The Federal Government has appealed to the media and public commentators to exercise utmost restraint in their coverage of the fallouts of the recent farmers/herders’ clash in Benue State in order not to further inflame passion and worsen the situation.
The government’s position comes as there was a crisis at the Wadata Market area of Makurdi, Benue State. There were reports of a loss of life, in what many say is a communal clash, a fall-out of the tension in the State following the burial of 73 dead indigenes of the State in the hands of Fulani herders.
A car was said to have hit a Fulani man, leading to his death and sparking off aviolent disagreement.
At the same time, youths have been protesting the death of their kinsmen since last Thursday, amidst appeals from State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for calm.
He has also ordered the Police to stem the protests and deal with recalcitrant youths.
In a statement issued in hAbuja on Saturday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said while the Federal Government is working hard to address the situation with a view to preventing a recurrence, not just in Benue State but everywhere across the country, it is incumbent on the media and public commentators not to engage in actions that can aggravate the crisis.
Mohammed’s came in the face of allegations that the state government has put pressure on journalists not to report the communal clash that led to the death of one person.
A social media post by an aide of Ortom was being circulated Saturday. It reads: “Gentlemen, pls avoid reporting the Wadata incident on facebook. The Governor is already aware and something is being done. There is a grand plot to cause chaos and declare state of emergency in Benue state. Pls contact as many people as you can not to post pictures of the incident. If you have already posted, pls remove them….”
Already, commercial motorcycles have been banned from moving between 6.00p.m. and 6.00a.m.
‘Said Mohammed: ‘Lest we are misunderstood, we are neither saying the media should not cover the crisis nor asking public commentators to desist from commenting on it. All we are saying is that both must be circumspect.
”The current poisoned atmosphere of incendiary comments, unrestrained use of pictures and footages that offend human sensibilities as well as fingerpointing can only exacerbate the situation and complicate ongoing efforts to end the crisis,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Federal Government is absolutely saddened by the loss of lives and the destruction of property resulting from the crisis, and recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, in commiserating with the Benue Governor, unreservedly condemned the killings and also assured of the necessary security measures to prevent further attacks and bring the perpetrators to book.
He said the Federal Government has also mapped out short and long-term solutions to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders, including a planned conference of stakeholders, and assured of the government’s strong determination to find a lasting solution to the farmers/herders’ clashes.