The presidency says President Muhammadu Buhari is not to be blamed for the spate of killings in Benue state.Two weeks ago, not less than 30 persons including a pregnant woman were reported dead after gunmen attacked an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Guma LGA of the state.
The killing came a few days after an unconfirmed number of persons were killed in an attack by gunmen in Umogidi village of Entekpa-Adoka district, Otukpo LGA.
In March, it was reported that no fewer than 50 persons were allegedly killed by suspected herders who invaded communities in Kwande LGA of the state.
The spate of killings triggered protests in the state by angry youths who mounted roadblocks demanding an end to the growing panic from residents of the state over the insecurity.
‘DON’T FAULT BUHARI, BLAME ORTOM’
In a statement on Wednesday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, described Samuel Ortom, Benue governor, as “incompetent” in the face of rising insecurity in his state.
“Fortunately, the people of Benue State know the truth. After all, it is they who have suffered under Ortom’s “leadership” – if one can call it such,” Shehu said.
“It is they who have experienced first-hand the mass killings, the torture, the litany of atrocities as Benue’s security situation plummeted ever further. It is they who buried their loved ones while watching their careless, irresponsible and incompetent governor politicise on those freshly dug graves.
“And it is they who turned to the last privilege they had left: their democratic privilege, to resoundingly kick out Ortom and his so-called People’s Democratic Party in favour of a new governor, Reverend Father Hyacinth Iornem Alia from Buhari’s party, the APC.”
Shehu said Buhari had taken steps to address the deteriorating situation in Benue but his efforts were blatantly obstructed by Ortom.
He said the federal government also established and funded a joint security operation, code-named Operation Whirl Stroke (OWS).
However, he said Ortom was unwilling to engage with the project and accused the governor of endangering the security operatives with “fake news and disinformation campaigns”.
Shehu said there was also a “deployment of special security forces to flash-points in the state” including the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Services and other security agencies.
“The deployment of an array of NAF fighter aircraft, Mi-35 helicopter gunships as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms,” he added.
“The Deployment of ten (10) Units of the Police Mobile Force, Ten (10) Units of Police Special Forces (Tactical Operation Units) and Aerial Surveillance Teams (Police Helicopters).
“The acquisition and deployment of modern military armaments. The provision of timely and actionable intelligence to Ortom (which were routinely ignored).
“The prompt provision of humanitarian support to victims via the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development.
“Despite these efforts, we know that the new Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, has his work cut out. In his own words, he is inheriting a state that is in the Intensive Care Unit. Perhaps if disgraced Governor Ortom had been more concerned with doing his job than politisicing the tragedies so frequently taking place under his watch, the situation in Benue might be very different, like in any of its neighbours – Taraba, Nasarawa, the FCT – which all enjoy peace.
“Instead, Ortom stubbornly refused to engage with the detailed, holistic approach clearly spelt out by the Federal Government. He arrogantly chose his own, destructive path. He blamed the Fulani for every problem that arose. He ignored numerous intelligence reports passed to him for action. He rejected police findings into investigations that didn’t meet his egotistical worldview. He politicized every life lost on his watch.
“So, thank God the people of Benue rejected him so roundly at elections. His contract was not renewed. He failed a Senate election. Even the person he endorsed for Governorship was rejected.”
Shehu added that “If anyone is looking for someone to blame, just ask the people of Benue”.