Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom is carrying a heavy heart. He, like many citizens of his state, has come under the humiliating attacks by Fulani nomads who appear determined to occupy the land over which he rules.
He has made a rather startling revelation that the herders whom he describes as ‘mercenaries’ have invaded his village and destroyed his ancestral home. Speaking to members of the APC Governors’ Forum led by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Ortom further revealed: “They invaded my village, killed over 50 persons and destroyed over 200 hectares of my rice farm. As I am sitting here, I have no ancestral home. They killed children, old men and women. The mercenaries come to Benue not just to graze but to steal, kill and destroy the livelihood of the agrarian people after which they take possession of the land knowing full well that all we have here are our farms.”
Governor Ortom revealed he feels more frustrated that the attacks by the herdsmen have continued even after the marching order given soldiers and other security agencies to move into the state and bring the situation under control.
The plight of the Benue people, according to observers, becomes even more pathetic because the nomads are behaving like an army of occupation. After burning down the communities, the herdsmen move their cattle into the desolated homesteads of indigenes who have either been killed or forced to flee. “The cattle,’ said one observer, “actually graze on the abandoned homesteads while their owners watch with delight. You never can tell how fulfilled they feel about that show of superior strength and victory.”
Lately, the governor had cried out that Benue State needed all the land that it had for farming purposes. “There is no land for grazing in Benue State” he maintains. “We have no land for grazing reserves and we believe that cattle rearers should keep their animals in ranches.” Now, the same observers are wondering the kind of fate that awaits other Nigerians if a sitting governor could be so treated by the nomadic Fulbe.