, denied insinuations that he was not interested in what was happening to the North-Central state.
“I cannot overlook the killings in Benue or any other part of Nigeria. I cannot do that. I am genuinely worried about the attacks in Benue and we are doing everything to end them,” he said.
He said insecurity in some states was a major concern to his government, adding that concerted efforts were being made to restore normalcy to every part of the country.
Speaking earlier, Governor Samuel Ortom had told the president that the only solution to the killings in Benue State was to fish out the perpetrators of the crisis, particularly the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and the adoption of the ranching system for cattle rearing in Nigeria.
He said Buhari could review the current exercise Cat Race (Ayem A’Kpatema) by the military in the state by upgrading it into a full military operation in order to give specific directive that could lead to tackling the herders-farmers clashes in the state.
Ortom also lamented that no fewer than 170,000 persons have been displaced and are being housed by the state government as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in different camps as a result of the attacks.
He said 60 percent of the IDPs were sadly children who ordinarily should have been in school.
“Your Excellency, we plead with you to take steps to reduce the sufferings of these over 170,000 countrymen in the eight internally displaced camps. The Federal Government should compensate them and assist in the rebuilding of their homes as promised by the committee on displaced people headed by the vice president.
“The primary, secondary schools, health centres and churches destroyed in several communities should be rebuilt for use again,” he added.
The governor denied allegations that the state was keeping and training a militia group to fight Fulani herdsmen in the Benue.
“As a born again Christian and someone who believes in the fear of God, I cannot and we have never encouraged the establishment of any militia group,” he said.
The Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, who also spoke at the event urged President Buhari to re-consider the redesigning of the country’s security architecture with the states and traditional rulers having a role to play.
He said aside taking steps to address the security crisis in Benue, it was important for President Buhari to increase federal presence in the state.
Professor Ayatse noted that government should also consider the dredging of the
Most speakers at the town hall meeting included Senator George Akume, former military administrator of Benue State, General Atom Kpera, General Lawrence Onoja, and former Nigeria’s Minister of Steel, Chief Paul Unongo.
Unongo said: “The federal government should insist that the law is implemented because it is the only way to end the clashes between farmers and herdsmen.”
Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi regretted that the response of the Federal Government was “coming too late”.
Anagbe appealed to herdsmen to accept the anti-open grazing law to reduce clashes between them and farmers.
They also advised the president not to see Ortom as an enemy who is bent on executing a law that is unfriendly to Fulani herdsmen, but as a patriotic leader who is carrying out the wishes of his people.
Meanwhile, there was no crowd to receive the President in Makurdi, unlike when he visited the state to campaign in 2015.
Instead, the streets were virtually empty save for pockets of protesters who were decked in black apparels.
They displayed placards some of which read ‘End the killings or resign,’ ‘Buhari and Everyone is a Yusuf’ an apparent reference to Buhari’s son, Yusuf who had an accident while riding a power bike and was flown overseas for treatment.
The protesters denounced the killings and sought an end to such savagery. Besides, they demanded compensation for the families of the deceased.