President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Senate on the killings in Benue State and conveyed his disagreement with the lawmakers that nothing had been done to address the plight of the state after the new year day attacks by suspected herders of cattle left at least 73 persons dead.
This is as the Senate summoned the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, for failing to comply with the two-week ultimatum issued to him to apprehend the perpetrators of the killings in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue State.
In the president’s letter, which was read at plenary Wednesday by Senate President Bukola Saraki, Buhari chronicled the several courses of action that had been taken by his government since the new year day attacks.
The letter titled, “Re: Report on the Review of the Security Infrastructure on Nigeria on the Emergency Visit to Benue,” was dated January 25, 2018.
Buhari in the letter said: “I thank you for your letter Reference NASS/8S/R/01/33 dated 18th January 2018 and carefully studied the resolutions and comments there in.
“As I briefed you and the Rt. Hon. Speaker when we met on 14th January several courses of action had already been taken prior to the Senate resolutions.
“You may recall that I told you of the following steps taken as soon as the information came in to me about the Benue killings.
“On Thursday 4th January, I sent the Minister of Interior and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
“On Friday 5th January, the Inspector-General of Police briefed me verbally on the latest situation. Calm had by then been restored.
“On Monday 8th, the Minister of Interior met with the following: Governors of Adamawa, Kaduna, Niger, Benue Taraba and Nasarawa States together with the Director-General of the State Security Services (DG SSS), Inspector-General of Police, Commandant General, Civil Defence, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Commissioners of Police of the six aforementioned states, Comptrollers of Civil Defence from the six aforementioned states.
“After the meeting, I instructed the Minister of Interior to brief you on the information gathered so far and steps taken.
“On Tuesday, 9th of January, I had a long session with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State during which I informed him of police arrests of some suspects with Kalashnikovs.
“In addition, I told him that I have instructed the IG to speed up the trial and prosecution of the suspects and give wide publicity of the police efforts.
“At the instance of the governor, a meeting was held in the Presidential Villa on 15th January with a wide cross-section of Benue personalities where frank and open discussions were held and everybody appreciated the complexities and difficulties of this farmer/herder strife.
“I assured all and sundry of my commitment to ensure that justice is expeditiously done.”
Continuing, Buhari said for the Senate to infer that nothing had been done was incorrect, adding that the police were strenuously working to apprehend the rest of the culprits of the heartless killings.
“Furthermore, I have instructed the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue State, redeploy forces to the most sensitive areas. The federal government is initiating additional measures to address these and other security challenges, alleviate the consequences of these attacks and forestall reoccurrence.
“The Senate resolutions itemised in your letter will be taken into consideration and I am instructing all the relevant MDAs to factor them in their work.
“On December 19, 2017 to be precise, while receiving the report of the committee which I had set up to review the operational, technical and administrative structure of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), I underscored the need to review the entire national security architecture – as I promised in my inaugural address on the 29th May 2015.
“Action is being initiated and I expect to receive maximum cooperation from the Senate in line with paragraph three of the Senate resolutions,” Buhari added.
Paragraph three of the Senate resolution that the president referred to was on the convening of a security summit to examine the recurring violence and mayhem in the country’s rural communities before the attacks become an existential threat to national cohesion and survival.
Having read the letter, the Senate directed its Committee on Police Affairs to summon Idris within 24 hours to report on his level of compliance with the resolution ordering him to apprehend the Benue killers and hand them over to the attorney general of the state for prosecution.
The committee is expected to present its report at plenary next Tuesday.
The resolution followed a point of order raised by Senator Joshua Lidani (Gombe, PDP) who recalled the resolution taken on January 17 regarding the killings.
“This resolution was passed and was transmitted to the IG but to the best of my knowledge no arrest has been made and no information has been brought to the Senate as regards the resolution,” Lidani said.
He proposed that the IG be compelled to appear before the Senate at plenary to explain why he had not complied with the resolution.
Presiding, the Senate President noted that even Buhari’s letter had indicated that the IG was instructed to ensure speedy prosecution of the perpetrators.
“But we are not seeing any action,” Saraki said, stressing that the resolution of the Senate must be taken seriously, as it borders on the integrity of the institution.
Saraki ruled that the Senate Committees on Police and National Intelligence should summon the IG to appear Thursday before the joint committee.
“We must make it clear to the security agencies that these kinds of ultimatums cannot be taken lightly. If by Tuesday, we are not happy with their (committee) report, we can take a decision to summon the IG.
“If they think we are just going to sweep this thing under the carpet, the answer is definitely no. We are not going to stop until people are made accountable.
“Like the president said in his letter, he has told the IG to ensure speedy prosecution and we are not seeing that. The IG knows that he needs to take this seriously,” Saraki said.
Also during plenary, Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara, APC) again drew the attention of the Senate to what he said was the worsening security situation in his state.
Raising a point of order, Marafa said the rate of kidnappings for ransom of Zamfara residents was assuming a frightening dimension.
He alleged that the armed militias causing mayhem in the state were known to the authorities in Zamfara and move around in police and military uniforms.
Marafa also alleged that he had received threats to his life and that of his family.
Curfew in Gboko
Meanwhile, seven men suspected to be herdsmen were killed at the Gboko bus park in Benue State by some irate youths Wednesday, forcing the state governor, Samuel Ortom, to impose a dusk to dawn curfew on the town.
According to the Benue State Police Commissioner, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, the police got a report around 11 a.m. that some irate youths at the bus park attacked some passengers who were in transit.
He said seven persons were killed while boarding a vehicle during the attack in what was suspected to have been a reprisal.
He also disclosed that the police in the area rushed to the park but were overwhelmed by the youths who were throwing stones.
“We have been to the spot with the Benue State governor and it’s a pure case of banditry and also an act of criminality taking place,” he said in an effort to downplay the severity of the incident.
The commissioner also said the attack had no religious or ethnic undertones.
“We have set in motion a process that will apprehend these criminals; they will be arrested. We are also going to beef up our security in the area,” he said.
Owoseni also stated that the police had information that some criminal gangs were planning to attack the state from within and outside.
He warned that the police would not hesitate to deal decisively with anyone abating the crisis in the state.
“All these people, especially prominent people, who are stockpiling arms and planning to arm youths will be dealt decisively with if caught,” he warned.
Reacting to the attack in Gboko, Ortom immediately imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the town.
In a statement released by his media adviser, Mr. Tahav Agerzua, the governor said only those on essential services were exempted from the curfew.
The governor also directed the security agencies, particularly the police and the army, to provide round the clock surveillance in the town so as to forestall a breach of the peace.
He also appealed to residents of Gboko to comply with the curfew in their own interest as security operatives were directed to arrest those found moving about during the curfew.