INTERVIEW: Benue “completely under siege by Fulani herdsmen” – Governor Ortom

Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom [Photo credit: www.linknaija.com]
Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom [Photo credit: www.linknaija.com]

For several months, suspected Fulani herdsmen unleashed terror on communities in Benue State with over 1000 killed and several thousand displaced. In this interview with Ibanga Isine, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, begs the federal government to take decisive action to stop the continued invasion and occupation of the state before the people resort to self-help.

PT: There are reports that Fulani herdsmen have consistently been attacking communities in the state. Could you please tell us what the situation is now?

I commend you for coming here to let the world know about what is happening in Benue State. I have said that Benue State is under a siege. We are completely under siege by Fulani herdsmen. We’ve heard the herdsmen accusing our people of killing their cattle which is not true. But even if it were true, does that give them the right to go about killing innocent people? Two wrongs can’t make a right. We have been telling our people that there is no need going after Fulanis or their cattle. We are farmers and very enterprising. There is no way a herdsman will come into Benue without encroaching on somebody’s farm. There is no way grazing and farming can go together.

PT: But security agents have been deployed to many parts of the state. Why are the herdsmen still attacking and occupying communities?

We have been appealing to them and we have given them (security agents) all the support they need to restore peace and order. But it is unfortunate that up till today, there is no time the security men came and told me that one arrest has been made. No herdsman or their militia has been arrested. I cannot understand how we could live in a country and people come in to invade others. They go about it freely and there is no sanction against them.  The level of impunity exhibited by the herdsmen is very worrisome.  I know that the herdsmen need help and we need to educate them and give them an enabling environment to tend their cattle. I have always said that the way out of the problem is through ranching. That is what is done globally. Our population is overgrown and human activities have escalated and the only way we can breed cattle in our society is when we learn to ranch.

PT: How has this crisis impacted on the state which is said to be the country’s “food basket”?

The result is that most of our people can no longer go to their farms. They are being killed but the most unfortunate thing is that these people who are being killed and displaced in their various localities are not involved in cattle rustling. We know that cattle rustling is done by Fulani herdsmen and some criminal elements in our society. These are people who do not have respect for life or the rule of law and should be treated as criminals. But unfortunately, when cattle rustlers come in a particular settlement, the militia of the Fulani herdsmen will come after innocent locals. They don’t ever go after the rustlers. They rather go against people who are in those communities. Most times, the rustled cattle are taken to other parts of the country and not kept within the immediate vicinity. It is a big challenge.  We have made appeals to the federal government and we appreciate Mr. President who graciously approved that the military, the police and civil defence should always be there to help our people. Despite that, the crisis has persisted.

PT: Are you saying the situation is still very ominous?

Yes. There is need to do more. Today, several parts of the state are no longer inhabited by our people. The herdsmen have taken over many communities in the state. They have taken over homes, food and the land of our people. Like you said, Benue State is the food basket of the nation. Now that we are talking about diversification of the economy to other sectors, what readily comes to mind in Benue State is agriculture. This is where we have comparative advantage. And it is unfortunate that the herdsmen are not allowing our people to go back to farm. It is a big challenge to me as the governor of the state. Since we depend on farming for survival, I want to say that they only way we can go out of this problem is for cattle to be ranched. If that is not done, then they will be no land to graze and farm at the same time. I hope that Nigerians would rise up and support Benue State in this very difficult time.

Fulani Herdsmen Credit: Today.ng
Fulani Herdsmen
Credit: Today.ng

PT: We were in Moon Ward in Kwande Local Government Area and found that the last time pupils went to school there was in October 2013. Are you not worried about the future of these children?

What has happened has tended to wipe out almost an entire generation of our children from gaining knowledge and that is why I have been crying to the federal government and all those that care about the future of the people of Benue State to come to our aid.  I wish it is possible to go around to appreciate the magnitude of the destruction, killings and stealing that are taking place. But the truth of the matter is that apart from Moon, there are several other communities that have no opportunity of getting their children back to school for several years. There are people who have been barred from going back to their homes for several years. I strongly wished that the federal government would collaborate with us to find lasting solution to this problem. As I speak, our people are in extremely distress situation and what is happening in the state today is worse than what is happening in the North-east where Boko Haram has ravaged the area. I have, through the media and other information channels appreciate what is happening in other places. But here, our people are completely displaced and they have no opportunity of going to school. They have no opportunity of going back to their farms, they cannot go back to their homes. They are no refugees without any support from the federal government and aid agencies unlike victims of Boko Haram attacks. It is terrible to begin to think about what the herdsmen are doing to our people. It is unimaginable that this could be happening in Nigeria. We used to think that things like this cannot happen but it is happening right here. There is urgent need to check it because if the people begin to feel that government cannot give them protection and they resort to self-help, it would be disastrous. For a long time, we have been appealing to them to be peaceful and they have respected us. As Nigerians, we must work together to restore lasting peace to the state.

PT: Some displaced persons from Logo, Guma, Ukum, Kwande and even Makurdi said they no longer have confidence in security agencies. They say while herdsmen are allowed to graze freely in their farms, security agents don’t allow them move freely even where they are taking refuge? What do you say to this?

It is regrettable that with all the support I have given to the military, the police and the civil defence, I have not heard of any arrest from any of the security services. I must also admit that the security men are overwhelmed with the violence and destruction that herdsmen have unleashed on the state. I know they are human beings and are also trying to protect themselves. But I am also aware of complaints against the police and the military. The militia used by the herdsmen are well-trained and they are really sophisticated. They are conversant with modern technology of destruction. This is the more reason I have said that the federal government should take a decisive action against these herdsmen and their militia that are terrorizing and killing our people. I am aware of situations were security men are sent to combat this militia but they don’t have the kind of weapons needed to contain the militia.  This is something that we need the federal government to take a decisive action against the militia and the killer herdsmen and also implement appropriate sanctions to deter such criminal conduct. Of course, I do not control the military, the police and even the civil defence because all of them are federal agencies. That is why we are appealing to the federal government to give our security agencies the necessary support ranging from finance, weapons and other things that they require to deal with the challenge.

See timeline on Benue attacks below:

Herdsmen attack in Benue_2016 timeline
Herdsmen attack in Benue_2016 timeline

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  • abodes_124

    Better late tan never. After Agatu he was in denial and said the herdsmen came fro ivory coast and the Congo. Now that he is squarely calling a problem by its name he can start getting support from other Nigerians and perhaps spur some action from the Nigerian government.

    • Otile

      I did not expect you people to be reacting so negatively to these killings. I was expecting that peace loving Nigerians would prevail on the Tivs not to retaliate. Such tribal retaliation can split Nigeria. When the same people murdered Igbo en masse did everybody not rally round to make sure that Nigeria did not split?

      May Allah give the Fulanis more strength to massacre more Tivs and may God give the Tivs strength to endure. Fulanis must kill and Nigeria must be one. Utangirma Allahu.

  • Oracle

    That was the plan to takeover your territory for……..? using the herdsmen as a smokescreen.

    BUT
    GOD IS NOT A MAN
    GOD IS NOT ASLEEP
    HE SHALL REPAY IN DUE TIME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST, THOSE WHO SHED THE BLOOD OF MAN FOR ANIMAL.

    • okenwa

      Are these not the same tiv used by nigeria, britain, russia, egypt, saudi arabia, iran and sudan to kill over two million igbos? God is not a man.

  • AbdulHamid Adiamoh

    I really do get upset when people entrusted with the POWER TO ACT do nothing but complain. For gosh’s sake Mr Ortom, you’re the Executive Governor of Benue State, I’m interested in knowing what you’re doing to stop the needless attacks, please get on the offensive and leave the errant herdsmen to complain about how tough your response is.

    • Otile

      Yeah, but such things are easier said than done. Have you ever considered how General Buhari will react if the Tivs and Idomas retaliate and slaughter his Fulani blood tribesmen? That day Buhari will lose his senses and take a drastic action and Nigeria will split. Blood is thicker than water. The Yorubas will not live to see Nigeria split and Buhari cannot allow his tribesmen be humiliated. Perhaps it is more desirable for the Tivs to allow the Fullanis to be killing some of their people for the sake of the unity of one Nigeria. Don’t you think so?

  • FIRE-4-FIRE…Fight Back!!!

    I am ashamed to my marrows because of the uncommon mumudity of the Benue state Governor. Who are you crying out to now? Bokohari? Who is behind the attacks in the first place or at least its increase in the last 1.7yrs?

    Some of the bravest men I have known are from Benue and the so called middle belt area of Nigeria. (Gideon Orkar & Co) They are by no means cowards. So I don’t really know what is wrong with this Governor. You are the chief security officer of Benue state and you swore on oath to protect the people. This is the time to act.

    Procure AK49 Rifles and automatic subs and distribute them to the people for self defense. If the Fulanis shoot at you once, reply with 5 – 7 bullets of superior firepower. Make sure any attacker is taken out immediately…or at least pursued to his destination and taken out. I tell you the animals will recoil back to their Savannah. Sometime ago, I heard of a defense force been set up by the Benue indigenes and locals. What happened to that force? The Herdsmen are sponsored by the top people from their clan…many of them are ex-military men and politicians ….and the Sultan of Shokoto will tell you they are not Nigerians…but he too (Sultan of Shototo) is a Cattle owner and a former military man…see the connection?

    Benue people should fight back fire for fire and stop behaving like men without broukous.

    • Otile

      They can’t fight back, if they do, Buhari will hate them.

  • favourtalk

    The president will make the country great and nigeria will be better , we shall never be always a country affected by terrorism

    • partafamilias trippi

      Get lost. Pay per post E-rat.

    • OMOLOYIN

      Amen

    • OMOLOYIN

      Amen

  • Epiphany

    …But that Drunk…that traditional ruler…that Cattle Herd owner…that former Military Officer constantly reminds the whole world that these killers are not Nigerians. So how is he able to know that the people killing Benue people are not Nigerians when he is several thousands of kilometers from crime scenes? In a civilized country that shameless traditional ruler would be arrested and quizzed until he speaks truth.

  • BreakUP 9ja

    Examine the facts:

    1. Has Boko Haram or Fulani Herdsmen ever attacked any Politician or killed any politician? They attack only the poor.

    2. If Boko haram says they are fighting the government (Insurgency) then shouldn’t the politicians – Members of Senate and House of Reps, Ministers, Governors and special advisers be the target? BUT Boko haram ONLY attacks the residences of the poor. They attack the areas where the poor visits, the poor areas of Market Places, the Churches where 90% of worshippers are poor people, bus terminals where poor people board etc etc

    CONCLUSION
    Boko haram and Fulani herdsmen are instruments of the wealthy politicians from Northern Nigeria to make that region (North) politically relevant. They know they contribute NOTHING to Nigeria, so with terrorism and violence one can no longer say they are not active—————Separation ans a secession referendum is the only solution. This is what the Benue Gov should the discussing. 1914 was a misnomer.

    • Henry_Itopa

      If this is the deepest level of analysis you can do on this subject then I can only guess you stopped at primary 2

      • Teflonjones

        If that’s all u can post, then you stopped before you started.

    • Franca

      Good one! I was thinking same way too. The rich and the politicians never get attacked. Why has a suicide bomber from Boko haram not attacked National Assembly or Senate chambers. Why only markets visited by the poorest of the society? Why??????????????????????????????????????????????

    • go argue that to the same politicians who support them.

  • “.. I commend you for coming here to let the world know about what is happening in Benue State. I have said that Benue State is under a siege…” Ortom

    So if this man did not go to Ortom, the world would not have known what is going on in Benue state? Benue state has no governor. Ortom is not fit to be governor of a state.

    • Dazmillion

      Madam you mean you left your job at Dr Femi blog to come here?

  • Henry_Itopa

    This governor is not being completely honest. I happened to be in Benue recently and asked some friends there why all the attacks. It was explained that the problem were the traditional rulers who had collected money from the cattle herders for land to graze and pass through their areas but have gone ahead to sell same land to others especially farmers. The same traditional rulers are the ones screaming the most about being attacked without telling the full story.

    • Teflonjones

      Even if that’s the case, it’s still not enough to murder defenseless people in bulk as civilized people settle such issues with the authorities. A bottle of Heineken has more value than life itself in Nigeria.

      • Otile

        Utangirma Allah. May strong Fulanis decimate all those who fought Igbo for arna Gowon. Alla say amen.

  • Bigtin

    Lazy talk! Be a Man and copy what Fayose did in Ekiti State

  • Wise Counsel

    Today in Ekiti no Cattle or Herdsman would dare stray onto the streets or graze publicly. If a Cow dares to graze publicly any member of the public is legally bound to arrest such erring stray Cow and dispose of it appropriately and no charges will be brought against you. If it is a Herdsman who goes to any public or private property/farm to graze without permission, he is arrested and faces up to 20yrs in the Ekiti jails. ………..and all these have been signed into LAWs governing Ekiti land by the Governor through the state house of Assembly. If Ekiti or Fayose was shouting for help there is no way A Bokohari would come to your aid even in 1billion years…even if they kill everybody in Benue. A man who said he would spill blood on the streets if he looses election cannot pity you when his Fulani people spill your blood becos of Cattle grazing space.

    Implement Laws and make Cattle rearing a criminal offense in Benue. Simple. They (All Fulani will have to relocate up North from whence they cometh. Alternatively equip the people to fight back! You cant just wait and watch your people die.

  • vagabonds in power

    The People of Benue and Plateau openly aligned with the Fulanis from Niger Republic–Chad and Senegal in Nigeria because of their greed–and under the influence of the Burukutu that they often consume—-Aware the Fulanis see them as fools————-not good to reside side by side with members of the Fulani ethnic group in North Central–When u knowingly put your fingers into the mouth of a lion–or the devourers of your children——-wives and parents————–do not ever attempt to win the sympathy of Nigerians again–Cause life is a choice—The mumu Tivs ati Beroms decided to align with the Fulanis—who yearn to install another emir of Benue ati Plateau again—–via Bingo Buhari–in North Cebtral–Smae as they did with the people of Kwara state———-Separation is the answer—————-not this childish rubbish–designed to attract attention——————from the Yorubas maybe-Again why not borrow a leaf from Fayose————-The same is happening in the South east————-While their farmers and wives are being killed daily by the Fulani boko haram cowhands- from Sudan-the Ibos beg Buhari to give them oil contracts——separation is the answer–not the rule of the Yorubas ati Fulanis and their Ibo errand boys in APC

  • vagabonds in power

    The People of Benue and Plateau openly aligned with the Fulanis from Niger Republic–Chad and Senegal in Nigeria because of their greed–NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE OPERATING under the influence of the Burukutu that they often consume—-Aware the Fulanis see them as fools————-not good to reside side by side with members of the Fulani ethnic group in North Central–When u knowingly put your fingers into the mouth of a lion–or the devourers of your children——-wives and parents————–do not ever attempt to win the sympathy of Nigerians again–Cause life is a choice—The mumu Tivs ati Beroms decided to align with the Fulanis—ati the Apes in APC————who often yearn to install another emir of Benue ati Plateau again—–via Bingo Buhari–in North Cebtral–Same as they did with the people of Kwara state———-Separation is the answer—————-not this childish rubbish–designed to attract attention——————from the Yorubas maybe-Again why not borrow a leaf from Fayose————-The same is happening in the South east————-While their farmers and wives are being killed daily by the Fulani boko haram cowhands- from Sudan-the Ibos beg Buhari to give them oil contracts——separation is the answer–not the rule of the Yorubas ati Fulanis and their Ibo errand boys in APC————–animals

  • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

    Benue people empowered the Fulani at the ballot so they have to deal with the impunity and brutality of Fulani enslavement.

  • objective

    on a more serious note now, my people in our part of North Central where I come from use to have similar problems with the Fulanis and our people employed “Native Justice” and their cattle and their people were dying like flies ( no AK47 or anything); they left for a while and then came back for peace talk. Today we now know who owns the land. This is a true story.t They are too territorial.

    • princegab

      The idiots are waiting for fg while the macabre dance last. Fighting back is the solution.

  • Daniel

    This governor is fantastically incompetent and lacks courage.

    Please consult Fayose on this issue.

    As the chief security officer of your state and number one representative, it is utterly shameful that you cannot protect your people from terrorists…

    • Otile

      Do you want Buhari to freeze his bank account?

      • Daniel

        Then he should remain a slave and shut up, if he cannot stand up for his people.

        Now I see Fayose is a hero for Ekiti people.

  • objective

    I don’t know why a Tiv man should be complaining like this. they are not known for cowardice.

    • Local Observer

      @disqus_1pFXSZ8CUk:disqus: The Tiv and the Idoma are confused people. That’s why they are being killed at leisure.
      They will say they are not NORTH in the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri sense of the word, but middle-belt with
      distinct identity. No sooner the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri blow a dog-whistle to steal oil and the land assets
      in southern Nigeria, the usually idiotic Idoma and Tiv people will throw away all middle-belt attire and
      run ahead to queue up behind their customary genocidal masters. That’s why Benue state will not
      find help as an amorphous people who stand for nothing and end up being killed at will for nothing.

      • be more specific

        • Mazi Arevalo

          No, that is specific as specific can get. If you don’t like it, sorry.

  • Chidi Andrew

    They are not Nigerians. They are foreigners. By the way, AUDU should also seize some of those farm lands and give it to the herdsmen permanently as grazing reserve.

    Nobody should complain not even the governor. Those who are serious are taking decisions on what to do, those who are playing politics should wait for higher authorities.

    • who do you consider the foreigners, the state invaders or the criminals destroyig property? because it’s the invaders sending them to do their dirty work

  • it’s dismissed so that’s out. lol

  • Man_Enough

    ortom. fight back! that is what a man does. fayose has already shown the way.

    • Otile

      What are you talking about, fight back ke? Pick up your bindiga and shoot down a Fulani man let us see.

  • Omolaja nofiu

    It is unfortunate that Ortom is just lamenting despite wearing the tags and getting paid as the Governor and Chief Security Officer of Benue State and being an APC member. Unfortunately, his brother, Audu Ogbe who is the Minister of Agric is sheepishly and cowardly supporting the grazing reserve mago-mago of Buhari who continued to look the other way as the herdsmen go on rampage in Benue. I am wondering if the governor and his Benue people cannot think of a creative way to checkmate the invasion of those messengers of death on their land!
    No leader or his program can enjoy the backing and blessings of God if he continues to rule with injustice as Buhari has been doing in this case of herdsmen’s attacks across Nigeria. May be that is why most things are failing under him!

    • O F

      Yes.That is why his economic policies and all he does will not work.Despite the savagery and killings by the herdsmen,he’s not concerned.I think they are his political foot soldiers.
      The only consolation is that everyone will eventually die once. Even Buhari,and all his killer herdsmen.

      • Otile

        What do you want him to do, to incite his people to retaliate? Do you want Nigeria to split? Don’t incite further violence, you know very well that the Fulanis cannot wipe out every Tiv in the state. Nature abhors vacuum.

        • O F

          I have nothing against Ortom,but against Buhari,who is in position to do something about it.

          • Otile

            You don’t understand. Buhari did not create this situation, it is one of the intricate problems he inherited as a resident. Either way he is in no win position here no matter any action he takes. For him this nagging problem is like the tsetse fly perching on his scrotum, if he hits it hard he will crush his own scrotum, if he hits lightly the nuisance will fly away only to come back to bite him again. Please, do understand.

  • Otile

    Chei, where is my friend Abu Jihad Abubakar ibn Tundemash? Where is he? Let him come and lend his voice concerning these killings. He know how to use power insults and name calling to ward off the critics of his Fulani masters.

  • Otile

    Chei, where is my friend Abu Jihad Abubakar ibn Tundemash? Where is he?
    Let him come and lend his voice concerning these killings. He knows
    how to use the power of insult and name calling to ward off the critics of his
    Fulani masters.

  • Rominiyis

    The last statement made by this governor is exactly what is wrong with the Nigeria federation here it is in quote “Of course, I do not control the military, the police and even the civil defense because all of them are federal agencies” If a federal president decide not to enforce the law to protect the people or enforce mildly in tacit for hidden expansionist purpose all ethnic nationality are fair game to any invader from any part of West Africa or anywhere.

    Sometime ago a group of foreigners from North Africa suddenly set up settlement in remote part of Osun State, they were said to be involve in mining. The so call federal government that arrogate all power of protection of natives are no where to be found. Right now Nigeria is a bad deal for every components that constitute it. The country can not and is not providing adequate protection for its citizens. Whatever protection is available depends on where the sympathy of the president is. This not what a federation is.

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  • Abidilagungun

    Dey there dey complain, go to Ekiti and learn how to use law and magic to drive them away

  • Excisionist

    With all due respect Governor Ortom, your cry for help from the Federal Government sounds hypocritical. This cry has been made again and and again for years. But again and again the federal government, especially under Buhari has turned a deaf ear and a blind eye.

    Instead of crying like a baby why not do what Gov Fayose of Ekiti state did? Why not pass laws to punish the terrorists and protect your people instead of crying? Why not joing with other governors in the Middle Belt and the southern geopolitical zones to adopt similar measures?

    Buhari or any Fulani leader cannot be depended upon to take any action against their own cows. Buhari and the Fulani cow owners would even consider the center of Abuja a Grazing Zones if no one takes and action.

    Your state house of assembly should pass laws similar to what senator Maleye recently stated. Ekiti had taken the lead, thanks to their pragmatic governor (hopefully, the future president of Nigeria). Your state assembly should pass such laws to include fine for or confiscation of the offending cows in addition to jailing of the herdsmen. Other states should, without further hesitation, follow suit. It is that simple

    Citizens should arm themselves with mobile phone cameras to capture any cows that stray to towns, villages, farms or commercial area. If needed, we can supply drones from abroad with which to monitor th movement of the cows

    According to the Global Terrorism Index, Fulani militants were the fourth deadliest terrorist group in 2014, using machine guns and attacks on villages to assault and intimidate farmers.. Over 1,200 people were killed in 2014 by different groups of Fulani herders. In 2016, more people died in clashes with the herdsmen than in Boko Haram attacks