President Muhammadu Buhari is pleading with the people of Benue State, in the name of God, to see herders as neighbours and allow them eke a living in the State.
But in Makurdi, members of the elite, community leaders, serving and retired public officers, and politicians from areas affected by the fatal onslaught by herdsmen are leading the evacuation and resettlement of their displaced kinsmen mainly to Makurdi the state capital, since the most recent assault, ravaged Guma Local Government Area, is contiguous to capital city.
Buhari has promised to ensure that those behind killings in the State are caught and brought to book. 73 Benue indigenes were killed by Fulani militia on New Year’s day, and amid anger and wailing, were buried last week.
But for the Benue Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, there is no piece of land to donate land for a cattle colony as being pushed by the federal government to stem disagreements between herders and farmers, which has increased in the Middle-belt States of Plateau, (southern) Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa, and Kogi.
President Buhari, Monday, told a delegation of political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of Benue State led by Governor Samuel Ortom at the Presidential Villa, Abuja: “Your Excellency, the governor and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people.
“I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished. I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried and concerned with the situation.”
Reacting to the issue of cattle colonies as suggested by the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who incidentally is a Benue indigene, Ortom said: “As for the solution to the problem, we are open to suggestion from the Federal Government to find how we can find a lasting solution. The Minister of Agriculture happens to be a son of the soil. There are many options that are put on the table.
“Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches in one place; restricted in one place.
“So, for us in Benue State, there is no 10 hectares. We have no 5,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take place. Other states have the land, but we in Benue State, we don’t have and that was what led to us enacting this law.”
The political drama continues as Benue indigenes work out an ingenius, but communal way to be their brothers keepers.
A knowledgeable source told Everyday.ng that as a result of the recent herdsmen attacks on Benue State, and the growing refugee problem in Makurdi, relatively well-off residents are helping out.
Added the source: “Uncompleted houses are being rented and made-up, to provide temporary succour to the displaced.
“Food items, mainly grains: guinea corn, maize and millet are also being sourced for them.
“Used clothes are also being provided, since many victims left their abodes without their belongings.
“A retired permanent secretary friend spent all of his pension for December, over N300,000, supporting such efforts for his people in my presence today.
“There are complaints that the unfortunate development is casting additional strains on people’s finances, just coming out of the Christmas and New Year yuletide season and preparing their children for a return to school for the second term or second semester as the case may be.”
Meanwhile, commentators are frowning at the manner the Benue political leaders ran to Abuja to meet the President, who has not visited the state, despite the carnage of herders that threw the State into mourning.
Wrote one: “I think there’s something totally wrong here.The people of Benue State are the bereaved and aggrieved.
“We are in the third week after the Fulani onslaught on Benue people on New Year’s day. Isn’t it obtuse logic for those who are mourning to be running to the palace to be consoled? Shouldn’t the royalty be humane enough to visit the domain of the holocaust?
“I personally think Benue people have allowed themselves to be subjected to unthinkable derision by their leadership by coming in numbers to weep at the gate to the king’s abode.”