The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, yesterday said he ordered all armed herdsmen out of Benue State because they engaged in killing citizens with provocation. He said it was his duty as a governor to take the decision in order to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizens of the state.
Mr. Ortom spoke with State House correspondents shortly after he came out of a meeting of the National Economic Council NEC, at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. He however, said unarmed herdsmen and those who do not engage in violence also need protection.
Mr. Ortom had on Monday given Fulani herdsmen in Tombo-Mbalagh, Buruku Local Government Area of the state, a two-day ultimatum to leave the area. He gave the order in Tombo-Mbalagh during a visit to ascertain the damage allegedly inflicted on the community by herdsmen over the weekend.
“I ordered armed herdsmen out of my state. They are not friendly to my people. They are killing them and I cannot tolerate that,” the governor said.
“My job as the governor is to provide security for lives and property. I cannot watch seeing people being killed unprovoked. It is not right,” he added.
Mr. Ortom said the only thing citizens of the state are engaged in is farming. He however, said “when you go to their farmlands and destroy their crops and then when they complain, you kill them. That will never be acceptable. I will not fold my hands to watch this happen.”
He said his order is for security men to arrest all arms-bearing herdsmen.
He also recalled that an amnesty programme he launched earlier enabled him to “disarm the criminal elements in my society because I believe in the rule of law and due process.
“Without the rule of law, there is no way we can govern. A stronger person will come and take over the affairs of the state from where ever you are. And so, we must abide by the rule of law,” he said.
Mr. Ortom said apart from fighting corruption, governments at all levels must be ready to fight impunity as well, saying impunity is worse than corruption.
“Another thing is impunity, it is worse than corruption. So, while we are fighting corruption, we must also fight impunity. This is not right.
“Those armed herdsmen, are they above the law? So, the security men must track, arrest and prosecute them according to the law.
“I have told my people that as farmers, they have no business carrying arms. And so, I will protect them as long as I am governor in my state,” he said.