Hon. Mark Terseer Gbillah represents Gwer East/Gwer West federal constituency of Benue State, in this interview with ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, he speaks about incessant attacks on his constituents and other Benue communities.
Sequel to the motion you raised, the House invited President Muhammadu Buhari to come and explain the protracted killings of unarmed Nigerians, what did you intend to achieve with your motion?
The motion was basically focused on raising alarm about the attack on Naka, the headquarters of Gwer West local government area by army personnel and the ability of the security agencies to quell the incessant killings of innocent citizens of Gwer East Gwer West local government and other local governments in Benue State. The House unanimously supported the motion and some of the prayers that I requested for in the motion was that the President should within 24hours deploy the requisite personnel and equipment to the locations and to within seven daysestablish permanent military bases in those locations for intelligent gathering and immediate deployment of personnel when these invaders come. I also indicated the need for an investigation on why our security agencies are not proactive, they are more reactive, they only respond after scores of innocent citizens have been killed. In a proper military rules of engagement, you go after the perpetrators of the crime, but what we find is they deploy officers and men who go and stay in one location, this is absurd, they stay in one location and they did not even respond to the intelligence that the Benue state government has been providing them with, that these invaders are in this particular place and we have seen them coming. Ordinarily, we believe that the military is trained to go after invaders and not to wait for them to attack, except something has gone wrong, because they (invaders), as admitted by the Commissioner of Police in Benue State, have resulted in getting information even from within these security agencies. This is what the Commissioner of Police said and I quote him, he was on Channels Television. He said that “it appears they get information from within”, within obviously means the security circle. And when security people are deployed somewhere, this people will go an attack 50 kilometres away, that means they are monitoring the movement of security agencies, so what are the security agencies waiting for, they should go after them.
So that is one of the prayers I made, it will interest you to know that the local government Chairman told me that the recent attacks in Tse Agabe, Tse Yange and other areas in Tse ward, he informed the military personnel in the evening and they said they had to wait till morning, this is something I want Nigerians to hear, the President and Commander-in-Chief, the Chief of Army Staff to answer to we the people of Gwer West and Gwer East is if the Nigerian Army is no longer capable of carrying out operations when it is not day light? It is a shame on the Nigerian Army and on this government that our security agencies, whom we use to hold in very high esteem as the best in Africa, but that seem not to be the case anymore. If our President can admit that attackers are coming from Libya, that means we are in a state of war. If foreigners are coming to kill our people, then we are in a state of war.
It is also unfortunate that even when our President went to the USA, it was the US President that mentioned the issue of Christians been killed, our President didn’t say anything about it. Our President didn’t mention the herdsmen attacks, he only talked about Boko-Haram and South-South militancy, has the militants killed more people than the herdsmen? It is on record that this is not the case, so this President seem to be paying lip service to the killings and in my constituency we feel. He and his administration has failed us and the nation for the inability to protect the life and properties of Benue people, which is the primary responsibility of every government as enshrined in the constitution.
One of the other things I requested for was that within seven days, the President should identify the perpetrators, the army personnel who attacked Naka which led to the death of of two innocent citizens, one of whom was an over 70 years old man, who was burnt alive in his hurt. We have it on video, where the eye witnesses said it clearly that these military personnel came in uniform with their names tagged. One of them was identified as Umar or Umaru Issah, they we were carrying guns with Nigerian Army inscribed on them, and they came with Nigerian Army vehicles with plate numbers, so what kind of operation was that that the army was trying to deny?
Could it be that the attackers disguised as army officers?
It is not possible that this could have been the case, because this is a situation where the operation was too detailed and the appearance of those people was too authentic. And to buttress the point, the traditional ruler and the state governor agreed to surrender to them, five individuals whom they claim to have identified as been implicated in the killing of their colleague, which is the reason why they attack Naka. The Commandant of 72 battalion in Makurdi, admitted to the Traditional Ruler that he was under pressure from Abuja to attack Naka. Now you can see that this is not hearsay of allegation, this is a fact. This has become the stock in trade of the Nigerian Army, to be a lawless entity with total disregard for rule of law and human rights. In this day and age when we thought our army would have began to compete with other armies around the world, we are still degenerating to such brigandage, it is an embarrassment and the House has passed a vote of no confidence on all the security chiefs, but as usual, we know that Mr. President does not honour the resolutions of the House. Nevertheless we have made a clear statement for him and Nigerians to know that we have no confidence in the security chiefs. The people of Gwer West local government has raised this issue to the UN Human Rights Commission and the National Human Rights Commission, and we intend to take legals actions. Our country and the Nigerian Army has not learnt from the unfortunate and inhuman massacre that occurred at Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam in this same Benue state.
Benue state has suffered several attacks in the life of this administration and beyond, are there intelligence report at your disposal pointing to the remote and immediate causes?
There are several conspiracy theories, but one of them which is clearly playing out now is about territorial control. These nomads or herdsmen have in the past, probably over 100 years ago, tried an incursion into our territory, which was unsuccessful, we resisted them because they are interested in the fertility of the Benue basin, which as you know is the food basket of Nigeria. Probably emboldened by their brother in office,because we find it concerning that he has not been able to address this matter.
You are referring to the President?
Categorically, yes. As somebody who is a Fulani man, we thought it would be of concern to him, because Benue State is one of the swing states, we unanimously voted for him, despite that he is a Fulani man, because we believe that he has the integrity to address issues objectively. But that is not what we are seeing at the moment, he has been unable to declare these Fulani herdsmen a terrorist group, even when they have been so declared by the United Nations alongside ISIS, Boko-Haram, Alqaeda and the likes. Meanwhile, our government where these attacks are happening have been unable to do that, but look at how quickly they were able to declare IPOB as a terrorist group, who are on record not to have even killed one person, to proscribe them immediately, that smacks of complete nepotism and tribal sentiment and we will not tolerate that. We also know that the issue of herding castles is one of the other reasons, the soil in the northern part and the vegetation is not as plentiful as it is in the Benue basin, so you see them coming towards these area to come and graze their cattle, and this is something we have said categorically that Benue state does not have land for grazing, if they want to ranch, they are welcome, and the anti open grazing law as instituted by the Benue state House of Assembly is here to stay.
The National Executive Council (NEC) ban open grazing of cattle across the country, do you have any reservation about the ban?
My reservations are clear, as a lawmaker, you don’t just make such pronouncement, we have rule of law, even though, in this administration, the executive has tried to display a level of impunity that is mind boggling, even compared to the previous administrations where court orders are flaunted with impunity and there is no regard for the constitution, I was shocked that they could make such pronouncement without individual states having initiated the process of the enactment of a law, like what Benue, Taraba and Ekiti state have done. That is what should be done, it cannot be by fiat, we are not in a military administration, it is a disappointment that the Vice president could have presided over the meeting being a learned SAN and he did not caution them about the due process, he has not been able to bring his legal profession to bear in getting this administration to respect the rule of law. All of what the NEC said will not hold water, until when the right thing is done.
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