Nigeria to compensate victims of Benue killings as government denied VP was notified ahead of the killings
The President made the promise when he received a delegation of political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of the state led by Benue governor, Samuel Ortom at the Presidential Villa
A statement by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, quoted the President saying all those involved in the conflict that culminated in loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state.
The president commiserated with all the victims of the attacks, and the families who lost loved ones and properties, noting that the government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims.
“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,” he said.
Buhari told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.
He urged all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.
Speaking at the meeting, Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, said the tension would be reduced with the Federal Government’s intervention to find a lasting solution to the herdsmen attacks.
“We will leave here to rebuild confidence in our people,” he said.
The statement said the Tor-Tiv, Prof James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse, said his entire domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.
“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation,” he added.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr Laoulu Akande, made the denial in a statement in Abuja.
Akande said that Osinbajo was shocked by a news report ostensibly quoting Ortom as saying that the VP was warned of the “savage and inhumane killings by alleged herdsmen” in Logo and Guma local government areas.
The Spokesman of the Vice President said the Vice President did not believe that the Governor could ever have said such.
“It will be a terrible falsehood to suggest that the VP was ever informed by the Governor or anyone else of the imminence of the killing of citizens of our country in those or any other local governments in Benue,” he added.
Akande noted that Ortom had on June 7, 2017 written to the Vice President, then Acting President.
He said that in that letter, Ortom was protesting a newspaper publication where the leadership of Miyetti Allah was reported to have stated that it was opposed to the state’s Open Grazing Prohibition law and that they would mobilize to resist the law.
Akande stated that the Miyetti Allah had written to the Vice President on June 5, 2017 on the same law protesting several sections of the law.
He stated that the Governor went on to say that the leadership of Miyetti Allah should be arrested because they used words such as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive,” to describe the law.
Ortom had said they were “utterances that are capable of undermining the peace”
According to Akande, Osinbajo subsequently met with the Governor, discussed the matter and the security situation in the State and then ordered law enforcement agencies to be on the alert to prevent any attacks or violence.
“In the said letter written by the Governor, there was no mention of any threat to any specific one of the 23 local governments of Benue State.
“So, the best the law enforcement agencies could do even then was to await information or intelligence of an imminent attack. None came.
“Since then the VP has held several meetings with the Benue Governor, including a visit to the State on Sept. 6, last year at the behest of Mr. President during the tragic floods in the state last year.
“At all such meetings, the Vice President discussed the security situation of the state with the Governor,” he added.
He reiterated that following that, the then Acting President convened a major national security retreat which was attended by all state governors, service chiefs and heads of security agencies.
He recalled that the retreat featured very detailed discussions on the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes.
“To the best of our knowledge, neither Gov. Ortom nor the Federal Government was aware of the imminence of the cowardly attack on Logo and Guma on the 1st of January.
“Therefore, any suggestion that the President or the Vice President ignored the State Governor’s warning is both absolutely false and certainly misleading,” the statement said.