By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Chibuzo Ukaibe, Abuja, Abu Nmodu, Minna and HEMBADOON ORSAR, Makurdi
Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) declared yesterday that action must be taken to stop the unnecessary killings caused by farmer/herders clashes, terrorism, cultism and other criminalities in the country.
According to him, Nigerians must embrace peaceful coexistence and unity in appreciation of the supreme sacrifices for the nation made by officers and men of the Armed Forces.
“We have witness so much bloodshed through communal clashes and conflicts that need urgent actions to stop them now. At this period when our nation is faced with myriads of challenges of terrorism, communal clashes, kidnapping, cultism and gangsterism among other criminalities, we should cooperate and supports our security with relevant information and intelligence to help in tackling the problems”, he stated.
IBB, as he is fondly called, stated this in a statement he issued in Minna to remember his colleagues on the celebration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day today.
He urged government at all levels to work assiduously to halt the killings, even as he called on religious leaders, traditional rulers, social activists and the media to serve as national vanguards in resolving some of the recent disturbing incidents affecting national security.
The former military president admonished political office holders and politicians against unguarded utterances, saying they should put the peace of the nation first above their personal interest, as the nation enters another election period.
His words: “As we enter the electioneering period, I urge our political office holders as well as politicians from all political parties to be conscious of their campaign slogans and messages by ensuring that they are geared towards peaceful participation and constructive engagements of the electorates.
“As a people we should inculcate our cultural values, that promote good conduct, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We should eschew hate speeches, discrimination and other vices that trigger senseless violence and bloodshed”.
Babangida further urged members of the Armed Forces and other security agencies to be apolitical, neutral as well as remain focused on the ethics of discipline, which he said is the hallmark of their profession.
He also called on Nigerians to demonstrate their appreciation for the courage of the fallen gallant heroes through their contribution to national security and provide supports for the welfare and upkeep of the families they left behind, especially their widows and children.
“It is customary to observe the Armed Forces Day on the 15th January every year to remember Officers and Men of the Nigerian Armed Forces who laid down their lives for the unity of our country”, IBB noted.
Benue Delegation Meets PMB Today
Meanwhile, a delegation of stakeholders from Benue State to be led by the Governor Samuel Ortom will visit President Muhammadu Buhari today at the presidential villa.
Over 100 persons have been killed in the past two weeks in the state by suspected killer Herdsmen.
The governor had last week visited Aso Rock where he urged the president to intervene in incessant clashes that have led to the killings in Benue State.
An informed source in the presidency told LEADERSHIP that the urgent meeting was inevitable because of the frequency and scale of such violence and the reactions that have trailed the incidents.
According to the source, the presidency has been embarrassed by the large-scale loss of lives caused by such repeated violence against innocent people.
The source told our correspondent that the discussions at the meeting will address the issue of farmers/herders clash and may go beyond their menace to include the issue of arming, training and financing of militia groups by some state governments.
He recalled the recent arrest of some armed militia members by the Army and their confession of being armed by the Benue State government.
This, the source who did not want his name in print said, added a new twist to the Benue saga, noting that it should not surprise anyone if the presidency seeks an explanation about this from the governor, with a view to getting at the root of the state’s security challenges.
The Benue delegation to Aso Rock today will include the Tor Tiv; chairman of the Northern Elders forum, Paul Unongo; Senator George Akume; Lawrence Onoja, among other stakeholders from the state.
Elders of the state had last week during the burial of the victims called on President Buhari to put a stop to the killings or they will be forced to raise an Army to protect themselves.
The president had ordered the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotum-Idris, to relocate to Benue to restore law and order in the trouble spots.
Also on the orders of the president, the Nigerian Army had deployed Special Forces To Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States to secure vulnerable communities and prevent further attacks.
When contacted on the development, the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said although he was aware of the expected parley with Benue leaders, he had not been briefed about the issues being brought to the table for discussions.
He said that the government welcomes any initiative by any group that would provide lasting solutions to be country’s security problems.
He explained that security entails collective participation of all and it was, in his view, better for all to come together to find solutions instead of anyone trading blames.
PMB, Saraki, Dogara Meet Over Benue Killings
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met behind closed doors with Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, over the recent killings in Benue State and insecurity in some parts of the country.
According to a tweet from the handle of the presidency @ngrpresident, President Buhari called the meeting to brief the leadership of the National Assembly on ongoing efforts at securing Benue.
The tweet reads: “President @MBuhari meeting with Senate President @bukolasaraki & Speaker @YakubDogara on the security situation in Benue & other parts of the country.
“The President called the meeting to brief @nassnigeria on @AsoRock’s ongoing efforts at #SecuringBenue”.
Lalong Apologises To Ortom Over Anti- grazing Law Comments
Meanwhile, Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong has apologised to his Benue State counterpart, Governor Samuel Ortom, over comments that he warned him against implementing the anti – grazing law.
Speaking to State House correspondents last week, Lalong had said he told Ortom to put some measures in place before implementing the law.
In his reaction, while addressing a delegation of the Arewa Consultative Forum on Friday at his office in Makurdi, the Benue State governor said he was pained by the comments and consequently called Lalong who denied making such statement.
However speaking to journalists in Abuja at the weekend, Governor Lalong apologised to Ortom for his comments, noting that it was misconceived and misinterpreted.
While extending his condolences to the governor and people of Benue State, Lalong added that he has great respect for human lives and unity of the middle belt.
He said, “The essence of this meeting is to once extend our condolences to the people of Benue state, over this great loss. My prayer is that God will continue to give them and every Nigerian the fortitude to bear this great loss
“I must say that I humbly apologise for my comment because I have seen that it was really misconceived and misinterpreted and that generated a lot of media write ups, here and there.
“So, I apologise because either argument for and against doesn’t help the matter because it involves loss of lives and I have great respect for loss of lives and unity of the middle belt. I do not want to say plateau is fighting Benue State.
Lalong continued: “We are all brothers and sisters. Benue was created out of Plateau as well as Nasarawa. So, we still remain brothers and sisters with Benue. Once again, I pray God to give them the fortitude and grant the departed souls eternal rest.
“I thank all those who are for and against and to let them know that there is need for all Nigerians to join hands to ensure that we work towards the resolution of the matter and to ensure we find peace, not only in Benue, but in Nigeria”.
IGP Visits IDPs Camp, Assures Of Adequate Security
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotum-Idris has embarked on an inspection visit to one of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Gbajimba, Guma local government, where those displaced by the recent terrorists attack were taking shelter.
Assuring them of adequate security, the IGP who frowned at the level of inadequate security at the camp directed the stationing of three units of mobile policemen at Gbajimba to ensure the safety of those in the camp and its environs.
The camp commandant, Torhile Tsavbee, disclosed that already, 4,281 USPS have been registered into the camp, just as he however lamented the hardship faced by the inmates and called on the state and federal governments to, as a matter of urgency, look for ways of addressing these challenges.
Tsavbee enumerated the challenges at the camp to include electricity, water, matrasses and health facilities.
“As you can see, there is no electricity here in the camp and this usually poses a lots of threat, especially in the night because we don’t have security in the camp. Few days ago, some hoodlums attempted jumping through the fence and we arrested them and handed them over to the Police”, he stated.
Benue Govt Procures N100m Relief Materials For IDPsº
Meanwhile, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has procured N100 million relief materials for immediate distribution to the IDPs in five camps in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state.
The governor disclosed this yesterday when he visited the camps in the two local government areas of the state.
The camps are in Daudu, Tse-Adi, Central Primary School, Gbajimba, Anyiin and Ugba.
Ortom said that the relief materials would be supplied to all the camps today in order to cushion the effect of their sufferings.
He advised the IDPs to conduct themselves orderly and to support one another when the need arises, urging them to be their brother’s keepers to avert a repeat of what had befallen the state.
The governor assured them that the security agencies were working very hard to ensure that they return to their various homes in no distant time.
He also lauded the federal government for sending relief materials to the IDPs through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
PDP Urges PMB To Visit Benue
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to show empathy to the plight of Nigerians by paying a visit on the people of Benue State to condole with victims of the horrific killing of defenseless Nigerians by marauders.
PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it is very sad to note that in its insensitivity, the federal government did not consider it important to send a delegation to the burial of those massacred in Benue.
The party observed that till date, there has been no presidential visit of any sort to commiserate with the people of Benue and other states where Nigerians are being slaughtered by bandits under the APC regime.
The statement noted: “The PDP is worried that while innocent Nigerians were still being slaughtered and families crying out for help, the President was busy receiving APC governors on orchestrated self-serving visit to Aso Rock to endorse his personal ambition for a second tenure; a time when a soothing word and practical action from his Presidency would have helped ease the pains and reassure the people.
“While we painfully note the failure of the Buhari-led government to provide adequate security in the endangered areas, despite early warning signs, his failure to visit Benue speaks volumes.
“Indeed, such a disposition is believed to be emboldening the marauders to continue their killing spree, divide and further plunge the nation into turmoil like the attacks in Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and other states.
“It is imperative for Nigerians to note that no government, in the history of our nation, had formulated a divisive body language like this APC-controlled Federal Government and the citizens are painfully bearing the brunt.
“We therefore urge the Presidency to be more responsive to issues that concern the unity of our dear nation and the security of our people. Perhaps the President may need to study and emulate the measures used by the PDP to unite our nation for 16 years.”
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