April 26, 2018
- Yet another 41 persons killed in Benue, Nasarawa
• Stop wanton killings now, Secondus, Fayose tell president
• CAN declares April 29 day of protest, prayers
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Senator Iroegbu, James Emejo in Abuja, Victor Ogunje in Ado-Ekiti and Emmanuel Ukumba in Lafia
In a rare and strong condemnation of the killings being carried out by suspected herders of cattle in the country, particularly in the Middle Belt, the House of Representatives Wednesday passed a motion summoning President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it in plenary and address the House on efforts being taken to arrest the spate of killings.
It further resolved to suspend plenary for three legislative days as a mark of solidarity with Nigerians over the continuing bloodshed in the country.
The lawmakers also passed a vote of no confidence on all the service chiefs and security advisers of the president, calling for their replacement to engender fresh ideas targeted at tackling the lingering state of insecurity.
The lower legislative chamber equally directed that all killers or armed herdsmen must be proscribed and declared terrorists while all cattle rearers must be duly registered.
It came just as some lawmakers in the House, for the second day in a row, reiterated their clamour for impeachment proceeding against the president, but this time over his failure to curtail the rising spate of killings in the country.
The resolutions of the House followed a motion brought under matters of urgent public importance by Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) on the attack by alleged army personnel on innocent residents of Naka Gwer-West Local Government Area of Benue State and the inability of the army and other security agencies to quell the incessant murder of indigenes of the state by the armed herdsmen.
The House equally observed a minute silence in honour of the army officer, victims of the alleged army attack and victims of the recent attacks by armed herdsmen.
In the far-reaching resolutions, the House also urged Buhari to, within 24 hours, deploy the requisite number of personnel and equipment to the identified locations of the bandits in the state to flush them out and establish permanent military bases in the immediate affected locations within seven days.
The resolutions, however, coincided with reports of fresh attacks by herdsmen in Benue and Nasarawa States, leading to the deaths of 41 persons and several others injured.
Leading the debate, Hon. Gbillah expressed concern over the numerous eyewitness accounts of rampaging Nigerian Army personnel who on April 19 attacked Naka, the headquarters of Gwer-West LGA in Benue State in several Hilux trucks with army colours and number plates.
He said the army torched hundreds of houses in Naka, resulting in the confirmed loss of two lives while hundreds of victims who survived the attack lost all their properties and are now left to fend for themselves with nothing to their names but the clothes on their backs.
He said it was particularly disturbing that the army deployed from the 72 Army Battalion in Makurdi to quell the incessant and inhuman murder of indigenes by unidentified armed herdsmen, had taken the law into their hands in a blatant display of brigandage and criminality and attacked Naka town in retaliation for the alleged murder of one of their colleagues by unknown elements in the bush, 1.5km from Naka on April 18.
Among other things, Gbillah said the state government had severally informed the army, police and other security and intelligence agencies about the alleged location of these bandits near Adaka in Makurdi LGA and Gbaji in neighbouring communities, adding that it was very worrying that the army and police curiously never employed a pro-active strategy to pre-emptively attack these locations and carry out continuous surveillance of identified flashpoints.
He noted that they responded to the attacks only after scores of innocent citizens had lost their lives and property.
Gbillah said the killings represented yet another inhuman act meted on the people of the state.
“Benue is under siege, there’s a war going on in Benue. We don’t understand why the government should abdicate its responsibility,” he said.
The lawmaker said it was a shame that about 200 policemen had been deployed to Abuja to arrest one man, referring to the embattled Senator Dino Melaye, when security forces have been unable to quell the activities of bandits in Benue.
Also, Hon. Tarkighin Dickson (APC, Benue) said Benue, which is described as the food basket of the country, had become a blood basket.
He noted that the army recently admitted that it lost 27 soldiers to communal clashes and were unable to bring the perpetrators to book.
Dickson wondered how the killing of a soldier by bandits led the army to raze a whole community in the state.
He said: “When the army lost 27 soldiers, they did nothing but they torched a whole village when a soldier was killed.”
He alleged that the security agencies were conniving and colluding with the herdsmen to destroy Benue, adding that the people had lost faith in the Buhari administration.
Hon. Edward Pwajok (APC, Plateau) said unless the situation was nipped in the bud, the country could be drawing close to a failed state.
He said the president should be summoned in the full glare of the public to account for the killings.
Pwajok noted that the Speaker of the House also has the burden placed on him by law to demand an explanation over the security situation.
He said the House should be briefed on all previous happenings, adding that the current killings appeared to have a religious undertone which could spell disaster for the country if not checked.
Also, contributing to the debate, Hon. Daniel Ofongo (PDP, Bayelsa) said life currently means nothing in the country, stressing that “government is not doing anything to protect the lives of Nigerians. And if the government can’t protect its citizens, the people will protect themselves and anarchy will prevail”.
Hon. Hassan Shekaaru (APC, Kaduna) asserted that Buhari’s government had failed in its responsibility to protect Nigerians, leading to the killings everywhere.
He suggested that the Speaker and the House leadership should meet the president and tell him the truth. “All these motions won’t solve the problem,” he said.
Hon. Emmanuel Oker-jev (APC, Benue) also wondered why the supposed killers who entered the country from Libya had not been a threat to other neighbouring countries except Nigeria.
He further questioned the rationale behind the soldiers’ action in Naka when those who had allegedly killed the soldier were reportedly arrested.
He said: “Irrespective of who kills, the fact remains that we are not safe in this country.”
Hon. Mohammed Sheriff (APC, Borno) also charged the Speaker to lead his colleagues in the House to inform the president that “enough is enough”.
“These people (killer herdsmen) are terrorists and that’s how Boko Haram started,” he noted.
Hon. Magaji Aliyu (APC, Jigawa) said: “I’m APC, but the truth be told, this has gone beyond sentiments. The police chief should go. If not for this Nigeria, we won’t be here. We must be seen to be proactive.”
He said so much had been expended on security but nothing was being done to address the current challenge.
“This is enough. Life is essential and the Constitution says life and property should be protected,” Aliyu added.
On his part, Hon. Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) said the House should use legislative instruments to proscribe the killer herdsmen and declare them terrorists if Buhari refuses to do so.
“If Buhari refuses to proscribe the herdsmen, we can do it legislatively and what are we waiting for?”
He also challenged the Speaker to lead a delegation of the House to Benue, noting that everyday people are slaughtered in the state.
“This is the only country where security chiefs sit when people are being killed. They should resign because they are clueless,” Ossai said.
Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Chukwuma Onyema (PDP, Anambra), called for immediate impeachment proceeding against the president.
Also contributing, Hon. Karimi Sunday (PDP, Kogi) said the security of a state is the primary responsibility of government, adding that Buhari’s government has failed in that regard.
According to him, “We cannot allow this country to be run the way it is being run today. The president is not the same as the person we knew in 1985. It is time for the president to go.”
Hon. Kehinde Agboola (PDP, Ekiti) said the president was swift committing funds for the purchase of security equipment but cannot address the killings in the country.
“The president should resign or immediately terminate the appointment of all security chiefs. The president has failed,” Agboola said.
Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) also said: “If we cannot enforce the Constitution, then we should look for other jobs. It is not enough to observe one minute’s silence.
“What is happening to the republic? If it means that we close the House for one week and find out what is happening, let us do so.”
Later, while briefing the press on the far-reaching resolutions of the House, its spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, said the president’s summon was based on the fact that the green chamber had previously invited the service chiefs over the issue, but the scale of killings had continued unabated.
He said lawmakers could not continue to interface with the service chiefs when they have a bigger boss.
He added that there was a growing feeling that Buhari’s orders were not being carried out to the letter by his subordinates.
He said the date for the proposed three-day suspension of plenary in the House to protest the security situation in the country, will be announced by the leadership.
41 Killed in Benue, Nasarawa
But even as the House decried the bloodletting in the Middle Belt and the seeming helplessness displayed by the administration, another 41 persons were killed in Benue and Nasarawa States when suspected herdsmen attacked villages.
In Benue, suspected herdsmen Wednesday morning invaded Tse Ali- Agudu Mbanyiar and Tse-Mbakpaase villages in Mbawa and Saghev council wards, Guma Local Government Area of the state, killing over 34 people.
Wednesday’s attack came barely 24 hours after another set of suspected herdsmen attacked the Catholic Church in Gwer East, killing two priests and 17 worshippers during an early morning mass.
The Chairman of Guma LGA, Mr. Anthony Shawn, confirmed the latest killings in his domain in a phone chat with reporters, saying so far they had recovered 34 dead bodies following the attack on the villages.
In neighbouring Nasarawa, yet another seven villagers were killed by suspected herdsmen when they unleashed hell on Tiv farmers at Ihuman village in Awe Local Government Area of the state.
The gunmen launched the attack at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, shooting sporadically at the helpless villagers who had sneaked to their deserted village to collect food.
It was gathered that the victims, who had been taking refuge at Kanje town in Awe due to their displacement after the serial attacks on Tiv communities in the southern part of the state, had gone to collect some food from their homes when the attackers emerged from a nearby bush and opened fire on them.
A resident of the area, Mr. Philip Dodo, who narrowly escaped from the attack told THISDAY that three of his relatives were still missing after the incident.
President of the Tiv Youth Organisation in Nasarawa State Peter Ahemba also confirmed the attack in a phone interview with THISDAY Wednesday.
The Tiv youth leader, who spoke in an emotionally laden voice, said it was unfortunate that a particular ethnic nationality was being targeted for extermination without hindrance, adding that he had reported the matter to the appropriate authorities for necessary action.
“For us the indigenous Tiv people of Nasarawa State, we have no other place to run to, and that is why we continuously count on our governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, for a solution to this unfortunate development,” he said.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer of the state Police Command, DSP John Kennedy, said he had not been briefed about the attack.
Secondus, Fayose React
Reacting to the unabated killings Wednesday, the National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Uche Secondus charged Buhari to halt the senseless killings in Benue State immediately, before they degenerate into national crises.
He warned that the country might slide into anarchy if the bloodletting in Benue and other parts of the country was not halted immediately.
Secondus, in a condolence message to the Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, and the Catholic Church in Nigeria after the Tuesday morning brutal murder of two priests and 17 worshippers of the St. Ignatius’ Quashi Parish, said that the latest killings in Benue, which have escalated since the beginning of the year, were no longer acceptable.
In a statement signed by Ike Abonyi, his media aide, the PDP chairman said the continued bloodletting in Benue and other parts of the country and the apparent inability of the government to stem them raises a lot of concern on the future of this country.