Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam has said that the activities of the Boko Haram sect are frustrating economic activities in the north. The region, he noted, needs help to overcome the challenges arising from the activities of the sect.
The governor, who spoke in Kaduna during an interview with select journalists, also said that operators of small and medium-scale industries and investors were deserting the region for fear of insecurity.
According to Suswam, it would be difficult to hold any talks with the sect since they have continued to remain faceless without any defined leadership and demands, adding that the government cannot tackle the security challenges without the collaborative support of the people of the north.
Governor Suswam stated that efforts at addressing the security situation in the region were being frustrated by the faceless nature of the group, stressing that it will be impossible to hold any discussions with them unless they come out in the open and state their demands.
He said: “We are calling on the support of all northerners to help us by providing information because, if you look at our situation, Kano is gone, Kaduna is gone, Jos is gone. These are the three most vibrant cities in the entire north. All of them are gone! Nobody wants to live in Kaduna; nobody wants to go to Kano and trade, who will go on holiday in Jos? Nobody!
“So we have a very serious situation that affects us all; it is not about leadership, so let’s not be pushing it on leadership. Yes, leadership has a large chunk of the responsibilities, but we need to come together and see it as our collective problem and not a leadership problem.”
“If it is a situation where you have a defined leadership from the people causing this problem and you can sit at a roundtable and discuss with them, then, it is understandable. But, in this case, these people are not known! They are not articulating any demand, so it is something that is totally different.
“If you look at terrorists from across the world, especially in places like Afghanistan, they articulate what their issues are. But these people (Boko Haram) are not saying anything and that presents a very difficult situation for the leadership; so it is not just about leadership.
“We are doing our best at our own level, but we can’t even see the people who are doing this. They are not ready to come to the table for discussion, so what do you do? We have to go into intelligence gathering and in intelligence gathering, it is the people that provide the necessary information to security agents.”
Suswam admitted that although the government has a responsibility to ensure the security of life and property of the citizenry, the present circumstance requires people to collaborate with security agents.
The governor noted: “People must assist in intelligence gathering because these people are not spirits; they live in homes, they live in the communities. They do their trainings in homes. We need to have information at the level of leadership, otherwise, the north, as it were, is being decapitated economically and so there is nothing that we as leaders alone can do, except we collaborate.
“We must look at where we have gone wrong, why we have moved from one extreme to another extreme. It is very strange to see that people are bombing in the north; it is strange that we now have armed robbery and criminality in the north.”
Commenting on the clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, the governor said a lot was being done to address the situation, adding that he himself and his Nasarawa State counterpart, Alhaji Al-Makura, had set up a committee which, he said, has made far-reaching recommendations towards in ending the clashes.
He however blamed the persistent nature of the crisis on the activities of criminals, who, according to him, go about rustling cows belonging to the Fulani herdsmen, leading to attacks on innocent farmers by the Fulani.
“You have some criminals who would go and get the Fulani cows and rustle them and then the Fulani don’t know the difference between the farmer who is working peacefully on his farm and the criminals who might not even be Tiv.
“We have substantially addressed the problem and I believe that we would be able to put that to rest,” he added.
He disclosed that the Sultan of Sokoto was being expected in Benue State next week for a function, adding that his presence would also provide an opportunity “for us to sit down with the Fulanis, since he is the leader of the Muslims, to further address it”.