As a reader of PREMIUM TIMES, your opinion is important. Please take our survey to help us better understand our readers’ values and preferences. Your feedback will provide us with valuable information on how we can tailor the types of content we offer to suit your needs. The survey takes about 6-8 minutes to complete.
Click here take
Going back to their playbook, terrorists killed 134 people in Benue State in a five-day massacre just before Easter. Among the victims were children and women, some of them expectant mothers. The attackers are suspected to be murderous herdsmen. How these serial killings happened without the police and other security agencies possessing an iota of intelligence that would have helped them cut them off or curtail the carnage raises eyebrows.
The Umuogidi community of Otukpo where this sadism took place and other towns in Apa and Guma Local Government Areas of the State are distraught. Some of the over 40 injured persons are receiving treatment at the Benue University Teaching Hospital. The state governor, Samuel Ortom, has described the act as appalling and cowardly.
More worrying was the invasion of an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at a school in LGEA Mgban, where 24 people were shot dead in a classroom. The bodies of the other 10 who managed to escape were found on the road. This was on Easter Friday. Two days earlier, on Wednesday, 52 people were killed in the same town of Umuogidi. In Apa Local Government Area, 47 people died on April 3.
The state Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) has condemned the massacre. Its secretary, Ibrahim Galma, said his association is working with the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) to ensure that peace and harmony prevail in Benue, “but bad elements are still causing trouble in the state.” The International Crisis Group (ICG), in a 2017 report, located the challenge of desertification in the extreme north, the loss of grazing land to increase settlements and the migration of shepherds to the south to tend their flocks. The group then advocated a practical approach to the issue. Specifically, “the government should strengthen security for pastoralists and farmers, establish a conflict resolution mechanism and establish pastoral reserves.”
As usual, President Muhammadu Buhari has called for peace and directed the police, State Security Service (SSS) and military commanders to step up vigilance on all fronts. This seems like a broken record given the lack of his previous directives. He must have been concerned that a five-day massacre that left 134 dead had caught all the security agencies off guard. Unfazed by the President’s stance, Governor Ortom urged him to match his words with action. It is this gap between directives and remedial actions that brought the governor into conflict with the Buhari administration when he sided with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the 2019 general elections. Congress of All Progressives (APC).
The dead will be buried soon and then the bereaved families will be asked to move on: case closed. This has been the pattern, whether in Benue, Zamfara, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina or Sokoto states, because the Nigerian state has become accustomed to macabre riots. Life is apparently worthless to our rulers. However, human life is sacred, as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended. Article 33 (1) of the Charter states: “Everyone has the right to life and no one shall be deprived of his life intentionally…”
Leaders committed to this categorical imperative not only echo it; they act A former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, for example, demonstrated this in 2013 by cutting short an official trip to Paris, France, when two Islamic extremists attacked a military barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, and killed a soldier. In a press conference, he told the British people: “We will never give in to terror or terrorism in any form.”
But in the case of the latest massacre in Benue, President Buhari left the country a few days later without arresting any of the masterminds of the heinous act. His action is a flagrant error in statesmanship, which he often commits. It is disturbing that no one takes responsibility for such a mess: not the President, not the Minister of Defence, the Home Secretary or the Inspector General of Police. That is strange in the 21st century. century governance. Clearly, these defenseless Benue towns reinforce the agitation for a multi-layered police system in the country to be effective in protecting security.
To stem this kind of bloodbath, the Benue State government enacted the Anti-Open Grazing Act in 2017, where “the movement of livestock on foot within the State is prohibited”. And, “any person who contravenes this shall be liable to one year imprisonment or a fine of N500,000”. What’s more, “any rancher or manager who carries firearms will be dealt with according to the penal code. All livestock keepers will take the services of security agencies.’ In addition, “any person who tramples cows shall be liable to 5 years imprisonment or a fine of N100,000 per cow. The animal husbandry department will confiscate the stray animals.’
Mr. Ortom, in August 2022, happily said that his administration had succeeded in the conviction of over 400 herdsmen and the confiscation of 25,000 cows in compliance with the law. According to him, some cows were auctioned because the owners could not pay the imposed fines.
Apparently, the governor’s actions angered the herdsmen and apparently worsened the herdsmen-farmers crisis in the state. The national president of Miyetti Allah, Kautal Horek, threatened to report Mr. Ortom to the International Court of Justice (ICCJ) for violating the rights of cattle and herdsmen once he was caught. He said that the governor’s fiery statements about the crisis, instead of easing the tension, fueled it.
Responding to the governor, Saleh Alhassan, the national secretary of the Fulani socio-cultural group, stated how the state “would go to the border communities of Benue and Taraba states and seize the cows, making our members suffer. We have no herdsmen in Benue. So the cattle he seized shows that he is the problem that it’s part”.
The State Security Council meeting that looked into the Easter tragedy chaired by Mr. Ortom was right to “scowl at indigene cattle rustlers and urged security agencies to nab any culprits”. The robbery is provocative and leads to bloody reprisals that the governor often laments. Therefore, catching the culprits will restore order. Even more rewarding will be the prosecution and conviction that will serve as a deterrent to other potential illegals. This will be the true test of the governor’s purpose and sincerity of leadership.
However, these preventable killings draw public attention to the policy failure of the Buhari government in its National Livestock Transformation Plan. Governors, especially those in the North, who see the NLTP as the real antidote to frequent pastoralist-farmer clashes, are now tired of pushing the Federal Government into action. The project envisages grazing reserves. We believe that lawlessness and policies that contribute to nation building should be considered as a government priority.
President Buhari has only a few days left in office and Bola Tinubu, who would succeed him on May 29, should provide immediate solutions to the problem. As the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, stated in his Easter Homily, “the most urgent task facing our nation is not infrastructure… but first and foremost keeping it alive because only the living can enjoy infrastructure.” Where herdsmen acquire AK-47 rifles, brandish them boldly, attack communities, kill people, burn their houses with impunity, these are concerns that will continue to haunt Buhari even in his retirement.
ALSO READ: Ortom govt hits back at Presidency, says Buhari condones Benue killings
No one is safe from the threat. Nigeria is nowhere near the major livestock producers around the world like Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, USA, Canada and others, where no blood is shed in livestock rearing, as livestock is well rooted for quality production. Nigerian leaders should stop making governance and doing what is right look like rocket science.
PREMIUM TIMES calls on the incoming administration to make use of the well prepared plans for concerted action to stop the killings and create a framework that will lead to peace and coexistence for all Nigerians. Without peace, the government would not be able to begin to address the formidable economic challenges facing the nation.
Accept PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. However, only good journalism can guarantee a good society, a responsible democracy and the possibility of a transparent government..
For free access to the best investigative journalism in the country, we ask that you make a modest contribution to this noble endeavor.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain journalism that matters and keep it free and accessible to all.
Text ad: Call Willie – +2348098788999