Benue Killings: Protesting youths angry with Gov Ortom, throw him stones

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State

Protesting residents, mostly youths, against the killing of about 50 persons by suspected armed herdsmen in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state on New Year day and Tuesday on Wednesday went wild on the streets of Makurdi, the Benue State Capital, as they booed and stoned the state governor, Samuel Ortom.

The development forced the government to draft troops to quell the massive protest in the state capital and neighbouring towns and to prevent mayhem.

The governor had gone to placate the restive youths at Wurukum where the protest was taking place in Makurdi Wednesday but he was met with angry youths who were incensed over his seeming inability to keep the marauding herders in check.

The placard carrying protesters also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign over his failure to provide adequate security for the state.

The president, however, condemned the mindless killings and wanton destruction of property in the state, and ordered the security agencies to bring the perpetrators to book.

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This is just as the police in Benue said Wednesday they had arrested eight herdsmen over the deaths of 10 persons and seven livestock guard in the Guma and Logo on Monday.

There has been tension in the state since the passage of the Anti-open Grazing Bill into law last November.

The law is meant to encourage ranching and check the menace of herders and their cattle, which often destroy farmlands in Benue and has led to bloody clashes and attacks in the past, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people in the state.

However, since the enactment of the law, the cattle breeders association, known as Miyetti Allah, had vowed to resist the law and were accused of threatening to carry out attacks against citizens in the state.

But in order to quell the protest in Makurdi Wednesday, soldiers from the 72 Battalion North Bank were brought in to control the protesting youths and restore order, after word got out that two protesters had been wounded.

The protesters called on the presidency to bring the culprits to book and carried placards with inscriptions such as “presidential intervention needed”, “why value cows more than humans”, and “stop this incessant blood bath”.

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Some of them chanted: “We will not vote for the present administration again at both the state and federal levels if this crises don’t stop.”

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the protesters also barricaded major roads leading in and out of Makurdi, and vowed not to leave the streets until the presidency spoke on the killings.

They also called on the government to intervene in the series of other attacks on rural communities by armed herdsmen.

A resident, Mr. Terhemen Anum, told NAN that residents of Guma and Logo were yet to determine the number of peasant farmers, women, children and the aged that were massacred during the two-day killing spree.

Also, Mrs. Ruth Agba said the killing of Benue farmers and destruction to their homes and farms was no different from Boko Haram activities in the North-east.

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Despite the anger, Ortom, while briefing reporters, called for calm over the situation and asked residents not to take the law into their hands.

He disclosed that more casualties of the attacks were still being brought to Makurdi, and confirmed that the carnage had been reported to the president.

“I have reported the matter to the president and we are expecting action. Some of the people we have evidence against are the leaders of Miyetti Allah who have been threatening the state. We are calling on the president to arrest them immediately,” he said.

He said the federal government should rise to its responsibility “if not they are saying Benue is not part of Nigeria”.