Governor Alia’s Unfortunate Statements On Insecurity In Benue – Aide

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It is shocking, disappointing and saddening that some leaders who should protect the interest of those they govern are quick to grant press interviews and blame Benue people and accuse them of being killers of their loved ones.

One of such press outings was an interview published in the June 8, 2024 edition of a national daily in which unfounded allegations were made apparently targeted at the immediate past administration of Chief Samuel Ortom. In the same interview, other Benue people were also accused of killing their own only to approach the Federal Government for monetary interventions. Youths of the state were particularly accused of rustling Fulani cattle as the cause of the frequent attacks on the state.

We find the above statements not only unfortunate but disturbing. Raising such weighty allegations without providing any proof to support the claims sends a rather wrong signal to the rest of the country. Benue people are known as very hospitable and peace loving citizens of Nigeria.

We would have chosen to ignore the skewed narrative, but as the saying goes, silence is consent. We will therefore respond to the insinuations as they concern the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Chief Samuel Ortom.

It is an incontestable fact that His Excellency Ortom was the first Benue Governor who boldly confronted the monster known as armed herdsmen attacks on Benue people which predated his administration. He was the first Governor to enact a law not only to end open grazing of livestock in all parts of the state but to also introduce ranching as the global best practice of animal husbandry.

In his eight years as Governor, Chief Ortom never accused Benue youths of being cattle rustlers and killers of their own people. Instead, he encouraged youths of the state to aspire to achieve their dreams, and his administration engaged young people who were willing to complement conventional security agencies as members of the state Community Volunteer Guards. The Livestock Guards whom his administration had earlier established as the enforcement agency of the law on open grazing were also made up of hard working and patriotic Benue youths who, for six years, did a commendable job.

It is equally imperative to state that Governor Ortom never requested funds from the Federal Government or anyone else regarding the security situation in his state. Instead, he made huge sacrifices and put his political career on the line to ensure that enemies of the state did not succeed in taking over the land that they have always wanted to occupy. In the process, he was vilified, victimized and the State Government was denied several entitlements including funds from bonds, Stamp Duty, SURE-P, Signature Bonus, among other funds that the state legitimately deserved to benefit.

We understand that the present government has received those funds. They owe the people some explanation on how they have managed the accrued funds. Their explanation should include what has been done with Benue’s share of the N50 billion which President Bola Tinubu graciously released to five northern states affected by insecurity.

The government has repeatedly accused others of fueling insecurity but failed to act when it is expected to do so. They issued a 14-day ultimatum to herdsmen to leave the state. The two weeks elapsed and more pastoralists trooped into the state but the government did nothing and has remained mute, fueling speculations that they are under external pressure not to take punitive measures against the invaders.

Since the present government took over, it has turned His Excellency Ortom to a scapegoat and a punching bag. They blame Chief Ortom for everything including the promises they made during campaigns but have not fulfilled. They blame Chief Ortom even for the many fights they have waged against their party men and women in the All Progressives Congress, APC, as though Ortom is a member of that party.

They will soon blame Chief Ortom for their decision to appoint local government caretaker chairmen two times in one year after they promised to grant full autonomy for the local governments.

It appears that Ortom was also responsible for the their failure to keep the promise to return IDPs to their ancestral homes within the first 100 days in office.

The present administration, aside from setting up two panels to probe the former Governor, has embarked on several other ways of persecution of Chief Ortom whom the government has already put on trial in the media. They have written a series of petitions against the former Governor to anti-graft agencies, but nothing has been found incriminating against him to this day.

The present government’s intention is to erase anything that bears the insignia of Ortom. An attempt was made recently to repeal the state’s Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law. It took the outcry of concerned Benue people to abort the plan.

The government accuses His Excellency Ortom and says all manner of things but has curiously been silent on how it is managing finances of the state. They have not told Benue people that since May 2023 when President Tinubu approved the removal of fuel subsidy, Benue, like other states, has been receiving federal allocations three times higher than what the previous government received. We challenge the government to publish the allocations they have received since May 2023 and how the funds are being expended.

If the government is paying salaries without taking loans as they claimed in that media interview, it is because federal allocations in the last one year have been unprecedented. This is why all the 36 states are conveniently paying salaries and pensions. Indeed, other states have, in addition to regular payment of salaries, gone ahead to clear the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities. This is because the states now have adequate funds to address their challenges.

Interestingly, Chief Ortom does not talk about the present government and does not intend to do so any time soon. The immediate past Governor wishes and prays that the new crop of leaders should succeed because he has been in that position and understands the responsibilities and challenges that accompany the office.

We wish to once more urge government officials to concentrate on governance in order to fulfill their promises to the people and stop using former leaders of the state as an excuse.

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