GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), on Friday clashed again following an accusation by the governor that Fulani herdsmen were planning to kill him.
According to Ortom, the plan is to be executed along Makurdi/Lafia Highway, the only route from Makurdi to Abuja.
Ortom raised the alarm on Friday, in Makurdi, the state capital, during an interactive session with Christian leaders, traditional rulers and other stakeholders on peaceful elections in 2019.
At the session, organised by the Makurdi Catholic Diocese, the governor, who spoke in Tiv language, said armed herdsmen were currently camping in Guma where they plan to launch the attack on him.
Ortom said he was in possession of an intelligence report which indicated that the Fulani herdsmen had already devised the plot to attack him along Abuja-Lafia Road.
“The armed herdsmen, according to the intelligence report, would ensure that all my security aides were killed after which they would kidnap me and torture me before killing me. Already, l have reported the matter to the police and other security agencies and they are aware of this.
“Therefore, anytime l sleep and wake up and my spirit doesn’t allow me to travel by road, I would not travel,” Ortom stated.
But MACBAN in the state debunked the allegation and asked Governor Ortom to stop dragging its name in the mud.
The association, through its coordinator in the state, Alhaji Garus Gololo, described itself as a respectable and reputable organisation which did not have any problem with anybody in the country.
“It is not true. We don’t have problem with anybody in Nigeria or Benue State. What business does Miyetti Allah have with kidnapping? We are not kidnappers or a criminal organisation. We are a peaceful organisation and whoever gave such information to him, let them mention the person for security agents to invite the person.
“We don’t have anything against anybody in Nigeria. Whoever gave Governor Ortom such false information should stop dragging the name of Miyetti Allah in the mud,” Gololo stated.
Both police force spokesman, Moshood Jimoh and Benue State police command spokesman, Moses Yamu, did not respond to calls made to their telephone lines.
Governor Ortom, who also alleged that some citizens of the state were conniving with forces in Abuja to kill him, stressed the need for the Federal Government to end killings across the country by those he described as militia-herdsmen to pave the way for peaceful elections in 2019.
He disclosed that most of the polling units in the crisis-affected areas had been destroyed or taken over by the Fulani herdsmen as their grazing fields.
“The killings across Nigeria are a deliberate attempt by some people, either Boko Haram, bandits or herdsmen, working for the same purpose to disenfranchise a large proportion of Nigerians from voting for the leaders of their choice.
“Amnesty International had come out to disclose that over 19,000 people have lost their lives in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau states to herdsmen attacks and this does not speak well of the Nigerian nation, especially as we are heading towards 2019,” he said.
While lamenting that Benue indigenes had become destitute and refugees in their own lands, Ortom said pockets of killings were still going on in Makurdi, Guma, Logo and Katsina Ala local government areas of the state.
He explained that most of the farmlands along the borderlines of Taraba and Nasarawa states had been taken over by herdsmen.
“Even though a goat doesn’t bite, when you continue to provoke the goat, the goat will turn back and bite you,” the governor said.
He attributed the success of his administration’s amnesty programme to support from the leadership of the Catholic Church in the state.
While calling on the international community to beam its searchlight on states affected by herdsmen crisis, Governor Ortom implored traditional rulers to enlighten their subjects on the need to register with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) which, according to him, is the only way to vote out leaders of questionable characters in next year’s general election.
The Catholic Bishop of Makurdi, Bishop Wilfred Anagbe, told newsmen that more than 306 traditional rulers, youths, members of both Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) and Catholic Men Organisation and other stakeholders were invited for the meeting to educate them on achieving violence-free elections ahead of 2019.
The cleric said Nigeria had been ravaged by violent crises in the last few years and it was incumbent on the church to meet and discuss with the traditional rulers, whom he described as instruments of peace in their domains, to impress it on their subjects that no politician should intimidate, coerce or induce them to vote against their conscience.
“Tiv land, Benue land and Nigeria as a whole have been traumatised by series of violent crises in the past few years and now that elections are around the corner, people are taking advantage of this.
“We are trying to let them get into the picture of having to be instruments of peace in their localities because these are the people in the grass-roots.
“We have had enough of bloodshed. Let us now do politics that is devoid of violence. If anyone comes to deceive them with whatever inducement, they must be able to resist it,” Bishop Wilfred Anagbe stated.