- The herdsmen attacks in Benue state have been a reoccurring issue for sometime and this has infuriated respected leaders in the state
- Elders and opinion leaders in the state have been speaking on the issue with specific emphasis on President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to the state
- They faulted the federal government's handling of the crisis and the president's inaction since his visit to the state
Tribal and opinion leaders in Benue state have faulted the federal government's handling of the herdsmen crisis in the state.
Speaking to NAIJ.com in Makurdi, the state capital, the leaders also dismissed President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to the state in March, saying the president didn't address the main issues causing the crisis.
Chief Edward Ujege, president, Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), the largest ethnic group in the state, said Buhari's advise to the people of Benue state to accommodate their neighbours, shows the president is not really abreast of the issues in the state.
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His words: “You can not tell a man who is being killed, attacked, to accommodate the killers. I think the president completely misunderstood the situation as it was. The Tiv people, the Igede people, the Idoma people have never been the enemies of Fulanis. It was after the murders started, that we called on him to halt the killings of defenceless people in Benue state.
“When you say we should accommodate killers, are you trying to say they should kill you? These massive killings started since 2010. It was because of that, that a law was enacted to find a solution to these killings. That’s what I think the president should be doing."
Asked if the anti-grazing law is responsible for the attacks in the state, Chief Ujege said the attacks have been ongoing in the state before the law was enacted. According to him, the law was an initiative of the Benue people to stem the tide of violence which has been reoccurring for many years.
He said: “When the population was low, the Fulanis were moving freely. There were cattle routes, but the population has increased. The land is still the same. The cows are getting more. So we have not adopted modern farming, we are still living in the old centuries.
“We have to find new ways, out government has to be proactive in trying to find ways and means of making changes. When you have problems, you should have a thinking government, I think this government is shallow. They are not thinking in the modern ways of solving problems.
“When America has problem, they get professors and people who knows what it takes to change society, and they sit down and come up with a method. When they failed to address this, the Benue people came up with ranches, and I believe that should be the way forward.”
On his part, Chief Ode Enyi, president of Omi-Ny’Igede, the second largest ethnic group in the state, said the crisis is an orchestrated plan by political leaders in the north to take over their lands.
His words: “I think the Fulani people are more interested, not in grazing, but in capturing the Benue valley according to them, because if it is grazing, we have existed side by side for a very long time and they have grazed.
“When we have skirmishes, they are resolved. But this time around, they came claiming that Benue state belongs to them, they own the land and they want to occupy it. That’s the issue. And you find that the northern leaders that would have cautioned them are silent. Which means, it is a grand plan by some people to actually fuel crisis in Benue state.”
On her part, a respected civil society leader in the state, Josephine Habba, stated that the president was ignorant on security matters in Benue state.
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She frowned at the president's silence on those who were killed in the crisis and also not visiting any of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the state.
“The president came to spit on the graves of those who were buried in Benue, who were killed by his kinsmen. There was no mention of the people that were killed. Not a word of condolence came out of the president’s mouth.
“The president also didn’t visit the IDP camps neither did he make any statement concerning the law that the people of Benue state have propagated, and is being signed to law by the people who made their governor sign this law and are standing by it. There was no statement to say the law will be enforced, rather he came to tell us how ignorant he was on the security matters of Nigeria,” she said.
Watch the video interview on NAIJ.com TV