Thursday, June 15, 2017. 23:10.GMT
Forceful Occupation Of Benue By The Fulani Herdsmen

OF the 36 states in the country, Benue seems to be the worst-hit by the virulent and nefarious activities of armed herdsmen. The herdsmen operate seamlessly and brazenly too, hacking down law-abiding citizens. They maim men, women and children and commit arson, inflicting life-long sorrow and pains on individuals lucky to survive the frequent onslaughts. Last year, no fewer than 1,329 persons were said to have been gruesomely cut down by the herdsmen. In fact, the paramount ruler of the Logo Local Government Area, Jimmy Memme, was quoted to have claimed that between July 1 and July 16, 2016, alone, more than 85 persons, among them women and children in six out of the 10 wards in his domain, were sent to their early graves by the rampaging herdsmen.

Other reports also claimed that from 2013 to 2016 alone, more than 1,878 people were killed in 12 local government areas in the state, with more than 99,427 households affected. The grim reality about the free reign of these bloodthirsty herdsmen is further brought home by the recent claim that they have formed an army of occupation in 14 out of the existing 23 local government areas of the state. Although the state government has disputed the figure, it confirmed the assertion that Benue has indeed become the operational base of the mindless herdsmen. This is despite the repeated assurances by the nation's security architecture and the state governor in his capacity as the Chief Security Officer of the state that they were on top of the precarious situation in the state which is known by the acronym, Food Basket of the Nation.

Recent events also confirmed that most citizens of the state are fast losing confidence in the authorities.They are increasingly impatient because of the perceived refusal of the authorities to arrest and prosecute the herdsmen undermining the security and stability of the country. All the three major ethnic groups in the state have resolved to jointly sue the herdsmen since the Federal Government has apparently shied away from prosecuting them. As a matter of fact, the herdsmen have flagrantly ignored an order by the state government to relocate from Benue in their own interest. This is a tragic commentary on the attitude of the government to its cardinal objective of protecting lives and property of the citizens of the country, as expressly stated in Chapter 2, Section 14[2b] of the Constitution, viz: "The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government."

Wherever such inertia as witnessed in Benue prevails, government would be unwittingly paving the way for anarchy and chaos. People are bound to resort to self-help in the face of government's awful attitude towards critical issues of safety and security. The litany of woes confronting Benue as a result of the horrific activities of the herdsmen makes greater concern and more pragmatic actions by the Federal Government imperative. Life has become miserable and meaningless for many Benue people because of the spate of avoidable deaths arising from the vicious attacks on their communities by the herdsmen. Any further hesitation by the federal authorities on the Benue challenge can only aggravate an already tense and frightening situation.

On its part, the state government must implement its new law criminalising open grazing. And the Federal Government must complement the effort by strengthening the hands of the Benue government to enforce the law. The state governor and many other eminent Nigerians have been crying out for some time that the state is under siege. If the authorities do not act now, the repercussions of the existing situation will be too grave and too costly for the nation.



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