SENATOR Gabriel Suswam’s passion for the protection of his people knows no bound. That passion almost drove him to early grave in 2014 at Umenger, Guma Local Government of the state where armed Fulani herdsmen ambushed his convoy and engaged his security details in gun battle when he went visiting communities raided by the herders in the state.
On that fateful day, the former governor also visited Uikpam in Mbabai, Guma LGA where the armed herders had killed 28 farmers and destroyed houses.
Exasperated, Suswam had remarked thus: We are being attacked, our foodstuffs including yam barn and farms burned and destroyed without anyone coming to our aide. Some of our people were killed and taken away while some captured and taken alive.”
Today, as senator representing Benue North East, the former governor is confronted with a worse scenario as more farmers are falling to the herdsman’s dagger in his senatorial constituency.
In Gbeji, Ukum Local Government Area, for instance, where 36 bodies, including two policemen have so far been recovered and many morel missing after an onslaught by pastoralists last Wednesday, October 19, 2022, the ex-governor expressed dismay with the lackadaisical attitude of the federal government in the face of mayhem perpetrated by the herders.
Addressing families of victims and other survivors, Sen Suswam berated the Federal Government for what he described as its irresponsibility and failure to provide security for citizens.
According to him, “the Federal Government has failed woefully in the protection of lives and property,” lamenting that the rising insecurity has exposed the country’s nakedness.
The senator who said he had visited visited Mchia which is the same radius as Gbeji where 22 persons were murdered and several others injured two weeks ago, described the incessant killings as highly unacceptable.
His words: “The Federal Government has gone to sleep and do not care about the security of the people. These are peasant farmers whose property has been destroyed and their lives have been decapitated.
“I commend the bravery and gallantry of our security agencies but they are overstretched under the circumstance. I cannot sleep in Abuja while our mothers who farm food that we eat are killed in this way.”
“So far 36 bodies have been recovered from this dastardly attack by herdsmen. This is totally unacceptable by all standards. It is a clear indication that the Federal government has failed in protection of lives and property of the people that they swore to protect.
“What this means in effect is that power has been transferred to non-state actors. They are totally in charge now and as they come to kill people at will and go freely and no person has ever been arrested,” he lamented.
The Senator went on, “How can such a government say that it is a government? We don’t have a government. Because when you swear to either the bible or the quran that you will protect lives and property of the people and the people have been consistently killed and no decisive action has been taken.
“Nothing has been done, no person has been arrested, it means that we don’t have a government.”
The Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Professor Anthony Ijohor, SAN, who representated Governor Samuel Ortom on the trip, expressed sadness over the unfortunate incident.
He reiterated the stand of the Benue State Government that since the Federal Government has failed to provide security for the people, a license should be approved for the State Government to procure sophisticated weapons for the Community Volunteer Guards to protect the people.
The Governor insisted that the limited conventional security agencies were overstretched and were unable to provide adequate protection for people of the state.
“We are standing on our request for the Federal Government to give us a license for our Volunteer Guards to bear AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons. The security agencies have been overstretched, that being the case, our people have to defend themselves,” he said.
The Governor urged young people to stand firm and protect their lands, stating that self help is the only option left, since the present administration at the centre has shown that it is incapable of providing security for the people.
He sympathized with those who lost loved ones in the attack on Gbeji and encouraged them not to lose hope no matter the circumstances, saying the State Government would provide palliatives to offer succour to the affected persons.
In his remarks, Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly and PDP Governorship candidate, Engr Titus Uba, who also was on the senator’s entourage, expressed sadness over the unprovoked killings which he said have gone on for too long without the Federal Government arresting the situation.
The Speaker insisted that since the Federal Government is not ready to provide security to stop the Benue killings, the authorities should grant license to the State Government to procure firearms for Volunteer Guards to complement conventional agencies in tackling insecurity in the state.
Uba also advocated the creation of state police to enable each state of the federation to deal with rising security challenges.
House of Representatives Member for Ukum/Logo/Katsina-Ala Federal Constituency, Dr Richard Gbande, State Assembly Member for Ukum, Thomas Mlanga, Chairman of Ukum Local Government Council, Derick Kaatyoo as well the Acting Ter Ukum, Chief Utambe Nyagba who also spoke during the visit, unanimously said, “What has been done to us as a people is that we have to protect ourselves.”
Recall that Gov Ortom, in order to stem the tide of killings by armed herdsmen promultigated the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
In spite of that, the herders have remained adamant and continued with the killings.
Consequently, the state government constituted the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards to complement conventional security agents in the fight against criminality and banditary.
During the inauguration of the second batch Benue State Community Volunteer Guards, BCVGs, Gov Ortom gave one month deadline to the federal government to approve his letter to procure AK-47 license for BCVGs, failure which said he should seek the advice of his people on what to do.
The governor said that he had applied for approval of AK 47 riffles license but regretted that over three months he was yet to get response from federal government.
“If there is no reply in the next one month, I will revert to my people to advise on what to do because the Federal Government is complicit on the issue of herders’ attacks on the state,” he said.