In summoning Buhari, Senators tackle executive, military over Benue killings

Nigerian Senate
The Chamber of the Nigerian Senate

The Senate on Thursday resolved to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session with the House of Representatives over killings in Benue State.

Mr Buhari is to brief the lawmakers on the recent upsurge of violence in the north-central state and others across the country.

The summon followed deliberation on a motion on “Continued Killings in Benue State” sponsored by George Akume (APC-Benue North-West).

The House of Representatives had earlier on Wednesday resolved to summon Mr Buhari over the spate of killings in Benue State and other parts of the country.

The decision in the House was unanimously adopted by an overwhelming majority of members after a Kano lawmaker, Baballe Bashir (APC), moved for the amendment of a motion moved by Mark Gbilah (APC, Benue).

PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday reported how suspected herdsmen killed about 19 persons including two priests in a church in Ukpor-Mbalom, a community in Gwer West Local Government Area.

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Terver Akase, a spokesperson to Governor Samuel Ortom, said the attackers also burnt 50 houses and sacked the entire community.

The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi later confirmed two of its priests, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, both reverend fathers, were killed in the attack.

The attack came barely a week after the murder of 10 persons by suspected herdsmen in the same area, which has been one of the major scenes of carnage since January 1.

A few days earlier, Nigerian soldiers had stormed Naka town in Gwer West Local Government Area of the state and set dozens of houses on fire.

The soldiers said hoodlums in the community killed one of their colleagues. At least one man was burnt to death in the reprisal attack.

The invitation of the president by the National Assembly is unprecedented. However, lawmakers have constitutional powers to summon all government officials.

At the Senate on Thursday, Mr Akume raised alarm over the killings in his state, stating they had continued unabated since January despite a military exercise code named Ayem A’ Kpatuma, or Cat Race.

He expressed worry that the latest attack on a worship centre was unprecedented and had grave implications for the security and unity of the nation.

Contributing to the motion, Jibin Barau (APC, Kano North) called on security operatives to “get their acts together and find the perpetrators” saying that the killings were not tribal or religious.

“The killings are done by people that want to destabilise the nation,” he said.

Suleiman Adokwe (PDP, Nasarawa South) said the killings are being carried out under the noses of the military and nothing was being done.

“These things are going on right in front of the army. Some of these killings happen within the distance of 20-30 minutes drive from the army bases and nothing is happening. It can be interpreted to say that the government is aware, that’s why nothing is being done.

“Now I hear that the army and SARS arrest the wrong people and ignore the criminals. Even the Fulanis are scared of the terrorists because they too are being affected,” he said.

He further called for a state of emergency in the affected states, describing it as the best way to go.

In his contribution, Mao Ohabunwa (PDP, Abia) described the happenings as one too many.

He questioned the activities of the National Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency as well as the Military Intelligence Agency.

“What are they doing? Even animal are not regularly killed the way humans are being killed. No more value for human life. We just have to declare state of emergency.

“It takes effrontery to go to a church and slaughter priests and worshippers. Let the army go there and fight a normal war and chase these people out of the state and country,” he said.

Isa Misau (APC, Bauchi Central), however, urged the Senate to seek the cooperation of the executive, adding that “those advising the government that the security chiefs are loyal to the country and so need not be changed, are getting it wrong.

“Our security men don’t even have the idea on how to stop these killings,” he lamented.

While making reference to the recent robbery attack in Offa and mace theft last week in the Senate, he expressed disappointment that no one has been arrested.

“If you see the number of men mobilised to pick up Dino Melaye, you’ll know that it is not an issue of manpower. Why not channel this manpower to these states? Maybe they purposely don’t want to stop these killings.

“They dominate everywhere when it comes to politics but you won’t see them when it comes to real challenges. We need fresh ideas and fresh people,” he added.

Mr Misau also called for a state of emergency.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remark, called for drastic action as he stated that the key question has not being answered.

“My concern is that just last week, we were talking about herdsmen and farmers, now it is herdsmen and religious leaders and we all know the dimension it is taking now can lead to a serious crisis in this country. It means that we need drastic action.

“The main thing is, what do we do? We can’t continue to say we are leaders…this is failure! No doubt about it, we can’t. We can’t keep calling on the same NEMA that is under investigation for some kind of misappropriation, that cannot be the solution.

“Its amazing that not even a constable or an officer has been arrested for not delivering,” he said.

The Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, thereafter, urged the Senate to take advantage of the summon of the president by the House of Representatives so the matter “can be approached holistically.”

“I cannot understand a situation where killings of this nature will happen and there will be no arrest. Something is definitely wrong.”

The Senate unanimously agreed to invite Mr Buhari in a joint session with the lower chamber for questioning.

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