Presidency ignored warnings before Benue killings, Ortom insists

Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State met with the Senate in Abuja on Wednesday and blamed the Presidency for ignoring several warnings before the mass killings of his people by herdsmen in the state.

The meeting was part of the ongoing probe by the Senate into the security crisis in Benue State.

The governor appeared before the joint Senate Committee on Police Affairs; and National Security and Intelligence, where he denied allegations against him by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris.

The meeting, which was held behind closed doors, lasted about two hours.

In Ortom’s presentation, which was sighted by our correspondent after the meeting, the governor blamed the Presidency for inaction.

He showed the lawmakers copies of his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the security chiefs before and after the crisis began.

“Over 100 people killed in Benue would not have died if security agencies were responsive. None of the letters (to the Presidency) was replied,” he stated.

He also condemned the Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (retd.), for his comment on the Benue crisis.

Ortom said, “The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, attributed the Benue killings to blockade of grazing routes and implementation of ranching law. His position is misleading and dishonest. We hope that his position is not that of the Federal Government.”

The governor recalled that President Buhari directed the IG to relocate to Benue and stop the killings “instead, he spent a night in Lafia before coming to Benue.”

He added that the police boss spent a night in Benue where he met with stakeholders, who asked Idris why he first went to Nasarawa State before visiting the state.

Ortom said, “His PRO (Jimoh Moshood) insulted me on a public television programme that ‘the Governor of Benue State is a drowning man.’ IGP has not apologised and has not removed the FPRO.

“Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association boldly announced, ‘Expect more blood to flow in Benue State,’ and more blood is flowing, yet the IGP has not arrested or questioned them.

“Nigerians clearly know the side the IGP stands on. He is not on the side of justice and should resign.”

Ortom also denied that he was sponsoring a militia group in the state. He also noted that the anti-open grazing law introduced and being implemented in the state was in good faith, stressing that herders were given a six-month grace to establish ranches.

The governor also disclosed that after 73 persons killed by herdsmen were given a mass burial, over 60 more, including security operatives, had been killed while the attacks had not stopped.

The Senate had last Wednesday stepped down a report by its joint committee for not having the inputs of the governor.

Senators who spoke on the report presented by chairman of the panel, Abu Ibrahim, described it as one-sided, saying it had only the submissions made by the IG, who made a series of allegations against Ortom and the Benue State Government.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had ruled that the report be stepped down, while the panel should meet with Ortom and report back within one week.

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