Governors and other Nigerians, yesterday, denounced an assassination attempt on the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom. They vented their anger just as Ortom offered thanksgiving to God for surviving the attack.
While acknowledging the quick response of the Inspector General of Police by deploying a crack team of detectives to investigate the attack on him, the governor noted that the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) had already claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt and should be arrested and questioned.
Ortom was ambushed by gunmen suspected to be Fulani bandits along Tyo-MU Makurdi/Gboko road on Saturday. He was allegedly attacked by over 15 gun-wielding herdsmen while inspecting his farm near Makurdi. He escaped death narrowly.
Confirming the incident, Ortom narrated how armed militia men, numbering about 15, advanced quickly towards his convoy with sophisticated weapons but were repelled by his security details. He said the men, dressed in black, had trailed his convoy from the farm, adding that he had to run for dear life, trekking 1km to safety, while his security details engaged the bandits, who escaped into nearby bush.
Ortom spoke yesterday at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Signs and Wonders Mega Parish in Makurdi. The governor called on Nigerians with good conscience to save the country from drifting into full-scale anarchy and lawlessness.
Ortom was accompanied to the service by aides, members of his executive council and close family members. He wondered why an ethnic group would be shielded and allowed to use its militia arm to wreak havoc on perceived enemies. He appreciated God for preserving his life during the attack. He restated that his life is in the hands of God, adding that no man can kill him.
According to him, “I appreciate the security men attached to me. They were able to repel them and the gunmen could not have access to me. And I thank God for my fitness to have run for more than one and a half kilometres without stopping. It means that God has given me strength and I am grateful to God.
“I don’t have problems with any Fulani man or Fulani race. But I have a problem with Fulani bandits who have vowed to take over Nigeria as their ancestral home. And I say no. Not when I am here and when I am governor leading my state.”
Ortom said if he as a governor could not go to farm with the entire security around him, he wondered who else could go to farm, saying one could imagine the pains that the people of Benue State were facing.
Reacting to the attack, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said, yesterday, the move to make Benue State ungovernable was unacceptable and would fail woefully.
NGF in a statement by its Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, described the broad daylight attempt to cut short the life of the governor as shocking and a rude awakening.
Fayemi said the forum empathizes with the governor and the people of Benue State on the sad, cowardly, and wicked plan and condemns the act in strong terms.
The statement reads: “All hands must be on deck to uncover the identities of those involved in this heinous crime.
“Only recently, the brother of one of the former governors of the state was mowed down in cold blood. This dishonourable and shameful act of resorting to violence, for whatever reason, to eliminate citizens of Benue State by brutal means must not continue.
“The NGF as a platform for all the 36 governors will continue to encourage its members to stand firm in the service of their people regardless of the evil machinations of those who do not wish Nigeria well.”
He urged Nigerians not to allow evil to triumph over good in Benue and anywhere in this country, adding that not only would evil doers fail in their wicked acts, they would be traced and punished for their crimes, no matter how long it would takes.
Similarly, governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared yesterday, that assassination attempt on Ortom of Benue State is an invitation to anarchy.
A statement by the Chairman of PDP Governors Forum and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, warned that “any attempt to harm any Nigerian will be viewed by the Forum as an attempt on all of us.”
The forum reminded the Federal Government of its primary responsibility of securing the nation, especially since it controls military forces.
He alleged that “some highly-placed federal government ministers seem to have surrendered to the nefarious activities of miscreants and mischief-makers, bent on destabilising the nation.”
Also, irked by the attack, a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, has asked security operatives to step up to the task of securing lives and property to avoid resort to self-help.
Mark described security situation in the country as scandalous and making Nigeria a subject of ridicule before other nations. Mark, in a statement signed by his media adviser, Paul Mumeh, said: “If a state governor can be so brazenly attacked, what would they not do to ordinary citizens.
“Let me state clearly that Benue people are receptive and accommodating; but this should not be misconstrued or mistaken for weakness. Enough of this malady.”
He asked the federal government and all the security agencies to come to terms with the painful reality of unabating insecurity in the land and resolve to end it.
While urging Ortom not to be deterred by the incident, he advised citizens to be security conscious at all times and to provide useful information to security operatives on activities believed to be unlawful or anti-society.
Another condemnation came from the Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF). In a statement issued by the National President, Prof. Chuks Eboka and General Secretary, Pastor Philip Nwaegeruo, the body called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the culprits behind the criminal act.
The Christian organisation described the action of the gunmen as despicable and an affront on the government and people of Benue State in whose land the miscreants made attempt on the life of their governor.
The group called on the federal government and security agencies to get to the root of the matter, stressing that such a vicious attack on a serving governor portended grave danger to the nation’s unity and democracy.
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Adamu, has ordered extensive investigations into the circumstances surrounding the attack.
This was contained in a statement issued in Abuja, yesterday, by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba. It quoted the IGP as condemning the incident and directing the commissioner of police in Benue State Command to take adequate measures towards strengthening and improving security in the state, particularly around the governor.
To ensure speedy and thorough investigations into the matter, the IGP also ordered the immediate deployment of a team of specialised investigators from the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID), Abuja to Benue State to provide additional investigative support to the Benue State Police Command.