Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom returned to Makurdi after attending the just concluded PDP Governors meeting in Ibadan, Oyo state and fielded some questions from journalists at the Makurdi Airport. GEORGE KAJO was there.
Sir, what was the outcome of the just concluded PDP Governors meeting held in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital?
Well, it was a wonderful meeting. As you know, PDP as the main opposition political party is quite concerned about the security, economic and social situation in the country and we cannot fold our arms to watch but have to make contributions so as to add value on the economy and reduce the high level of insecurity bedevilling our country to it barest minimum as governors who have taken oath of office to do what is right all the times. Leadership is all about providing security for lives and property.
Therefore, we met as a body and looked at the current situation in the country and advised president Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that his government gives maximum attention to issues of security and the economy. This is because Nigerians and other residents of the country are suffering including we the leaders.
Other issues the PDP Governors addressed was to support the decision of the Southern Governors forum banning open grazing in their respective states.
Today, ranching is the best practice the world over. The cattle rearing that is creating crisis and tension in the country according to available statistics is barely about 20 million heads. Where you have over 200 million cattle heads like in Brazil or India, yet there are no issues of herders and farmers clashes because of ranching policies there.
Here in Nigeria, it is an agenda that tends to wipe out people from their ancestral homes and take over their land. Therefore, the PDP Governors have to join hands with Mr president to address the menace. Nigeria is a federation and there is no way states can grow without presidency because power is concentrated in the center.
This is why if you describe me as the Chief Security Officer of Benue state, I said l’m not really the Chief Security Officer because all the security agencies are under the responsibility of the federal government and states can only cooperate by providing logistic assistance to security operatives in their states within the available resources.
How would you assess security performances in Benue state at the moment?
The security agents in the state are doing well given the condition with which they are operating. I also believe that where our country has degenerated to is not the matter of partisanship because 17 Governors from the South West are made up of the PDP, APC and APGA and coming together to say no to open grazing is a serious matter.
Lest not forget that the Northern Governors had earlier said that open grazing is no longer fashionable. For me, any state that has enough land to practice open grazing can do it but must restrict such herders within his state so as not to stray to my state and start causing trouble in communities.
What is your reaction to the recent killings in some parts of Benue state by suspected herdsmen?
Well, you can’t sit in your house and allow terrorist Fulani herdsmen to invade, kill and flee back to neighbouring states and I will be happy with such a development.
I told Benue people to defend themselves during attacks. Even the Minister of Defence told Nigerians to defend themselves. Benue people should have lawful weapons that are available and ready for defence where conventional security agents cannot defend them.