Ortom blames opposition as fear grips Benue residents over influx of herdsmen, cows
• We are on constant patrol ― OPWS Commander
There is serious apprehension in Benue State following the alleged influx of thousands of cows and herdsmen in some parts of the state.
Checks revealed that areas like Guma and Logo that were heavily attacked in 2018 as well as Kwande, Agatu and Ado local governments have been flooded with herders and their cows.
It is also learnt that the herdsmen are camped in Ado local government area of the state.
A resident of Gbajimba in Guma local government, Jonah Iorundu, who lamented the influx of cows and the herders said the development had created tension in the affected villages.
According to Iorundu, “villages like Gboogyo, Terkula and some villages that border Naaarawa State have been taken over by herders and their cows.
In Logo local government area of the state, a community leader, Joseph Anawah, said,” there is an influx of herdsmen and their cows into several communities in Logo local government since January.
“The herders came with thousands of their cows, so, this has heightened tension in the council, you know what we passed through in 2018.
“Although, there is no conflict yet and this is because our people have harvested their crops but we pray that as the rain sets in and we start planting there will not be a crisis because that is when their cows will eat our crops.”
In Agatu, a resident, Tony Audu, said that the presence of the large herds of cattle is frightening, adding that some people have already started relocating to other safer areas.
According to Tony, “with the movement of large herds of cattle in our community, we are afraid because it portends danger. We recall the incident of the past years especially how hundreds of people were murdered and many others who took refuge in camps are yet to return home until now. Something should be done soon.
“The security operatives should be alive to their responsibilities,” Tony said.
Reacting to the development, the Force Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke, General Adeyemi Yekini, who assured residents of adequate security said that troops were on constant patrol of every part of the state.
He said, “there is no security breach in any part of Benue because our troops are constantly on patrol of the communities, and anywhere they suspect of a security breach, the people should report to OPWS or other security agencies.”
The state governor, Samuel Ortom, however, stated that the sudden influx of herdsmen in some parts of the state is ‘politically motivated’.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, the governor said that some enemies of the state were behind the massive movement of herdsmen to destabilise the state government.
“We suspect that the influx of armed herdsmen with their cattle into Benue State is a move by some persons who are enemy of peace of the state.
“We may not be accusing a particular person but for political reason, some persons have given an open invitation to herdsmen to come to Benue and it is rather unfortunate. But herdsmen themselves should remember that there is a law in Benue State which prohibits open grazing of livestock and any of them who violate this law, which is very clear, such a person irrespective of his tribe would be sanctioned according to the law.
“Nobody is above the law, the law is not the respecter of a person and whoever wants to do livestock business in Benue should remember that there is a law in place which regulates the practice of animal husbandry. We want to tell the herdsmen who are coming with their large cattle that Benue has a law and it is very clear.
“So, whoever that is responsible for the influx of herdsmen is clearly not for the people of Benue State because for the past one year, the government and people of Benue State have put heads together with support of the security agents to ensure that there is peace in all parts of the state and people are enjoying the peace.
“Even those who are in the camp, a lot of them have gone home and then suddenly, someone made a public statement, inviting herdsmen, telling them that Benue is free land for them to do open grazing. It’s quite unfortunate, but we wish to inform those people that they would face sanctions if they violate the law of the land,” he reiterated.
On the invasion of Agila community by Ngbor people from Ebonyi State, the governor’s spokesman also, accused certain persons of a plot to truncate whatever efforts the government of Benue State had put in place to ensure that the people of Benue State go to bed with their eyes closed.
He, however, urged the people of the state not to panic, assuring that the Ortom government is on top of the situation as the governor is in constant contact with the security chiefs to ensure that they are protected.
“Security is a top priority for him (governor) and whenever his people are attacked or affected in any way, he is there. They shouldn’t panic, it may last for a few moment but the conventional security agencies are working to restore peace.
“As I speak with you, the adviser on security, the police commissioner and other security agents have gone there. Remember, the Operation Whirl Stroke are still on the ground in Benue State and the security adviser based on the governor’s directives is in constant contact with these people to make sure law and order is maintained in the state,” Ortom stated.