Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, in this interview with State House correspondents stated that the killings in Benue have reduced since President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the state as security agencies are trying to stem the tide of killings. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH presents the excerpts.
Why are you in the Villa?
Iam here first of all to thank Mr. President for the condolence visitor to Benue State after the killings and to also intimate him of where we are now. To also remind him about the request of Bernie people when he paid that visit and to assure him that Benue remains committed for united Nigeria and to work with him in ensuring that we collaborate with the Federal Government to provide security for lives and property in Nigeria.
Also to intimate him of the plight of over 175,000 IDPs that we have in eight camps. They have expressed their desire to go back home. And Mr. is very passionate about their plight and have assured me that government will swing into action to ensure that rehabilitation is done to those homes that were displaced. Because, if they go back home, where would they go and live when their house were destroyed.
That assurance has been given and he will also look at the other issues that we brought before him. It is quite assuring that it will be well and I want to thank the President for the support he has shown. I know that this crisis did not just start during his tenure, it precedes this government. When I was serving as minister, my ancestral home was destroyed, 53 people were killed and this was in 2013 when Mr. President was not yet here. But I think that what is important is the NEC sun-committee headed by the Vice President which is doing the needful.
I believe that the meeting we held and the subsequent ones that we are going to hold will definitely proffer a solution to this perennial problem and we sought it out ones and for all. But we remain committed to our people and our ranching law and I believe that that is the way forward.
Like I keep saying, if people better options, let them bring it to the table. For us in Benue State, that remains the global best practice and Nigeria cannot be an exception especially when the land is decreasing and the population is increasing.
The 20million cattle in Nigeria cannot cope with open grazing, there is no doubt about that and a solution has to be created just as it is done in India with over 300million herds of cattle, in Brazil 250million herds of cattle and in America 300million but yet, there has not been clashes like we have witnessed in Nigeria with just 20million cattle. So, we must adopt global best practices and modern ways of animal house boundary, this will go a long way in helping us. And I think that for us in Benue, we are wining because even Miyetti Allah MACABAN, have accepted that truly, ranching remains the best option.
And we commend them and we will work with them to see how our law will can ware human face to ensure that we have a win-win for all. And you will recall that the issue of cattle rustling is very major problem to the cattle rearers in Nigeria. Ranching will minimize this problem in Nigeria, it will minimize attacks on farms and encroachment on farms. So, we encourage everyone to work with us to ensure that we achieve this.
What has changed in Benue since the President’s visit?
Well, there are some killings in flash points by these militia groups, the security men are doing their best, and a number of arrests have been made by the security agencies. It is still going on, even yesterday, there were killings but the security men are doing their best. I believe that we will overcome this. If not for the presence of the security men in our land, the situation would have really worsened than what it is today. I think that we are collaborating with the security agencies and are not leaving any stone unturned that we overcome this.
A former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma, suggested that people protect themselves?
I’m not sure that if listened to him very well. It is a misrepresentation of what the former minister said. He did not tell anybody to take up arms. He only said that people should protect themselves. Of course, you know that self preservation is the first law of nature. You can’t just wait in your house and allow someone to come and kill you. You can resist the person, but you don’t necessarily need to have arms.
I think that that was what the minister was saying. There is need for people to arise to defend themselves not necessarily using weapons that are banned. You can use a stick and disarm someone. Some years ago, I was able to disarm armed robbers with seven AK-47 without anything. I think that is the kind of thing he is trying to say. Nigerians should rise up to do this.
Security matters are not just left in the hands of security men, it requires every one of us to put our heads together and be courageous to be able to surmount it.
Do we assume that there is a new relationship between you and the Federal Government?
I’m APC governor and the federal government is APC. We have always been meeting and I have said very positive things about this government before and I have not retracted what I said. The fact is that I have a challenge at hand and needed to stay with my people to be able to surmount this because they are the people that elected me. And Benue people first before any other thing.
I have not had any strained relationship with the federal government. I had strained relationship with security agencies Head not even with security agencies and that was the point I was making. But all I was saying is trying to add value to the security of the nation by bringing my suggestions as a former local government chairman, former minister and now current serving governor.
I think I have something to add to the security architecture of this country that can add value and help us to do better than we are doing. There is always room for improvement in any setting or organisation by buying from one person to the other because nobody has monopoly of knowledge. We must synergize, we must corporate with one another and so, when you neglect this, and you have tragedy like the one you have in Benue State, it is not good enough.
And people must be willing to accept pieces of advice especially superior opinions that can help shape and add value to the development of our system.