• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

How killings in Plateau, Benue test Mutfwang, Alia’s pledges to prioritise security

Kidnappers demand ₦30m ransom for victims abducted from Nigerian Army Estate Abuja

One of the key reasons that may have given electoral victory to Governors Caleb Mutfwang and Hyacinth Alia was their pledge to end the orgy of unprovoked killings in Plateau and Benue States respectively.

During the electioneering campaign, the then governorship candidates of Plateau and Benue promised to tackle insecurity in their states.

Governor Mutfwang, then candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), promised to end the killings in Plateau if elected. He also promised to ensure that all communities displaced by terrorists would return to their ancestral homes.

Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had also pledged to prioritise the security of lives and property of his people by ending insecurity occasioned by farmer/herder crisis, returning the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes and providing them a means of livelihood in a new economy.

But the newly inaugurated governors may have been shocked to learn that there is a difference between promise and performance.

For many years, the two states have been reduced to killing fields by invading herdsmen who massacre indigenes unprovoked. Former governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong, was of the ruling APC and did little to check the carnage.

Observers said that he did not want to offend Abuja. His then counterpart in Benue, Samuel Ortom, cried to high heavens and consistently accused former president Muhammadu Buhari of tactically supporting the killings.

Ortom, on a number of occasions, narrowly escaped being killed by the rampaging herdsmen who felt that the law against open grazing was inimical to their survival.

Former Governor Ortom received no assistance from the Federal Government to check the wanton massacre of Benue indigenes.

Since May 29, 2023 when power changed hands in the country, killings have continued in Plateau and Benue.

The latest onslaught against the two states came penultimate Saturday, July 8, 2023. Armed men reportedly invaded Akpuuna and Diom communities in Ukum Local Government Areas of Benue State killing unsuspecting indigenes.

As of the time of this report over 30 deaths arising from the attack had been recorded. Reports had it that a gang of armed men on motorbikes had invaded the communities in broad day light and began to shoot at everybody in sight. They did not only kill, they set houses and local market ablaze. They also escaped without any challenge. This has been the pattern.

As expected, the state Governor, Hyacinth Alia only condemned the attack and the loss of innocent lives in the communities.

“It is disappointing and quite disheartening to receive the news that innocent and law abiding citizens have been attacked and killed in cold blood for a no cause,” a statement issued by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Tersoo Kula, stated.

Like the feeble assurances that had amounted to nothing which the Benue indigenes had been fed over the years, Governor Alia said that the people should be calm. He also urged them to assist the security agencies with vital information that could help them check the attacks. How feeble and spineless! For those who have followed developments in Benue in the last two weeks, the killings penultimate Saturday were not surprising.

Recently, the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) had threatened to “show” Governor Alia for “betraying” them. They had claimed that after an agreement with the governor not to sustain the open-grazing law passed by the Ortom administration, Alia had broken the covenant. They also claimed that they worked for his victory as governor and spent a lot to achieve that only to be “betrayed” by the governor. They pointedly threatened to make Benue hot for him.

The group said in the statement: “The Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM, views with great disappointment the recent statement made by the Governor of Benue State Reverend Father Hyacinth ALia who said that he will continue with the enforcement of the obnoxious anti-open grazing law of the state.

“Governor Alia’s statement is a violation of the understanding we had with him which convinced us and other groups of pastoralists to mobilise resources for his election.

“In case governor Alia has forgotten, we want to remind him of the consequences of his actions. This is the same way we warned Governor Ortom against daring us but he remained stubborn until we showed him what we are capable of doing.

“We have never failed in making good our intentions, and we will always get what we want. The Ortom administration had too much hatred for the Fulanis and we told him that the people of the state will not enjoy peace on account of that. Father Alia came to us and promised to be different and we believed and trusted him.
“We agreed to support ALia because he promised that he would allow our members who Ortom chased into Nasarawa and other states to return to Benue. He started well when he condemned the activities of those bastards called livestock guards and our people began to return to Benue state after his election.

“We also acknowledged the governor’s permission for the inauguration of the security organisation we introduced in the state to protect our members called Al-Tershak Global Security managed by Aliyu Tershaku.

“For peace to reign in Benue state, governor Alia must accept these conditions or be prepared to refund all that we spent on his campaigns and then face our fierce anger which will not spell good for the people of that state: 1. The governor should immediately retract his statement on the continued enforcement of the anti-open grazing law. 2. Hold a meeting with our representatives in Benue state within the next 72hours to explain why he abandoned our agreement with him. 3.Show our representatives the map detailing the areas he plans to carve and reserve for our members to reside and graze their cattle without molestation (as was agreed). 4. Direct security men not to harass our people in Guma, GWer west, Kwande, Logo, Agatu, Makurdi and other areas in Benue state. 5.Make himself available for an emergency meeting in Kaduna this week for a serious discussion. 6. Apologise to our members for his reckless utterances. 7. Desist from making further statements on the implementation of the failed anti-open grazing law. 8. Permanently ban the Benue state livestock guards and have all members of the organisation arrested and prosecuted for their evil acts against our members.
“We must not fail to commend the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo who was quick to come and demand that governor Alia should abolish the anti-grazing law. We completely align ourselves with Alhaji Bodejo’s call.

“We will not be sending this warning a second time. We expect the Benue State governor to take heed and act accordingly.”
In Plateau State, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen invaded Farinkasa Kerana and Sabon Gari communities in Mangu Local Government Area penultimate Saturday night. They killed about 12 persons who were in their houses and also set many houses ablaze, leaving many people stranded. Some indigenes pointed fingers at Fulani herdsmen, urging Governor Mutfwang to declare the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) as a terrorist association.
Calling on the governor to declare MACBAN as a terrorist group, National President of the Mwaghavul Development Association (MDA), Joseph Gwankat said that since April 2023, members of MACBAN had attacked 53 communities and killed 204 persons in Mangu LGA, where the state governor hails from.

He said: “It is in the public domain that MACBAN has been hiring foreign mercenaries to attack communities, including ours. Our villages have been deserted due to these attacks and have become grazing fields for the Fulani herders. So far, a total of 204 of our people have been killed in 53 attacks carried out by them

“We, therefore, strongly suggest that the Federal Government should declare MACBAN a terrorist organisation because of the heinous crimes that its members are perpetrating in various parts of Nigeria.”

According to Gwankat, “We urge the Government to take full responsibility for educating children below the age of 10 who have lost both parents as a result of the attacks, while arrangements are made for the SS3 students whose WAEC Exams were disrupted as a result of these attacks.”

Some observers have wondered why politicians should seek offices they know have not the capacity and political will to perform the duties of office. Collins Ekong, a concerned Nigerian and security expert, said that the continued killings in Plateau and Benue must be checked by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration.

“We watched helplessly as thousands of Nigerians were massacred across the country because we had a President whose body language suggested that he saw nothing wrong with the killings by the herdsmen. We read about how some of the herdsmen who were apprehended were released almost immediately on the ‘orders from above.’

“I should think that President Bola Tinubu should not allow this carnage to continue. We are talking about human lives for Christ sake. We must not allow what happened in the Buhari era to continue this time around. I thought a new Sheriff was in town,” Ekong said.

According to him, “I also believe that politicians must be moved by the desire to serve humanity and not just to sit or occupy positions. Why, for instance, is the purpose of Governors of Plateau and Benue seeking to govern their states when they are helpless and cannot provide security for the lives and property of their people? They have returned to the practice of waking up every day to condemn and to tell the people to be calm. I think it is high time people revolted against this type of leadership.”