BENUE State Governor, Sameul Ortom and his aides from Konshisha axis should be held responsible for the escalation of the violent conflict between Bonta in Konshisha LGA and Ukpute in Oju LGA of Benue State that has claimed lives and property worth hundreds of millions of naira.
A group under the aegis of Association of Igede Media Professionals (AIMPs) which made the assertion argued in a press statement issued today (Wednesday, April 7, 2021) “that if the governor had not been egged on by his aides to ignore our patriotic suggestions to handle the crisis decisively, the enormity of loss of lives and property would have been minimized.”
The group in a statement signed by its President, Mr Egena Ode, further stated: “Since last year when the crisis erupted, we have been mounting pressure on Governor Samuel Ortom to resolve the issues at the centre of the dispute; namely, boundary demarcation, with a view to putting an enduring end to the frequent clashes over land dispute by the Bonta and Ukpute communities.
“Only about a fortnight ago while empathizing with him over an alleged assassination attempt on his life, we reminded the governor to spare a thought for the people of the two communities who had been facing untold hardships due to the lingering communal war.
“Unfortunately, our suggestions have fallen on deaf ears, or at best had attracted name-calling by the governor’s aide who preferred to see us as a faceless group.”
Mr Ode alleged that in the course of the past six weeks; “…our people…have been slaughtered in their hundreds, their houses burnt down and farm produce destroyed, especially following the renewed attacks that have continued unabated.”
The group said in view of the precarious nature of the crisis for Igede nationality, it is calling “on all appointees of Igede extraction in Governor Ortom’s cabinet to pull out with immediate effect.”
Reacting to media reports of soldiers allegedly abducted or shot at by a miilitia group in the area on Monday while on routine patrol as part of overall peace keeping in the axis, AIMPs said: “We face an existential threat whose enormity has now been brought to the fore by the treatment given to the soldiers on patrol along the Ukpute-Bonta road. This has simply revealed the fire we have been facing as a people over time.”
The group, however, commended the Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Attahiru Ibrahim and Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) for ” the uncommon discipline, professionalism, sacrifice, and dispassionateness exhibited by the soldiers on peaceful patrol even in the face of grievous provocation and threat to their lives by the militia”.
It urges elites from both sides to reach out to one another especially in the absence of any viable leadership in the state, as mutual understanding, justice and development of the area are key to lasting peace.
The group also called on the Chief of Army Staff for the immediate establishment of a military post between Ukpute and Bonta in order to forestall another wave of massacre, arson and mass displacements.