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Herdsmen/farmers clashes: Group calls for state of emergency in Benue, Taraba

Following the prolonged clashes between Fulani Hersdmen and farmers in Benue and Taraba states leading to the loss of several lives, a civil society group, the Coalition of Civil Society Groups for Peace and Security (CSGPS) has called on the Federal Government to place the two states under emergency rule while setting up judicial commissions of enquiry to probe the involvement of the state governors in the farmers/herders’ crises.

Speaking to Newsmen in Lagos Thursday, National President of the coalition, Otunba Kola Salawu, who condemned the killings in Benue State as well as the renewed hostilities in Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State, also condemned the killing of scores of people in Benue, while blaming the escalation of the crisis on the Civilian Joint Task Force set up by the Benue State governor, Mr Samuel Ortom after the passage of the Anti- Open Grazing Bill into Law.

It said sponsorship of state militias by governors is unconstitutional, while advising the governor to immediately step down to allow for investigation on the extent of his involvement in the massacre.

“The youths he (the governor) misled with the uniform of Livestock Guards, after signing the law, brazenly went on an extortion spree against herders while not a few of them appropriated the said law to engage in cattle rustling,” the group leader said.

Salawu advised the Federal Government to rise up to the occasion and stop state sponsorship of militias from festering as the consequence of it would fall on its head.

He urged FG to deploy military to the two states to suppress activities of militias in the states.
“We have no other option than to indict the governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, for spending more energy in stoking the fires of division as opposed to delivering the dividends of democracy to those that elected him,” he said.

Speaking further, the National President added, “The essence of the briefing is therefore to call on the Federal Government to immediately declare a State of Emergency in Taraba State and any other state where the governor as the Chief Security Officer willfully allows the security situation to degenerate to the point where mass murder is committed.

“The declaration of a State of Emergency in Taraba State will allow for full scale investigation and also stop the militias armed by the governor from further harming any ethnic group to cause unnecessary crisis in the polity for political reasons.

“Benue State must similarly be placed under emergency rule since its governor has not only confirmed his lack of capacity to arrest the situation but has proven beyond reasonable doubt that he is a core part of the problem.

“The Federal Government must show leadership since the blame will grow to become its own if it allows ethnic militias to fester unchecked. Aside the international odium it will pour on the country, the current crop of federal officials may find themselves as guests at The Hague since there is all possibility that any indifference would equal an active support for the crimes being committed by officials of the second tier of government; there is the additional risk that the militias being armed by these governors would one day take on federal law enforcement personnel.

“Not too long ago we felt the negative consequences of using ethnic militias on citizens as was the case with the Ombatse militia in Nasarawa State, which makes the militias recently apprehended in Benue State a great concern.

“Such constitutional breaches in governors using militias is a slippery slope Nigeria must not again navigate as we must be reminded of the judicial killings that took place under the so called Bakasai Boys in Anambra State under the then Governor Mbadinuju, the state remains chaotic till date because of that ill-advised intervention.

“Furthermore, we premise our demand on the fact that Mr. Ortom, with his Taraba side-kick, has breached Section 227 of the Constitution (as amended) that states “No association shall retain, organize, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organized and trained or equipped for that purpose,” the group said.

Patrick Okohue

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