The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotum-Idris vowed yesterday that the suspected herdsmen who attacked Benue State communities will be arrested and prosecuted.
The IGP is currently in Benue State in line with President Mohammed Buhari’s directive that he should relocate immediately to the state to restore law and order, prevent further loss of lives and forestall the crisis from escalating and spreading in the state.
He moved into the state with additional five units of Police Mobile Force (PMF), making a total of ten units of PMF deployed in the State in addition to other Police formations on ground before the crisis.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Makurdi, IGP Idris said, while no one has the right to take another person’s life, the Police will investigate, arrest and prosecute all those involved.
He said, “I assure you that all those responsible for these killings will be arrested and prosecuted. I am here with more units of the Police Special Forces, Counter Terrorism Units, and Conventional Policemen; they are already here.
“The Aerial Surveillance by Police Helicopters will continue, while the Police Mobile Force Personnel, Police Special Forces and conventional Police Personnel, the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Police Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD) and Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams already deployed to Benue State will carry on relentlessly with the patrols and crime prevention activities in the affected areas to sustain normalcy that has been restored in the state”.
In another development, the IGP apologised to the people of Benue State for the statement he made during a media briefing in Abuja that the crisis in the state is a communal clash.
Idris who spoke during an emergency security meeting held in Makurdi at the instance of President Buhari said the statement he made was misconceived.
His words: “I am apologising for the statement I made during the media briefing in Abuja which was misinterpreted. What I meant by my statement was the need for Nigerians to be united and stay together as one family but as it is being misinterpreted, I am apologising on behalf of the command”.
The IGP who also disclosed that 10 Mobile Police Units, comprising 663 mobile police men, have been deployed to the state to curtail the ongoing killings promised to do everything humanly possible to ensure that the perpetrators of such heinous act are arrested and prosecuted according to the law.
He further called on the communities to avail the security operatives with every intelligence information they have to help them work better, adding that anything that affects the state negatively, as a food basket of the nation, will have adverse effect on the country in terms of food security.
In a reaction, one of the notable Benue indigenes, Justice P.B Utsaha, who insisted that the president must come to the state at this time of mourning to commiserate with citizens also said failure of the president to do so will questioned his integrity and erode the confidence the people of the state who massively voted for him.
“The people of the state voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari and he cannot just fold his arms to watch his kinsmen slaughter our people as slaves. We cannot agree to be slaves in our fatherland and if we don’t see him, maybe we will see him in 2019”.
In his response, the state governor, Samuel Ortom, who disclosed that 73 corpses are already lying in the mortuary urged the IGP to adopt new strategies to surmount the killings.
The governor further reaffirmed his earlier call on the Inspector General of Police, other security agencies as well as the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, effect the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for persistently threatening the state and successfully carrying out their plan without any arrest.
The governor further insisted that there was no going back on the Anti Open Grazing Law, saying it was a enacted as a result of popular demand by the people of Benue State after enduring several attacks from suspected herdsmen.
Governor Ortom further alerted the IGP that investigations and intelligence have shown that the suspected Herdsmen, who attack Benue communities, come from neighbouring Nasarawa State.
Farmers/Herders Clash FG’s Priority For Now – Lai Mohammed
Meanwhile, contrary to claims that the federal government is indifferent to farmers/herders clashes, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that the issue is receiving the highest attention of the federal government.
There are allegations that the federal government is treating the killer herdsmen with kid gloves, with a cross section of Nigerians faulting the decision of the government to send the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotum-Idris to Benue State instead of sending the military the way it did in other trouble spots in the country.
But speaking to State House correspondents yesterday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa, the minister said the idea of sending the military to Benue will be deliberated upon thoroughly.
He said, “On the second leg of your question, government is very much concerned about the herdsmen and farmers clashes and it is receiving attention at the highest level.
As to who to send, that will be a decision after thorough deliberations on the matter”.
When asked to explain what a cattle colony is and what it entails, Mohammed replied: “First of all, what is the difference between a colony and a cattle ranch? I’m not an agricultural experts but a colony is much bigger in nature than a ranch”.
Explaining further, the Minister of State for aviation, Hadi Sirika, said colony and ranches is basically the same thing.
He, however, assured that in setting up a colony, the government will do anything without recourse to owners of farm lands and laws of the land.
He explained: “I’m not speaking as an agricultural expert but perhaps in the hinterlands where I grew up, there used to be cattle routes. We call them “burtali” in local language. This was established by the federal government in 1914. It is a designated route where they follow, feed, graze and drink water.
“When that one was available, there was no farmer/herdsmen clash because the routes are specific, identified, mapped and are paid for compensation over time. But I think due to development and increase in population these routes are either captured or converted to farms.
“The question of colony or grazing land or whatever name they are called is about the same thing really. I don’t think government will do anything without recourse to owners of farm lands and laws of the land”.
PMB Being Fulani Not Cause Of Herdsmen’s Killings – Presidency
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday dismissed insinuations that the killings by suspected herdsmen in the country are rampant because President Muhammadu Buhari who is Fulani by tribe is condoning the act.
Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, in a video message he posted on his personal Facebook page said such killings by herdsmen predated the Buhari administration.
He however affirmed that ensuring the security of lives and property of the citizens was the responsibility of government, noting that the present administration is determined to fulfill this obligation.
He said, “Something that is disturbing that I have heard about it is linking those developments to the fact that a Fulani man is president and so, he is brooking such kind of evil acts.
“I think that is very unkind. And I will try to back my position with statistics. In 2013, particularly, there were nine cases of herdsmen invading communities in Benue state alone and more than 190 people were killed.
“In 2014, there were about 16 of such tragic developments with with more that 231 people killed. And then there was a change of government in May 2015. But between January and May 2015, there were six attacks which left about 335 people dead.
“Now, the question is, during that period, did we have a Fulani president? This is showing us that the issue of herdsmen attacking settlements, attacking farmers, attacking communities is pure criminality and it is something that government must deal with”.
The presidential spokesman continued: “It is the duty of government to preserve the lives of the citizenry. It is the responsibility of government to maintain law and order and that this government is determined to do.
“Therefore, let nobody say that all this is happening because we have a Fulani president. We have had many Fulani presidents in the past and this issue of herders and local communities at loggerheads has predated this government.
“But I will just like to appeal to Nigerians that the Muhammadu Buhari government is determined to crack this issue, is determined to get to the bottom of it and it will get done”.
Senate Committee Suspend Recess To Discuss Killings
Meanwhile, in response to the recent killings in Benue and Rivers States, Senate President Bukola Saraki has directed members of the Senate adhoc committee on security who are on recess like other senators, to immediately resume sitting and work through the weekend to ensure they have an interim report ready for consideration of members by next week.
Saraki, while responding to the situation in Benue State, especially re-emphasized his belief that the killings are clear indications that the security architecture in the country has inherent faults and needs to be refurbished.
He said, “I believe the sad situation in Benue State shows some fundamental faults in our security system. There is clear failure of intelligence gathering, analysis and response time. Our security agencies must be totally overhauled in terms of equipment, specialization, funding, training and staffing.
“This is the reason why in November, the Senate set up a special committee led by Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan to work with security agencies and review the entire system with a view to identifying what is required in terms of laws, process, procedure, funding and other necessities for us to have a solid security system which can be pro-active in identifying potential threats, responding to them on time and preventing any breach”.
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