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Disquiet as Cabal Moves to Stop Ortom’s Security Outfit

Samuel Ortom as the Governor of Benue State
Samuel Ortom as the Governor of Benue State.
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BEVERLY HILLS, May 23, (THEWILL) – Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State recently announced that the Benue State Government, in agreement with stakeholders in the state, had arrived at a decision to reorganise the Benue State Vigilante Group, with a mandate to tackle persistent attacks by suspected Fulani militia on communities in the state.

The governor said the law establishing the vigilante, now renamed Community Volunteer Guards, was signed into law in 2000, stressing that its renaming was only a review, not a fresh law as currently viewed by a section of the country.

The decision to rejig the security outfit, which was disclosed to journalists after an expanded meeting of stakeholders held in Makurdi, was made, following renewed cases of incessant attacks on Benue communities by the rampaging herdsmen,

Ortom told journalists that the meeting, which had in attendance opinion leaders across party lines, urged the security outfit to work closely with conventional security agencies with coordination from the state down to the ward level.

Those to be recruited into the security outfit, he noted, would be between the ages of 18 and 50. The group will be composed of ex -service men who must have lived in the communities for long periods of time without criminal records.

The candidates for recruitment, Ortom stressed, must be gainfully engaged in meaningful ventures, including farming.

He insisted that on no account should vested interests be allowed to tamper with the recruitment process.

The governor charged those who would be recruited to live above board and endeavour not to betray the trust reposed in them. He also warned that any deviation from the rules of engagement would attract severe sanctions.

Ortom advised members of the group not to seek assistance from conventional security agencies but to respond rapidly in case of emergency attacks. He promised that government would provide for them licensed weapons and other logistics that would enable them to effectively repel such attacks.

The decision, which is considered by stakeholders in Benue to be the final solution to the carnage currently witnessed in the state,  THEWILL  gathered, has not gone down well with a powerful cabal in the Federal Capital Territory.

Shortly after the news of the rebirth of the vigilante group was broken, the cabal held a series of nocturnal meetings to come up with a strategy on how to scuttle the activities of the outfit.

Investigation shows that the arrowheads of the plot are northern state governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, most of whom, it was learnt, vowed that the security body would not see the light of the day.

Findings revealed further that the cabal warned that allowing the decision to stand was tantamount to giving Ortom permission to run a parallel government. Its members vowed to do everything possible within their power to frustrate the security outfit.

The resumption of murderous attacks on innocent and defenceless citizens in the state is believed to be favoured by the cabal as a strategy for weakening the drivers of the decision and in the process, sending warning signals.

Cases of organised violence are still rife in the state. In Gwer West Local Government Area, for example, one Kenneth Nyigba, who hails from Tse Adaa, told THE WILL that a few days ago, Fulani herdsmen numbering about 20 attacked his house at about 2.00 am.  The gunmen shot sporadically for over four hours, killing six persons in the process.

Nyigba said, the entire community is currently deserted with most of the inhabitants taking refuge at the LGA Primary School in Naka, the local government headquarters.

Still in Gwer West, the marauding herdsmen attacked Tse Shishim and Tse- Iber, around Jimba settlement in Sengev Council Ward, killing four persons and abducting one. Francis Ugbede,  a journalist and native of the community, told THE WILL that those killed in the attack were Terhemba Shishim,  Teryila Agbe,  Yorikyo Adamu and Mne Iorhemba, while Iorheme Terhemen  was taken away by the attackers.

According to eyewitness accounts, another gang of herdsmen attacked and killed several persons at Udei in Guma Local Government Area. Angry youths barricaded the Abuja-Makurdi Expressway in protest over the killings.  One of the victims was allegedly shot dead by a personnel of the military outfit, Operation Whire Strock, during an argument.

Governor Ortom’s  Principal Special Assistant on Projects Monitoring, Frank Utoo,  confirmed the killing of the youth by the military. Utoo, a lawyer and human rights activist, told journalists that he was heading to the court to seek justice over the extra judicial killing of the youth. He also said that he would petition the National Human Rights Commission in order to ensure that justice takes its course in the matter. Utoo, who managed to calm the protesting youths and thus, preventing a possible breakdown of law and order, was present at the scene on the instruction of his boss, Ortom.

Following the perceived antagonism of the Community Volunteer Guards, individuals and concened persons have continued to vent their anger, most of who submitted that the governor should not renege on same, in different chats with the THEWILL.

The President of Benue  Alliance For Peace And Development,  Comrade Christian Aernan, at a press conference held in Makurdi urged Ortom not to yield to pressure by abandoning the decision of the stakeholders over the issue of the Community Volunteer Guards.

Aernan insisted that the decision was a collective one just as the Anti-Open grazing and Ranches Establishment that has come to stay in the state. He warned that any attempt by the governor to do otherwise would amount to a betrayal of the people of Benue. According to him, his group supported the decision, which is considered to be the only solution to the continued attacks. He flayed those who were against the move and challenged them to suggest better ways of ending the killings.

The BYAPD president expressed dismay that sponsors of those opposing the decision were leaders whose states had become  killing fields with dozens of people being maimed every day.

The President- General of the Tiv Youth Organisation, Comrade Timothy Hembaor, in a telephone interview with the THEWILL,  declared that the security outfit had come to stay and nothing was going to make the state governor  to abandon  it.

“We are aware that meetings are being held in high places, but it’s just a normal thing. We experienced same during the era of anti – open grazing.  The outfit has come to stay,” he said.

Terence Kuanum, a security expert, told THEWILL in another interview, that those opposing the security outfit were only ignorant of the issues surrounding the security architecture of the country and its workings.

According to him, there was nothing wrong with the decision by Governor Ortom to review the law since it did not violate any provision in the Nigerian Constitution.

Kuanum urged those having issues with the decision to rather seek clarification rather than harp on primordial sentiments.

As the unprovoked attacks and killings by Fulani herdsmen continue unabated across the state, it remains to be seen how the Community Volunteer Guards will effectively carry out its mandate of securing Benue Communities against further attacks by killer herdsmen.