by Alexander O. Onukwue
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue did not mince words: “Let me be frank. The Federal Government has not done enough”, he said to Vanguard.
In 2018, at least 44 persons have been killed in the state following raids by Fulani herdsmen and despite words of consolation from president Buhari that the situation will be addressed, the level of vulnerability of the middle belt state to further attacks remain high.
To be sure, Governor Ortom’s Benue is an All Progressives Congress (APC )controlled state, so it is important to rule out any claims of politicisation of the matter. In an address at a Church service to commemorate the Armed Forces Remembrance day, Vice President Osinbajo had asked that the matter be not politicised. Yet, the Federal Government appears not to be living up to its basic responsibility of providing security to the people of Benue.
The threat posed by the Miyetti Allah group was reported to Acting President Osinbajo in June 2016 but no arrests were made, according to the Governor. Over the past year, Benue has suffered a number of calamities, both natural and artificial having been most hit by the flash floods of 2017 which displaced more than a 100,000. In that scenario, as it is at present, the response to the disaster was slow and most times, reluctant, with the NEMA officials even asking to be thanked for being on ground.
President Buhari, in particular, cannot escape the culpability in the present calamity. He commissioned the nation’s first dry inland port in Kaduna and also commissioned a number of new coaches for the Abuja-Kaduna rail route. However, the president did not deem it necessary to make a stop in Benue, flying back to Abuja immediately.
Benue passed an anti-grazing law bill aimed at protecting the farmlands of its residents from the marauding herds of cattle which usually do damage to crops, affecting the livelihoods of the food basket negatively. Antagonism against the bill is the major grievance of the Miyettil Allah group and as the human costs pile on, the negligence of the Buhari administration to engage the herdsmen with decisive force will make it complicit in the ongoing carnage.
Left unabated, this will take on more political relevance as it is not possible to expect the torrent of abuse on the Benue people to pass without consequences. Benue was one of the pivotal states which swung the tie of 2015 to Buhari’s favour. It must be incumbent on President Buhari to put a definite end to the atrocities going on in that state – if not for humane reasons, for political ones.