Protest against herdsmen’s killings rocks National Assembly
• Why I ordered suspects out of Benue, by Ortom
Hundreds of protesters yesterday stormed the National Assembly (NASS) complex in Abuja to draw the attention of the federal lawmakers to the renewed killings of persons by suspected herdsmen in some farming communities of Benue State. They were, however, denied entry by some 200 armed policemen.
Apparently miffed by the incident, the protesters challenged the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to rather deploy his men to halt the maiming at Tombo Mbalagh in Buruku Local Council of the state.
Led by the Movement Against Tiv Massacre (VATIM), the protesters registered their annoyance at the killing last weekend of 10 persons in the council area by herdsmen. The sad incident, they added, prompted Governor Samuel Ortom to issue a 48-hour ultimatum to security agencies in the state to fish out the culprits.
However, the governor has advanced reasons for the quit order he issued to armed herders in the state.
According to him, the decision was informed by the need “ to protect the lives and property” of the citizens just as he reiterated the directive to have the erring herdsmen arrested and prosecuted.
He told newsmen yesterday in Abuja after the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa that a governor of a state must guard the people against internal and external aggression.
The killings are spreading to different parts of the country. A greater worry is that the Federal Government is virtually painting a picture of helplessness. If it fails to take drastic steps in halting these killings, victims would continue to express their anger through protests and self-defence.
The convener of the group, Irene Awunah, deploring the action of the police leadership, noted: “The IGP should please look towards sending a detachment of armed policemen to the villages where Fulani herdsmen are killing people in their native communities, instead of sending them after us.
“We are simply trying to draw the attention of the National Assembly to what is happening in our villages. The legislators were elected to make laws that would safeguard the peace and unity of Nigeria, among others. So, security personnel should be deployed where they are needed, our procession is peaceful.”
She said they were at the National Assembly to table their “cry” to the leadership and get answers from the Federal Government on the persistent attacks on Benue farming communities.
Though the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara were not available to address the irate group, they were eventually addressed by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East), accompanied by Jeremiah Useni (Plateau South East) and Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara North) after insisting earlier on being talked to by the two presiding officers of the National Assembly only. This came after they had shunned two members of the House, Diri Douye (Bayelsa) and Mojeed Alabi (Osun).
Sekibo told the protesters that no fewer than three motions on the attacks in the state and other parts of the country had been sponsored in the eighth Senate.
His words: “The Senate is standing by you. We shall do everything within the limits of the law to ensure these herdsmen are taken to particular areas where they can feed their cattle.”
The spokesman of VATIM, Tersoo Akula, warned that the people might resort to self-defence if steps were not taken to halt the killings.
Following the fresh onslaught, the House of Assembly is holding a public hearing on a proposed bill geared at checking the activities of
herdsmen in the state. But analysts are, however, of the opinion that the establishment of ranches as obtained in other climes would effectively address the perennial problem.
Contacted, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command Public Relations Officer, Anjuguri Manza, said he was yet to be briefed on the deployment.