Chukwudi Akasike, Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba, Olaleye Aluko and Godwin Isenyo
Middle Belt youths, the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; and civil rights groups on Wednesday said Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom’s advice to the internally displaced persons was an indication of the Federal Government’s failure.
Ortom had on Tuesday advised the IDPs to go back home and defend themselves with stones against attacks by killer herdsmen.
Two Middle Belt groups said they supported Ortom’s advice to the IDPs. They said people should return to their villages and defend themselves against attacks by herdsmen.
The Convener, Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progress Forum, Dachung Bagos, said, “I strongly support Governor Samuel Ortom. Self-defence is not a crime as long as it can be proved. With what is happening in Nigeria today, we surely need to defend ourselves as our lives are in danger.”
On his part, President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Emma Zopmal, said the governor had been doing his part in protecting his people and assisting the IDPs.
Zopmal stated, “In as much as he is doing his best, the people should not fold their arms and watch Fulani herdsmen kill them all. The governor is not a spirit or a warlord that can be everywhere to protect them.”
Afenifere stated that the government and people of Benue State had lost confidence in the Federal Government and the security agencies.
It noted that Ortom’s counsel to his people to defend themselves with stones against killer herdsmen translated into a vote of no confidence in the government.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said this indicated that the Federal Government had failed.
He added that Nigerians should be ready in 2019 to replace the Buhari administration with the one that could protect them.
“Governments are set up for certain purposes, including guaranteeing the security of the people, and once any government can no longer fulfil that mandate, it is left for the people to vote out that government and vote another in its place.
“It is for Nigerians to know that they have to replace this government in 2019 and put in place a government that can secure their lives,” Odumakin said.
The Campaign for Democracy and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights said the call was an indication of the failure of the Federal Government, the state government and security agencies.
The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “The constitution of our country clearly spells out the protection of lives and property of citizens as the first responsibility of every government. This call by the governor in Benue tells you that the present Federal Government and the state government have failed the people. Why will such proclamation be coming at this crucial time? These are people in abject poverty, in danger and in disarray.
“It is a total failure of the government and it shows this government must not demand a second term in office. It is very unfortunate that the tenure elongation of the service chiefs and heads of security agencies has not translated to better security of lives and property in the country.”
Also, the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said the crisis in Beneu State was “a classical picture of a failed leadership at the highest level. The drawback of this episode is that such a statement from the governor graphically paints the depth of frustration and underscores the abysmal failure of leadership and governance in Nigeria.
“My recommendation is that Ortom should spend more time with security experts who can think out of the box for solutions.”
Ortom’s statement, hard to believe – ACF
However, the Arewa Consultative Forum said it found it hard to believe that Ortom ordered IDPs to go home and defend themselves with stones.
This, according to the ACF, is because the governor is a product of democracy which thrives with the rule of law.
The northern body noted that it was inconceivable for the governor to encourage the people of Benue to take the law into their own hands, no matter the challenge.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Alhaji Muhammad Biu, who spoke on behalf of the group, urged leaders in the region to be patient, tolerant and persevere in order to bring about the needed justice, liberty and peaceful coexistence.
He said, “ The ACF will continue to urge our leaders at all levels to always provide purposeful leadership that comes with patience, tolerance and perseverance in order to bring about the needed order, justice, liberty, peaceful coexistence, common decency and prosperity for all.”
Also, a retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said Ortom should have asked for the deployment of more security personnel in Benue instead of asking the people to defend themselves with stones.
He said, “The advice is not proper; I don’t think the people should defend themselves because it would lead to attacks and reprisals. Now, most of the people in the attack areas have fled to displaced persons camps, they can no longer farm and if this is not reversed, there may be famine in Tivland because the people are no longer farming.”
A security analyst, Ben Okezie, also advised the governor to liaise with all the security agencies, including the police, military and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to send more operatives to the state.
He warned of anarchy if the killings continued, stressing that state police was the only solution to the security challenge in the country.
“With state police, these kinds of killings would not go on because the governor can easily order the police to defend the people. State police is the answer to these unwarranted killings,” the analyst insisted.
Okezie said the governor’s statement showed that he had lost confidence in the FG and the security forces.
FG should give IDPs special protection – IYC
But the factional President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Eric Omare, said it was wrong for Ortom to advise the IDPs to go to the various communities and defend themselves with stones.
Omare, who spoke in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, explained that it was the duty of the Federal Government to provide protection for the IDPs.
He said, “I do not think that that is good advice coming from the Governor of Benue State. Yes, Nigerians have the right to defend themselves considering the circumstance. The police are the ones to defend the IDPs. So, I disagree with the advice of the governor to the IDPs.
“The way forward is for the Federal Government to provide security for the IDPs because it is the Federal Government that is in control of security agencies.”