The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has responded to the warning by President Muhammadu Buhari, that he (Ortom) should watch his speech against the presidency.
In a statement yesterday through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President warned Governor Ortom against alleged hate speech.
However, in a statement signed by Tahav Agerzua, Ortom’s SpecialAdviser, Media and ICT, the Governor pointed out he had never in any occasion said that Buhari was planning to Islamize Nigeria.
The Governor also recalled that he was one of those who organized prayers and fasting for the President when he had protracted health challenges in 2017.
The statement continued, “Our attention has been drawn to a statement credited to Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, today, that Governor Ortom should desist from hate speeches against President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It is on record that Governor Ortom has never ever stated anywhere that President Buhari plans to Islamize the country.
“He prays daily for the President for God to grant him good health and wisdom and commends him for upgrading Exercise Ayem Akpatuma to Operation Whirl Stroke which has been able to reduce Fulani herdsmen attacks in Benue State to the barest minimum.
“It could be recalled that Governor Ortom was one of those who organized prayers and fasting for the President when he had protracted health challenges in 2017.
“The Governor has consistently quoted officials of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who addressed a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday 30th May, 2017 stating that they would mobilize their kith and kin across the world to resist the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 enacted by the Benue State Government.
“They stated that the crises in Benue State was a struggle for the natural resources of the Benue Valley.
“The Governor, the State House of Assembly and various stakeholders wrote to the Presidency and the relevant security agencies complaining that the position of the Fulani socio-cultural group amounted to declaration of war on Benue State and that the leaders of the group should be arrested and prosecuted.
“Nothing was done until the threat was carried out on New Year day, 2018.
“Benue State had to bury 73 victims of Fulani herdsmen attacks on Guma and Logo local government areas.
“On 13th January, 2018, the Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM, met in Kano and issued a statement that what was happening in Benue State was a continuation of the 1804 Jihad when recalcitrant Benue indigenes stopped them in their quest to dip the Qur’an in the sea.
“They stated that they were currently equipped with weapons and political power to continue with the agenda.
“This was also reported to the Presidency and the security agencies but nothing was done.
“It must have been the guilty conscience arising from the failure to forestall these attacks and their enormous deadly consequences that may have prompted the Presidency to issue today’s mischievous statement.
“More so that in the aftermath of the attacks President Buhari did not offer any message of sympathy or condolence to the bereaved families and the people of the state.
“The best that came from him when major stakeholders from the state visited him in Abuja and after a long expected visit to the state was that Benue people should learn to live with and accomodate their neighbors.
“In all these Governor Ortom does not hold the President responsible.
“The well known cabal in his administration might be responsible for his ignorance of the real situation on ground.
“Top notchers of his administration have blamed the Benue law for sparking the farmers, herders crises in Benue State without explaining what is responsible for the crises in other states including Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Kogi, Ebonyi, Oyo, Ogun, and several others where there is no such law.
“Others say the blocking of grazing reserves and cattle routes is justification for the conquest and occupation agenda.
“The Presidency at a time issued a statement that it is better to give up land and be alive than hold to it and die.
“Meanwhile, the Presidency may also not be aware of the Miyetti Allah and it’s supporters agenda in Benue State which includes the perpetration of impunity with the connivance of the police and other security agencies.
“This explains the constant transfers of Police Commissioners in Benue State as a search for those who will dance to the whims and caprices of APC leaders in the state.
“The Presidency has displayed gross ignorance on the salary situation in Benue State. Throughout 2018 salaries were paid consistently and up to date besides the fact that the Benue State University does not have any arrears of salaries.
“Benue State is owing salary arrears because it pays the highest salary in the country after Lagos and Rivers State and has been affected by the recession through which the entire country passed through especially from 2015 to 2017.
Several other states including those being governed by the All Progressives Congress, APC, have greater salary payment challenges which affects majority of states.
“The Presidency has never come out openly to express support for the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
“However, the implementation of this law and any other is the Constitutional responsibility of the Federal Government which have control of the security agencies.
“If it supports the ranching law it is its responsibility and not any favor.
We urge all to disregard the statement from the Presidency and regard it as an expression of a guilty conscience that has arisen from failure to live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property not just in Benue State but throughout the country.”