Senate throws out committee’s report on Benue massacre

*Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki

As Ortom tells Benue citizens not to turn the other cheek again

The Senate yesterday rejected the report of its Joint Committee on Police Affairs and National Security and Intelligence on the January 1-2, 2018 massacre of 73 in Benue saying it is one-sided as it failed to reflect the view of the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom.

The committee was on Feb. 1 mandated to summon the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, over failure by the police to arrest the perpetrators of the killings.

Presenting the committee’s report at plenary, the chairman of the panel, Senator Abu Ibrahim, said the committee recommended that the police should strengthen and utilise its intelligence gathering capabilities

“The Police are grossly underfunded; therefore, it is recommended that a percentage of excess crude oil funds of about two dollars should be made available through appropriation to the Police to beef up its operations. “Politicians and opinion leaders should desist from statements capable of inciting violence. “Deliberate steps should be taken to disarm all armed militia groups in Benue and in the country in general,” he said.

Ibrahim said the committee also recommended that the Inspector-General should speedily prosecute those arrested and intensify efforts to arrest those at large. He said the police chief appeared on February 2 “and briefed the committee, informing us that following the outbreak of violence in parts of Benue, he led a team to commence on-the-spot assessment of the situation. “The visit was to flashpoints of the crisis such as Logo and Guma local government areas in Benue and Tunga in Nasarawa State.’’

Ibrahim said t there was a gap and serious defect in the intelligence gathering mechanism of the Police.

“Local government councils have been rendered ineffective thereby unable to deal with security issues before they snowball to crisis.

“Inflammatory statements, utterances and actions of some politicians and opinion molders have been found to be promoting hatred and inciting violence,” he said.

At the plenary, senators who spoke on the report said it only had the submissions of the inspector general of police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, who made a series of allegations against Ortom.

“I noted that in the statement made by the inspector general of police, he copiously mentioned the governor of Benue in most of the paragraphs but I didn’t see where the committee made an effort to speak with the governor. Because, if in the circumstance, they did not interview the governor, and his name has been mentioned in respect to certain statements and actions, it would only be fair to him, to be invited by the committee and hear his own side of the story so that we have a balanced view of what transpired,” said the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu.

Similarly, the former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, said described the report as “incomplete” until the governor is given a fair hearing.

“I have gone through this summary, what I want to say is that this report would have been more rounded if the governor who has been so massively accused by the IGP was also invited to make input into it. The committee would have had opportunity to interact with him,” he said.

The senate thus rejected the committee’s report on the basis that Ortom, who was mentioned severally in Idris’ report, was not invited for his side of the story.

After a voice vote by the legislators, Saraki said there was no doubt that the report was incomplete and directed the committee to work on it and re-present it in one week’s time.

“As observed by the deputy senate president, there is no doubt about it that this report is incomplete without the comments of the governor of Benue State.

“This is because there are observations on the comments of the governor; the governor of Benue was not given the opportunity to comment.

“The only reason why I allowed Senator Akume to speak was because I thought that would be the closest we could hear of the views of the governor.

“Let Senator Abu Ibrahim go back and complete his exercise and present a complete report.

“That time, I will accept contributions from everybody. I think that is the way forward,” Saraki said.

Meanwhile, Ortom has called on the people of the state to defend themselves if attacked.

The governor, who spoke on a radio programme titled, ‘Issue of the moment’ monitored said it was necessary for the people to defend themselves in order not to become easy preys.

Ortom noted that in spite of the presence of policemen in the state, killings were still going on in two local government areas.

He flayed the statement credited to the inspector-general of police which blamed the anti-open grazing law for the New Year attacks, saying it encouraged the herdsmen to carry out more attacks on the state.

“I think the people should have the right to defend themselves and not to make themselves easy preys to be killed in their homes.

“So any lawful means you can adopt to defend yourself, just go ahead in Benue State. We are not going to wait for the Inspector-General of Police to do it.”

The governor however commiserated with the families of the policemen killed in the attacks.

“It is unfortunate, the people are dying and the Inspector-General of Police is playing politics with the issue. The man should resign because he has failed woefully. He doesn’t have the capacity.

“There are many good police officers who can take over that job and perform creditably by turning around the security architecture of this country, making things work and protecting lives and property. That man has no business being the inspector general of police,” Ortom lamented.




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