As Benue State buries 73 victims of herdsmen attacks of January 1-2, 2018 in parts of the state, prominent indigenes have proposed to form an army to defend the people if the federal government finds it difficult to guarantee their security.
Speaking during a requiem church service for the burial of the deceased, the spiritual and ancestral leader Tiv nation, Chief Paul Unongo said should President Muhammadu Buhari fail in his responsibility of protecting lives and property of Benue citizens, the people would train their own army in the state to defend them.
“Benue people sacrificed blood for the unity of this country and will not allow a section of Fulani herdsmen to kill our people in cold blood.
“I am telling Nigerians that my people cannot continue to be cannon fodder for this country. If the government can’t protect us, we will mobilise and train our people into an army to defend us. We are 100 per cent in support of what Governor Samuel Ortom has done. I am the spiritual and ancestral leader of the Tiv nation; enough is enough,” he said.
The Second Republic minister of steel development Unongo stressed that the entire people of the state were watching President Buhari and had joined in the persistent calls by the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom that the federal government should take drastic steps to urgently address the killings and also arrest the leader of Miyetti Allah Kautal Houre (MAKH).
“If the federal government cannot stop or arrest those behind the killings; in two weeks, we shall raise an army of our own. We cannot allow people to colonise us again, we have all it takes to do that,” Unongo said.
For his part the former military governor of Plateau and Katsina states, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.) who supported Unongo’s call, described the killing in the state as genocidal conspiracy against Benue people, stressing that, “these killings must not continue.”
“Some of us in 1966 fought the Nigeria war. Benue has contributed to the unity of this country, therefore if the federal government refuses to address the killings in Benue and if we decide to raise our army as advocated by our elders to defend ourselves, l will not mind to command that army despite my age,” he said.
However, he appealed to the federal government to replicate operation Python Dance or Fulani Dance in Benue as being done in other states of the federation, while also enjoining indigenes of the state to rally round the governor for the successful enforcement of the anti-open grazing law.
Also speaking, former member of the National Assembly, Senator Joseph Waku, averred that Benue people who are known for being peace-loving “have endured peace for too long despite the fact that peace is the only answer and dialogue to entrench true democratic dispensation.”
“It is unfortunate that someone would oppose a law that is legally enacted and begin to kill innocent people and the federal government would refuse to make arrest in a quest to end the carnage. This is enough provocation. Nobody has the monopoly of killing. Therefore enough is enough,” he said
In his speech, the paramount ruler of Tiv Nation, Prof. James Ayatse, who described the situation in Benue as “ethnic cleansing agenda” said Tiv people residing in Nasarawa and Taraba states were being killed by Fulani herdsmen on a daily basis.
“There is ethnic cleansing agenda going on in Benue. We must put an end to these killings. This is the 47th time that Fulanis would attack the Benue people and kill them mercilessly,” he said.
He urged president Buhari to arrest the situation maintaining that since the people of Benue voted massively for him he should not allow the people to be wiped out.
The paramount ruler enjoined the governor to continue to do the needful in his bid to bring peace to the state, saying the Benue traditional rulers would always support him (the governor).
In his remarks, Ortom said there was no going back on the anti-open grazing law describing the latest killings as “the most heartless.”
“If the herdsmen think that the killing of our people will make us to stop the enforcement of the law, they have failed. We will not be deterred because I am ready to pay the supreme price for the implementation of the anti-open grazing law. I will continue to insist on the arrest of the factional leader of MAKH,” he said.
Ortom rejected the idea of creating a cattle colony or grazing routes for herdsmen saying the suggestion was not acceptable to the Benue people.
The governor said Benue does not have adequate land for farmers, let alone space for grazing.