Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has raised the alarm over the mass influx of armed herdsmen into the state lamenting that “we are under the siege of armed herdsmen and we are helpless.”
The Governor who cried out on Monday, shortly after receiving the leaders of Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, in his office in Makurdi said the troops and security personnel deployed to the state were doing their best but were overstretched and needed to be fortified in the face of the new challenge.
He said, “We just met with CSOs who have been helping us since we came under attacks by armed herdsmen and we have reviewed the situation in the various Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps. It is not a pleasant place to live in but we are helpless.
“It is our desire that all of them went back home and all the IDPs have indicated interest that they want to back to their ancestral homes but the main challenge is that of security in their communities.
“Up till today, there are attacks going on in various communities that were invaded by these herdsmen.
“Every day there is an influx of herdsmen into the state and every day we are contending with them. We are working very hard with security agencies but these people are armed to the teeth. And in some cases, the security men had to withdraw because of their superior firepower.
“So this is a very big challenge and we have agreed here that we will have to look for alternative ways that are legitimate and legal to see how we can complement the security agencies to ensure that we stamp out the menace that is going on.
“We are still under attack and under siege, several local governments, as I talk to you have been invaded and the people are fleeing.
“The security personnel is doing their best despite their challenge in terms of equipment and personnel and we are working closely with them.
“But one message I’m sending to the herdsmen is that our law is still in place and anyone that comes here is engaged in illegal activity and he will be apprehended because we believe in the rule of law.
“We do not want to take any illegal action, we have told our people not to attack any herder or their cattle but once they are spotted we will apprehend and prosecute them.”
Continuing, the Governor said, “like I have said we have so far arrested over 400 herdsmen some are Tiv, Igede, and Idoma aside the Fulanis and so far we have convicted 100 and it will go on until this impunity stops. Nobody is going to stop us from operating the law.
“Already because of the influx the locals have started fleeing their ancestral homes and moving into the IDPs camps and we are overwhelmed.
“But we are calling the security agencies to step up because we believe in the rule of law, we do not have a militia and we do not want to resort to self-help but we are being coerced. We will not do anything illegal but we cannot fold our arms, we are going to move.”