Governor Samuel Ortom yesterday accused the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of taking sides in the handling of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State.
Ortom, who spoke at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, presented copies of letters he wrote notifying Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and security agencies of imminent attacks by armed herdsmen in the state.
He told the committee which was investigating the Benue killings that the IGP had no business in determining whether the anti-open grazing law the state enacted was good or bad.
A source said: “Ortom also presented copies of the letters he wrote to security agencies alerting them to the pending attacks.” The attacks, which were eventually launched on January 1, 2018 claimed over 73 lives in two communities of Logo and Guma.
The IGP had, at a meeting with the committee on his level of compliance with the resolution to apprehend the perpetrators of the attacks, blamed the implementation of the anti-open grazing law for the attacks by herdsmen.
The police boss also accused Ortom of making inflammatory statements that further incited violence. Idris said that by publicly displaying the bodies of the victims of the attacks, the governor provoked mayhem and reprisal attacks. The IGP accused Ortom of arming Tiv militia and encouraging proliferation of prohibited small arms and ammunition.
Ortom, who appeared before the committee yesterday, declared a vote of no confidence in Idris, whom he accused of taking sides in the crisis.
The source said: “The governor presented copies of the letter to the vice president, and to security agencies. He also told the committee that he personally met with the president after he returned to brief him on the impending threat.”
The governor’s position is that there is complicity against Benue State in high places, particularly when considering the fact that no action was taken to avert the attacks, and comments credited to the IGP and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali.
“In the first place, the IG has no business pronouncing a law as good or bad, his job is to implement the law. He said it was a communal crisis. But policemen are also being killed by the herders, did the policemen and civil defence personnel who were murdered have communal issues with the herders? He has taken sides, his men are being killed and he is not saying anything,” the source quoted Ortom as telling the lawmakers.
The governor said he had no confidence in the IG’s ability to provide security. “He stayed in Benue for just one day contrary to the orders given to him by the President to relocate to the state.”
Ortom chronicled the developments that led to the enactment of the law, particularly the Agatu killings which claimed hundreds of lives.
“The latest crises have left the state with about 160,000 refugees in nine camps, and several communities are still occupied by armed herdsmen. These are the things he made clear to the committee,” the source said.
The Senate had rejected the report submitted by the committee and insisted that it must get the perspective of Governor Ortom.
The Chairman of the panel, Abu Ibrahim noted, in his opening address, that the invitation of Ortom to address the committee became necessary in order to get his perspective on the submission of the IGP to the lawmakers.
Ibrahim said that there was no basis for the insinuation in some quarters that the committee was biased against or for anybody since its mandate was to find solution to the lingering clashes and loss of lives and property.