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Buhari meets Benue leaders, says perpetrators of killings won’t escape justice

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.FG’s intervention will reduce tension – Gov. Ortom

.Osinbajo faults Ortom’s claim on Benue killings

President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that all those responsible for the violence that led to the killings of over 70 people and destruction of properties in Benue State would be made to face the wrath of the law.

Buhari also called on the government and people of Benue State to exercise restraint following the recent attacks on some communities in the state.

Receiving a delegation of political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of the state on Monday, led by Governor Samuel Ortom at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Buhari said that all those involved in the conflict that culminated in loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state.

The President commiserated with all the victims of the attacks, and the families who lost loved ones and properties, noting that the government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims.

President Buhari said relevant agencies had been directed to start catering for the humanitarian needs.

He said, “Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Service and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.

“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.”

The President told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.

Buhari said the Inspector General of Police had been directed to relocate to the state to provide security for lives and properties, urging all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.

In his remarks, Benue State Governor said the tension would be reduced with the Federal Government’s intervention to find a lasting solution to the herdsmen attacks.

“We will leave here to rebuild confidence in our people,’’ he said.

The Tor-Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, said his entire domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.

“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation,’’ he added.

Present at the meeting were Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, former Senate President, David Mark, former Benue State Governor, Sen. George Akume and Sen. Barnabas Gemade.

Others include Sen. Joseph Waku, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Brig. Gen. John Atom Kpera (rtd), former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Terkimbir Kyambe, and other members of the National and State Assemblies from the state.

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Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has said that the Federal Government was not aware of the imminence of the “cowardly attack on Logo and Guma, Benue State on January 1, 2018, adding that the claim by the state governor, Samuel Ortom that the Presidency was alerted “is absolutely false and certainly misleading.”

Osinbajo denied receiving any letter from Ortom, warning him of the attacks planned by herdsmen.

Ortom had last week said: “We wrote to the Vice President on the planned attack on parts of Benue by Fulani herdsmen, because the word was everywhere on the street, but he refused to reply”.

But in a statement on Monday by Laolu Akande, the Vice President described Ortom’s comments as completely false and misleading.

The statement reads: “Governor Ortom wrote to the Vice President, then Acting President, on 7th June 2017 protesting a newspaper publication where the leadership of Miyetti Allah was reported to have stated that it was opposed to the Open Grazing Prohibition law of the State and that they would mobilise to resist the law.

“The Miyetti Allah had written to the Vice President on the 5th of June 2017 on the same law protesting several sections of the law. The Governor went on to say that the leadership of Miyetti Allah should be arrested because they used words such as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive,” to describe the law, and because these were “utterances that are capable of undermining the peace…”

“The Vice President subsequently met with the Governor, discussed the matter and the security situation in the state and then ordered law enforcement agencies to be on the alert to prevent any attacks or violence. This was in June 2017!

“In the said letter written by the Governor, there was no mention of any threat to any specific one of the 23 local governments of Benue State, so the best the law enforcement agencies could do even then was to await information or intelligence of an imminent attack. None came. Since then the VP has held several meetings with the Benue State Governor, including a visit to the state on the 6th of September, last year at the behest of Mr. President during the tragic floods in the state last year. At all such meetings, the Vice President discussed the security situation of the state with the Governor.

“Following that, the then Acting President convened a major national security retreat which was attended by all State Governors, service chiefs and heads of security agencies. The Retreat featured very detailed discussions on the herdsmen/ farmers’ clashes.

“To the best of our knowledge, neither Governor Ortom nor the Federal Government was aware of the imminence of the cowardly attack on Logo and Guma on the 1st of January, and therefore any suggestion that the President or the Vice President ignored the State Governor’s warning is both absolutely false and certainly misleading.

In related development, a senior lawyer, Chief Sebastine Hon, SAN, said on Monday that any attempt by Buhari-led government to declare a State of emergency in Benue State will be resisted.

The senior lawyer was reacting to news making the rounds on social media that the presidency will soon declare a state of emergency in Benue State.

The senior lawyer, who advised the President not to succumb to the clamour from certain quarters, advised those affected by the Anti-Open Grazing Law to live with the reality hence the law has come to stay.

Citing section 305 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Hon said that the section is clear and unambiguous over the procedures and powers to remove or overthrow elected or appointed State officials.

“A state of emergency can be declared in a state only when there is a total breakdown of law and order and whereby the person in-charge of that state no longer has control of the state.

“Also, section 1(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, provides in clear and unequivocal terms as follows:

“(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

“The phrases “any person or group of persons” and “any part thereof” above mean that no authority or group of persons shall, under any guise whatsoever, take control of, in this case, Benue State, except as provided for in the Constitution itself. And of course, the only way a State Governor can be removed from office or can vacate his office is by impeachment, death, sickness of such a magnitude as to impair him from performing the functions of his office, or by resignation. A State House of Assembly also has its constitutional lifespan, which cannot be trammeled or tempered with by any person or authority.

“Under our constitutional jurisprudence, therefore, both the appointor and the appointee to the office or position of Sole Administrator of a State will be acting in flagrant breach section 1(2) and other relevant provisions of the Constitution.

“There being no such enabling provision, therefore, such arbitrary power cannot be implied; and if exercised, will be clearly illegal and unlawful,” Hon added.

He further advised those with thoughts that declaring emergency rule in Benue State will lead to the suspension of the Anti-Open Grazing Law to stop day dreaming hence the law has come to stay.

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Mathew Dadiya & Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja

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Ihesiulo Grace

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