Where are Governor Ortom’s attackers?

IT is quite bewildering but it is true: three weeks after the apparent murder attempt on Benue State governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, Nigerians are yet to be told the masterminds of the attack. Governor Ortom had, while inspecting his farm near Makurdi, the state capital, been ambushed by more than a dozen armed men suspected to be Fulani bandits along Tyo-Mu Makurdi/Gboko road. The attackers, as the governor noted, had trailed his convoy from the farm, but were repelled by his security detail. Ortom had said: “You know today is Saturday and as  as a farmer, I usually go to my farm, so I went to my farm along Gboko road. On our way back, we started hearing gunshots and we discovered people who were dressed in black, and from experience, we discovered that these were Fulani militia. They came out to target me and behind the scenes, they are planning to eliminate me on my own land. If I can’t go to the farm as a governor, with the entire security around me, then who else can go to the farm? You can imagine the pains that we are experiencing here in Benue State.”

Following the attack, President Muhammadu Buhari had strongly condemned the incident, describing it as unacceptable. He had consequently called for a transparent and thorough investigation into the incident. To this end, he welcomed the dispatch of a high level team of crack investigators from the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja to the state, urging the officers to uncover the brains behind the attacks and bring them to justice. On its part, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had declared that the attempt to make Benue State ungovernable was unacceptable and would fail miserably. The then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, had directed the Benue State Commissioner of Police to take adequate measures towards strengthening and improving security in the state, especially around the governor.

It is indeed galling that the police and intelligence authorities are yet to bring Nigerians up to speed on the steps taken to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Following that gruesome attack in which the Benue State governor had to cover one and a half kilometers on foot while his aides engaged the outlaws in a gun duel, a faceless group had claimed responsibility. If the attack was an act of brazen impunity, the statement in question was much worse, as its authors threatened to eliminate the governor sooner or later, claiming that he had only been lucky to escape death. The IGP naturally launched an investigation to unravel the incident but Nigerians, accustomed to years of broken promises, were understandably not impressed. And if developments since then are anything to go by, the scepticism of the public is quite in order. Pray, where are Governor Ortom’s attackers?

To say the least, the attack on Governor Ortom casts a slur on the country’s already battered image. It portrays the country as a basket case and if the Federal Government desires to restore a shred of its fading credibility, it must investigate the case thoroughly and ensure that those behind the incident pay for their crime. If the Federal Government allows the self-confessed attackers to go scot-free, they will become even more emboldened in their murderous resolve and commit much more grievous crimes. It must act with dispatch. The perpetrators are a present and abiding danger to the Nigerian state.

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