Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has described as mischievous, allegations linking his government to recent killings of herdsmen from an air raid on a settlement in Nasarawa State.
At the last count, over 50 persons were said to have been killed after the air force allegedly dropped bombs on a community in Nasarawa, amid anger by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) over the involvement of the Federal Government, Benue State government, and military authorities.
MACBAN was particularly miffed that President Muhammadu Buhari was at a state dinner in Katsina while the killings took place.
Vice PresidentYemi Osinbajo commiserated with the Nasarawa state government after three days of silence by the Air Force over what is believed to have been a mistaken targetting; but in a morbid sense of humour, some communities in the area celebrated the attack, because of their experience in the hands of bandits.
Ortom stated that neither him nor his government had a hand in the unfortunate incident.
He maintained that he did not order anyone to carry out such act, insisting that he has no such powers to order such an air raid operation which resulted in the killings.
Governor Ortom spoke Sunday, January 29th, 2023 during a Thanksgiving Mass for the official commissioning of a Parish House built by him at Holy Cross Parish, Ogbolokuta, Ulayi in Ado Local Government Area.
He explained that contrary to the wrong narrative being peddled, it may have been as a result of intelligence gathered by the military high command.
The Governor who wondered why he would be linked to the incident, said it was pure mischief for anyone to attempt to rope him into what he had no knowledge of.
Speaking on the hostilities between the people of Ezza community of Ado local government and their neighbouring Ebonyi State, the Governor said he was working in collaboration with the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi to end the incessant conflict between the two brothers.
He disclosed that the peace meeting between the two state governments will be held in the area as a show of commitment to bring the crises to a stop so that the people will return to their homes.
Governor Ortom who is the first governor of the State to have visited Ezza community since the creation of the state in 1976 told the people that boundaries were meant for administrative convenience and not to divide people.
According to him, the Ezza people, though Igbo speaking, were bonafide indigenes of Benue State and must be protected by the Government.
He also assured them that there was an ongoing process for the amendment of the chieftaincy law of the state, saying, “Ezza community must also be given the opportunity to lead their people” through the appointment of traditional rulers.
He directed the Chairman of Ado local government council, Hon James Oche, to ensure presentation on the matter during public hearing for review of the chieftaincy law.
Governor Ortom urged the people who deserted their homes as a result of the hostilities to return to their places and be vigilant in reporting any security breach, assuring that able-bodied young men from Ezza community will be drafted into the next batch of the State Community Volunteer Guards to help curb insecurity.
He particularly commended the Parish Priest of Holy Cross Catholic Church Ogbolokuta, Rev. Fr Solomon Ujah and the Diocese of Otukpo for their resilience in helping to keep the Ezza community despite the several security challenges in the area.
Earlier in a homily, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, Most Rev. Michael Ekwoyi Apochi encouraged the faithful to imbibe doing works of charity to fellow human beings, stating that doing so was to God Himself on which account entry into heaven will be determined.
Bishop Apochi whose message was focused on the beatitudes as taken from the Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12 stated that the beatitudes offer the comfort to rise from our sense of inhumanity, injustice, oppression of the poor, bad leadership as well as bad followership, admonishing that Christians should use the beatitudes to rise against personal failures and sinfulness.
In his welcome remarks, the Parish Priest of Holy Cross Catholic Church Ogbolokuta, Rev. Fr. Solomon Alexander Ujah expressed profound appreciation to Governor Ortom for building a Parish House for the Church and prayed to God to reward his sacrifice.
He also appealed to the Governor to further look into the challenges of the Ezza community, which he pointed out was ravaged by insecurity, lack of access road, as well as non-existence of a health facility to serve the community.
The Vicar General, Administration of the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, Very Rev. Fr. Kenneth Odeh presented the Diocesan Centenary Award to Governor Ortom in recognition to his sustained support for the growth of the Church.