Ahead of the 2019 gubernatorial elections, the Benue state governor, His Excellency, Dr. Samuel Ortom has reiterated his determination to defend and protect the people of the state, saying the security of the people remain his top priority and his administration will ensure policies that will bring lasting solutions to the perennial security challenges in the state.
Governor Ortom who made this known in a recent chat with newsmen in Makurdi, said his return to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was in the interest of the people and as governor of the state, as long as he makes policies that will protect his people, he is ready to give up his life and no amount of intimidation can stop him.
According to the governor his former party; the All Progressive Congress (APC) had the capacity to end killings in the state but failed to protect the people from killer herdsmen.
According to him, despite the daunting challenges and opposition he has received for taking a stand with his people, especially on the issue of the anti-open grazing bill in the state, his administration has recorded modest achievements in the area of security, economy and value addition in all sectors of the economy of the state.
“In 2015 when we came in, if you ask those who were here, they will give you an account of how the security was. A lot of people were moving away from the state and this was of great concern. There were a lot of kidnappings, armed robbery, assassination and all that. We also saw that there was proliferation of arms by youths so we introduced the amnesty programme using the carrot approach first and later applied the stick approach and these yielded results. Up till today, the carrot approach has yielded a lot of result as more than 900 of these youths returned their various weapons to government and in turn, we did some compensation. We trained some, we engage some, but later, some of them went back to their evil ways. But reasonably, we were able to get some of those weapons back and we destroyed them. At the expiration of the carrot approach, we applied the stick approach and that is still ongoing. Up till today, we have recorded huge success.”
Ortom who also spoke on the issue of herdsmen killings in the state said it is a deliberate attempt by a group of people to take over the country and make it their own so that they will continue to rule and intimidate others as second citizens in their own country. “As far as I am concerned, it is not herdsmen and farmers clash. There is more to it. Let nobody deceive us that it is about rearing cattle, otherwise, if it is about rearing cattle, the submissions we brought up would have settled the problem once and for all. It is about a deliberate plan by a certain people who have decided that they will take over Nigeria. They came out openly and said it is a continuation of 1804 jihad. That they intend to complete the assignment their forefathers could not complete and we said no, we cannot allow it. If you look at all these cattle we are talking about, they are creating crises all over Nigeria, not just Benue state but also other parts of the country”.
While disclosing that it was in a bid to find a lasting solution to the herdsmen and farmers crises that the state enacted the anti open grazing law, Ortom said he has no regrets for creating the law because he is convinced it was the right thing to do in order to preserve and protect the people and their land despite the high cost, time and resources.
“The constitution empowers states to make laws for good governance that can protect the people and so for me, I have no regret because this law followed due process. I tell you the truth, from the comments some federal government agencies make on this law, you will know that they are also part of Miyetti Allah because they speak as if they are agents of Miyetti Allah who have continued to rain terror on our people”.
He further disclosed that based on the law, more than 400 herdsmen have so far been arrested with over 40 convictions while more than 20 persons are currently in prison and the government is determined to make more arrests as it is the only way to live in peace.
He dismissed the claims by some persons that it was the enactment of the law that ignited the crises, saying “Those who claim that it is the law that brought crises, these crises started far before we enacted this law. I inherited it when I came in. In 2011 when I was serving as a minister, my house was destroyed, my farm and everything was razed down because of these crises. There was no law then and of course how about other places like plateau state where every day they are still killing? In Kaduna, Adamawa and other places even in the south nobody is spared so are there laws there”?, he asked.
“I can’t see myself as governor when my people are being killed like chickens for no just cause and I will keep quite. I know as governor of Benue state, the constitution provides immunity for me. Even if I commit a crime, I cannot be arrested. I am the only one with my deputy with that provision that the constitution covers for Benue state. So if I cannot speak, who do I expect to speak especially when it concerns things that are unjustly been perpetrated on my people?”.
“We have written petitions to the IGP and other security agencies and the presidency to arrest these people but up till today as I talk to you, the leadership of Miyetti Allah is living in palaces in this country with heavily armed security personnel protecting them and this shows the level of conspiracy that we are in but as far as I am concerned, we will continue. We have taken Miyetti Allah to court in the absence of security men arresting them. We have done everything legally and we’ll continue to do so until these people are brought to book. They cannot go scout free”.
On the federal government’s bid to diversify the economy through agriculture, Ortom said time has come for people in government to shy away from hypocrisy, lies and imbibe the habit of patriotism and ensure truthfulness in all they do. According to him, diversifying the economy through agriculture is not achievable because anybody who is truly concerned about economic diversification through agriculture must first look at areas with comparative advantage. To him, Benue state is a state where everything grows but has been neglected by government, rather, all kinds of mercenaries are allowed to come in with their evil agenda which can never be allowed.